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The Class of 2017 Collegiate Scholars stood on top the Acrocorinth during a 10-day stay in Greece in May, the first time the program did not go to Turkey on its annual trip in 13 years. (Photo: Andrea Sommer / Hillsdale Collegian)
The Class of 2017 Col­le­giate Scholars stood on top the Acro­corinth during a 10-day stay in Greece in May, the first time the program did not go to Turkey on its annual trip in 13 years. (Photo: Andrea Sommer / Hillsdale Col­legian)

Hillsdale College’s Col­le­giate Scholars Program is looking to return to Greece, not Turkey, next summer, after a packed 10-day journey in the Hel­lenic Republic in May.

Stu­dents said ancient loca­tions brought The Western Her­itage reader to life. That expe­rience and con­tinuing uncer­tainty in Turkey, led Col­le­giate Scholars Director Eric Hutchinson to assess a return to Greece in 2017, he said. The group’s tour guide, who stu­dents said was a high­light of the trip, is already booked for next year.

“That des­ti­nation worked per­fectly for this program,” Hutchinson said. “It hits on so many of the important texts and ideas and places that are part of the core cur­riculum at Hillsdale. For those who are rising seniors, that can help to tie together strands they’ve been getting over the course of their edu­cation.”

Just 36 days before 31 people — the largest group in the history of the Honors Program, now known as the Col­le­giate Scholars Program — were sup­posed to board a plane to Turkey, then-Col­le­giate Scholars Director Richard Gamble changed the annual trip after the U.S. Mission in Turkey released an emer­gency message con­cerning credible threats to tourist areas in the first two cities on the group’s itin­erary. The des­ti­nation changed for the first time in 13 years, and the trip shortened to 13 days instead of the original 22 because Greece is more expensive. Former Honors Program Director Don West­blade said he orig­i­nally chose Turkey for the trip because it is where Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian faith met.

Matt Sauer ’16 said this year’s trip was com­pa­rable to the Turkey expe­rience. Sauer went to Turkey in 2015 as a member of the Honors Program and accom­panied the rising seniors this summer.

“You’ve got the ancient Greek world, and then you’ve got the Byzantine era,” Sauer said. “We saw where Paul taught. We got to see how Chris­tianity flour­ished in that part of the world a very long time ago, which is what you get in Turkey.”

Senior Andrea Sommer said she was relieved when Gamble and Hutchinson announced that the group would not go to Turkey.

Greece was no dis­ap­pointment, she said, noting high­lights included seeing the Oracle at Delphi, Corinth, and the jail cell in Athens where Socrates probably drank the hemlock that killed him.

“We stood in the Agora, exactly where Per­icles would have given his funeral oration and where Socrates would have been teaching and ques­tioning people,” Sommer said. “Having the history come alive in that way was really cool.”

Sauer said the group’s tour guide, Smaro Touloupa, from Aris­totle Travel kept the schedule busy and the scholars con­suming new infor­mation on ancient art and Greek history.

Hutchinson said it was like a “miniature college course.” She set up the his­torical and cul­tural context of the sites and exhibits before stu­dents looked at them.

“It made the viewing of the arti­facts that much more worth­while,” Hutchinson said. “It made the expe­rience of looking at the objects much richer after having gotten all of this back­ground material.”

Sommer said since Touloupa was a native Athenian, she also pro­vided a unique look at modern Greece.

“She wasn’t afraid to speak about the political sit­u­ation, which I heard is dif­ferent from the Turkey trip,” Sommer said. “She even had stories about modern-day Greece, like her family had done a pagan sac­rifice at the foun­dation of their home to set it up because that was tra­dition. The ways the ancient tra­di­tions affected modern life, she was able to comment on, too.”

Sauer said he felt the trip, however, lacked many inter­ac­tions with locals. Two Hillsdale alumni living in Turkey, in the past, would introduce stu­dents to friends and native Turks.

Nev­er­theless, the trav­elers said the trip was worth­while, growing their under­standing of the Western her­itage and learning from their tour guide. Sauer said Touloupa was impressed with Hillsdale, too, since she noted that in her 18 years of touring, only one other group could keep up with the infor­mation she fed them.

“She didn’t spare us any­thing,” Sauer said. “Everyone was so engaged and involved.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: bnoble1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @RightandNoble