Friday, April 13, 2018

Onward to Grad Study: A Canadian Undergrad's Internship in Athens

As a fourth-year undergraduate in the Classical Studies Department at the University of Waterloo, I have put due thought into what my next steps will be, when to take them, and where they will lead me. I set my courses, semester by semester, checking off graduation requirements and making quite certain that those necessary courses jibe well with my ever-changing and evolving interests in the world of classical antiquity. Each paper I submit, each exam I take, and all the readings and translations I grind out are a stepping stone on the cursus honorum that I have planned out for myself—and as such are means to an end—or at least to the next, next step. I have been certain that I would like to move on to a Master’s degree and eventually a PhD in Classical studies for the entirety of my university career to this point, and so each of those steps are taken with that in mind. And with my internship at the Canadian Institute in Greece soon coming to an end, it seems, now more than ever, to be a most appropriate time to reflect on where I am going and how this trip has affected that decision.

As those who have been to Greece will know, everything is slower here: the pace of passerby on the sidewalk, the speed with which the sun travels from one horizon to the other, even dinner is a decidedly lengthy affair. As such, I have found plenty of time for contemplation to this end—whether it was looking out over the city from high on Lykavittos, walking along the babbling harbour at Piraeus, or sitting in the sun on the patio of the Institute’s hostel. Most of my work at the Institute was in the expansion of its current Social Media presence and in the inventory of the 6,000+ volume library, and so in this way, I was introduced to sides of the academic world which, through regular course work, would normally be invisible or inaccessible to an undergraduate student (i.e., academic marketing and information systems organization). Katy Lamb, who also served as an intern during my stay at the Institute headed up the inventory project, while I got the team lead on Social Media. Working with Katy, the Fellow, Chris Cornthwaite, the Assistant Director, Jonathan Tomlinson, and the Director, David Rupp, has been a pleasure all term long, and their help, advice, and opinions have certainly made me a better worker and organizer on both projects I worked.
This internship has also given me the unique opportunity to appreciate how the fields of Classics and Archaeology are approached all over the world, as the Canadian Institute is but one of nineteen foreign archaeological schools in Athens. Through exchanges, internships, fellowships, regular membership, and post-doctoral work,  new faces were always cycling in and out of Athens, and it was my pleasure to live, learn, and travel with students from all over the world, most especially those students at the Norwegian, Swedish, American, Finnish, and British schools. One excursion to Eleusis I remember as particularly memorable as I, an art historian and philologist, was accompanied by an archaeologist, an osteologist, and a modern European historian, which made for a rather rewarding interdisciplinary visit. Of course, I came nowhere close to visiting all of the sites I set out to, with so much to do in Athens and Attica alone but I am feeling both accomplished and satisfied in what I have seen and the places I have yet to go.

As it happens, during my stay at the CIG I have both applied for and been accepted to the MA program in Classical Studies at the University of Waterloo in which I will be pursuing a thesis tentatively focused on the reception of Hellenistic Art in the collections of Renaissance Italy. Naturally, this thesis will have much to do with the archaeological record and display contexts of Greece and the broader Mediterranean world, and so my research and preparation for this study in Greece, has been incredibly rewarding. I have visited the Piraeus, New Acropolis, National Archaeological, and countless other museums whose collections of Hellenistic Art are integral pieces of the wider Hellenistic perspective on art. After this internship I will also spend a short amount of time in Rome, before travelling the Cyclades with my family and ending my stay in the Mediterranean there.

The chance to live in Greece spelt a return to my roots, as my father’s family is of Hellenic descent – hailing from Santorini and Syros – and so Hellenic culture has always been a part of my life, and for this internship I am incredibly grateful. In academia I have always felt a particular interest in the Greece of antiquity, but the Greece of today holds a special place in my heart as well and for all its culture, its people, its art, music, food, language, and its hospitality, I found it a beautiful lens through which I could reflect on my goals and found all of my academic aspirations completely justified.   

Matt Coleman
University of Waterloo Intern, Spring 2018

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