Col­le­giate Scholars expect to visit the Acropolis of Athens in Greece after the trip to Turkey was changed.
Wiki­media Commons | Courtesy

Just 36 days before the Col­le­giate Scholars program planned to leave for Turkey, it changed the des­ti­nation of its annual trip for rising seniors to Greece, after the U.S. Mission in Turkey on April 9 released an emer­gency message con­cerning the first two places on the itin­erary.
“There are credible threats to tourist areas, in par­ticular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya,” the message read.
Shortly there­after, American media picked up the story, and this added to the cause for concern, Col­le­giate Scholars Director Richard Gamble said. April 9 was also the first day Amer­icans deployed B‑52 bombers to Qatar, its first time doing so in the Middle East in 25 years.
“The fact that the security message iden­tified espe­cially the water­front, we spend a lot of time on the water­front in Istanbul. Istanbul is one the most beau­ti­fully sit­uated cities in the world, and Antalya is an amazing Mediter­ranean port,” Gamble said. “The fact that the warning had become so dire and so spe­cific to our itin­erary, it became just too dif­ficult.”
The program used to go to Rome, and although Tuku Tours, the travel company that Col­le­giate Scholars used to book the Turkey trip, also does tours in Italy, the directors chose Greece because it was less expensive. Resched­uling the trip, however, caused the trip to shorten from 22 days to 13, due to changing from the Turkish lira to the European Euro.
Plane tickets were also more expensive, but stu­dents did not pay more than the $1,500 they already had shelled out.
“The college absorbed 100 percent of the extra costs,” Gamble said. “That was amazing. The college took decisive action and did every­thing nec­essary to make this work.”
This trip marks the first time the Col­le­giate Scholar program, for­merly known as the Honors Program, will not visit Turkey in the past 13 years.
It notified juniors in the program of the change April 11, and the change in des­ti­nation allowed for three stu­dents who recently had pulled out of the trip over safety con­cerns to rejoin. That put the number of par­tic­i­pants at 31, the largest the program has ever had.
Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Clas­sical Studies Eric Hutchinson, who will take over the Col­le­giate Scholars in the fall, said he and Gamble were mon­i­toring the sit­u­ation in Turkey for the past year due to several ter­rorist bombings.
“At the point the U.S. Mission released its alert, it didn’t seem prudent to take a group of stu­dents there,” Hutchinson said.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Turkey as early as Sept. 3, 2015, one day after it approved the departure of gov­ernment family members living in the Adana, Turkey, U.S. Con­sulate, which is in the south­eastern part of the country.
The program changed the itin­erary first in October 2015 to avoid Ankara, Turkey’s capital, after a ter­rorist bombing killed more than 100 people. Gamble said he con­tem­plated changing the trip then, but after speaking with stu­dents, a majority of the stu­dents still wanted to go to Turkey. Col­le­giate Scholars have not visited southeast Turkey since 2014.
Since Sep­tember, the State Department has issued four other travel warnings to Turkey, with special con­cerns con­cerning travel in the south­eastern region. It also removed gov­ernment personnel’s fam­ilies from Izmir, also a location on the Col­le­giate Scholars’ trip itin­erary and where Tuku Tours’ office is, and limited official travel to Turkey to “mission-critical” cases only on March 29.
“I know this looks so drastic,” Gamble said. “Looking at it now, the U.S. was preparing for the B‑52 bombings by getting the fam­ilies of U.S. mil­itary and diplomats out of sen­sitive regions. We were cer­tainly aware of that and watching that. At no point did the U.S. say not to go there.”
The State Department did not issue any security mes­sages at the time of the program’s 2015 Turkey trip.
Greece itself does not have a travel alert, but the State Department did issue one for the entirety of Europe on March 22, the day of the attacks in Brussels, Belgium.
“Inter­na­tional travel always carries risks,” Gamble said. “Stu­dents and fam­ilies know this trip is vol­untary. We work hard to keep the trip safe and instructive. Looking at every­thing that is hap­pening, your options become simply to travel nowhere.”
Hutchinson said the program picked Greece because it aligns well with the program’s purpose. Greece com­bines clas­sical, New Tes­tament, Byzantine, and modern ele­ments.
“It accom­plishes a lot of the things the trip is sup­posed to accom­plish,” Hutchinson said. “For Hillsdale stu­dents, since the Greeks do loom so large in a lot of what we do, it’s a really great alter­native to what we were going to do.”
Although the stu­dents will miss out on Troy and the Hagia Sophia for now, places on the itin­erary include Athens, ancient Mycenae, Corinth, and Delphi.
“I was dis­ap­pointed because I’ve had friends go there the past couple of years who talk so highly of it,” former Col­le­giate Scholars Co-Pres­ident junior Luke Zahari said. “At the same time, Greece is pretty cool, too. As a person studying classics, it’s very exciting to go see these things firsthand that I’ve seen in text­books.”
As a classics pro­fessor, who only has visited Athens and some of the Greek islands, Hutchinson said “all of it” excites him.
Gamble said he has never been to Greece and looks forward to vis­iting, but he has plans to head straight from Athens to Turkey for an Aegean cruise. He’ll return to Turkey in October for a con­ference, as well.
“That’s how con­fident I am in Turkey still,” Gamble said.
Gamble notified Tuku Tours the evening of April 10, it returned an itin­erary the next morning. The program had the details rein­vented by April 14.
“I would very much like to see us con­tinue working with Tuku Tours, who has been so great to us,” Gamble said.
Hutchinson said it is unclear as to whether or not the change to Greece is per­manent.
“At this point, it’s impos­sible to say,” Hutchinson said. “It’s hard to know what the world is going to be like a year from today. There are so many things in flux in that region.”
Nonetheless, Gamble is speaking with a travel agency to do a history and culture of the Ottoman Empire tour with Hillsdale stu­dents in the future.
“I am deter­mined to keep going back to Turkey,” Gamble said. “Not sure how soon, but we will go.”