Friday, August 12, 2016

A Unique Opportunity to Explore My Cultural Roots - Report on My Global

For the past three months, I have had the privilege of filling the position as the Summer Intern with the Canadian Institute in Greece (CIG), offered through a joint agreement by the Institute and York University’s Global Internship program. The internship has proven to be a very enlightening experience, and the work assigned to me has amongst others, allowed me to sharpen my organizational skills and broaden my knowledge of the field of archaeology. Living in Athens as a local has been truly unique, as the vibe of Athenian life is very positive and uplifting. Being a major cultural centre with a rich past, many cultural activities exist around the city, and I was able to take advantage of visiting ancient ruins and museums. The internship position holds significant value to me, as I am of Hellenic descent, and have a deep appreciation for Greek language, culture and history. Being granted the opportunity to apply my Modern Greek language skills and fuse some of my academic interests with a practical work experience has given me a rewarding feeling.

In particular, my language skills proved incredibly useful for completing the institute’s archival project, which encompassed the majority proportion of my internship duties over the summer. Alongside the archival work, I was assigned other duties at the institute consisting of updating CIG membership database, entering new/renewing member names and contact information to the CIG database and delivering invitations to and picking up items from different institutions and government offices. This was particularly enjoyable as I was able to incorporate my daily exercise component as well as have the opportunity to explore various areas of Athens on foot. Perhaps the most rewarding task throughout my internship at the CIG was the ability to meet many academics and members of the tightly-knit archeological community in Athens. I had the opportunity to represent the Canadian Institute when partaking in other foreign school gatherings, including annual open meetings and lectures, and interact with many individuals at various receptions. Further, I was fortunate enough to be present during the CIG’s annual open meeting and the 2016 Colloquium entitled ‘From Maple to Olive’, hosted by the institute to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the recognition of the institute as a foreign school by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. During the annual open meeting, I assisted in preparing for the presentation and reception, and I was able to learn more about some of the recent findings of various ongoing projects being conducted under the CIG, as well as listen to an interesting lecture by Professor Margriet Haagsma, who presented her work on the ancient site of Kastro Kallithea. The colloquium was equally special, and was a great way for me to learn about all the projects that have been conducted by Canadian scholars during the institute’s history. This was incredibly valuable to me as I had been archiving all such the projects and had the chance to meet the various directors and participants of each project. Through the presentation of each speaker’s paper, I gained a deeper understanding of the aims, work, and results of each project.

Over the course of the internship I was also able to do a bit of traveling, visiting different cities, monuments and museums. Particularly, around Athens I was able to visit the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the Athenian Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Mount Lycabettus, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the Numismatic Museum, the Byzantine & Christian Museum, the Greek Parliament, and was also able to visit the Peloponnese with the Director and Assistant Director of the Institute to see the ongoing survey project in the Argos area, the Western Argolid Regional Project. I was also able to take some time to travel to northeastern Greece, to Thessaloniki and Kavala, where my relatives live, and spend some quality time with them and explore the Byzantine Castle and the Archaeological Museum in Kavala.

The global internship experience has been of incredible personal value for me, and it has afforded me the rare opportunity to work and experience daily life in a different country. I firmly believe that such endeavor has allowed for a unique addition to my skill set, being able to observe different methods of organization, take in different cultural and social interactions, traditions, and ways of life. I was able to heighten my level of awareness of the study of archaeology, learning about the function of the CIG, the work done under its auspices, and the role of foreign schools more generally, in the context of a collaborative effort with the Greek government to promote the study and preservation of Hellenic culture. Most valuable of all, I was able to exercise my proficiency in Modern Greek and learn more about my country of origin, being able to visit culturally significant sites and study findings from generations past. I would like to extend my gratitude to both York International for their extensive efforts in organizing and arranging opportunities for students to partake in such distinct experiences, as well as to the CIG, namely to the Director, Professor David Rupp, and Assistant Director, Dr. Jonathan Tomlinson for their warm hospitality and generosity for allowing me to be part of the CIG family. The experiences, friendships and memories I have made during this summer will always remain dear to me, and have immensely helped me in my growth both personally and academically.

Theodore Tsilfidis
York University intern, summer 2016

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