Every year, upper-level students in the University of Mount Olive’s Honors program take a weeklong international trip. For months leading up to their departure, the students study the culture, history, and customs of the destination to better prepare them for their travels. This year’s junior and senior Honors students chose Greece for the 10-day journey.
“Greece was a trip of firsts,” said junior Nicole Lorenz. “It was amazing! I was so grateful to be able to experience the country and embrace the culture with some great people!”
My first glimpse of Athens reminded me of a smaller-scaled version of New York City. The streets filled with people walking. Those that were driving could have given NASCAR a run for its money.
As we waited for our rooms to be ready, we saw Hadrian’s Arch. Our tour guide, Dimitris, whom we called Dimi, provided us with our first slice of authentic cuisine – a slice of orange pie and Greek coffee strained through sand. Atop the Acropolis, we experienced a stunning view of Athens, with its architectural marvels. We toured the ancient ruins and the Panathenaic Stadium, as well as witnessed the changing of the guards at the tomb of their Unknown Soldier.
In Mycenae, we saw the Acropolis and the Tomb of Atreus before driving through the classical ancient cities of Corinth and Sparta. Once we arrived in Olympia, we visited the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus and saw his temple. At the site of the first Olympic stadium, several of our students participated in a foot race. Junior Justiss Hunter was the victor, and we crowned her with an olive branch as her trophy. An authentic olive oil tasting led to several of us purchasing bottles to share with our families back home.
Traveling to Delphi, we passed through the beautiful small town of Nafpaktos, which became a group favorite. We participated in a Greek cooking class where we served up Tzatziki, zucchini meatballs, and cheese pie. Afterwards we learned a few dances from the locals.
In Delphi, we stayed in a resort that overlooked a gorgeous mountain range. We visited the excavated site of Delphi, one of the most important parts of Greek history. We viewed the temples of Athena and Apollo, as well as the theatre. A rigorous hike up the mountain provided a stunning overlook of the mountain region. We finished up with a tour of the archaeological museum before heading back to Athens.
“My group did our presentation on Delphi,” said junior Justiss Hunter. “It was interesting to see how our research came to life. It’s one thing to research a city, but to view the Tholos, theatre, and Temple of Apollo in person was surreal.”
On the return journey, we stopped at the beautiful mountainside town of Arachova where we bought souvenirs and took the last of our scenic photos. Our final night was bittersweet, as we said goodbye to Dimi, who felt more like a friend than a tour guide. Before we parted ways, junior Ashlyn Porter gave Dimi her UMO windbreaker, so he could have a reminder of our group.
To sum up our trip to Greece, I would have to say that my dream vacation destination did not disappoint. A breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime experience allowed me to connect with my classmates and my professors on a different level. The bonds created and memories made will be everlasting and unforgettable.