It's one thing to read about political riots halfway around the world. It's another to actually see and hear them.
Thirteen students did just that this summer through the course Greece and Turkey in the Anglo-American Imagination. For three weeks in May and June, they wound their way through Athens, Crete, Rhodes, Izmir and finally Istanbul, where protests broke out the day the group had planned to visit Taksim Square, ground zero for the unrest.
"We were walking along the harbor and saw the protests from across the waterfront, with smoke billowing," says Professor Ghislaine McDayter, English. "It was real, not in the newspapers." She and her co-leader, Professor John Rickard, English, quickly regrouped and arranged a safer activity for the students: meeting with a Turkish professor to talk about the protests.
"Teaching abroad is a fantastic pedagogic opportunity," says McDayter. "A bit of unease is needed for really life-changing learning."
The students, who earned credit in either comparative humanities or English, had many other memorable moments. They spent one afternoon with Turkish university students, where they discussed a Turkish poem with the poet. "That was mind-blowing," says Liz Walker '14, an English and history major. "Then the students started talking about cultural stereotypes. It was the gem of the trip. We're all still keeping in touch on Facebook."
Readings came to life for the group as they journeyed to the Parthenon, Acropolis and other fabled sites. They realized that no sharp line delineates East from West.
"We were on an intellectual journey together," says Walker. "I was just thrilled at how much I could take from my Bucknell classes and apply to this course. It was very satisfying to experience the practicality of a liberal arts education. It is real."