Three majors in Classical and Near Eastern Studies sought out ways to further their interest in the Classical or Arabic worlds beyond the classroom. Read about their adventures and impressions:
Nadia is a triple-major in Arab, History, & Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Middle East and North African Studies.
"I distinctly remember how anxious I was before I left for Jordan. I knew that my family was going to spend a week with me, and I knew that I would be staying with family for the month, but insecurities kept running through my head. What level would I be placed in since I haven't taken Arabic classes for a year? What would I do when I wasn't in class? Would I be safe given the current instability in surrounding Middle Eastern countries? These questions thankfully left my mind as I escaped the ridiculously long visa line in Amman Airport and was greeted with open arms and smiles from my father's cousin and one of her sons (I would be staying with her and her family once my family left). We arrived the day before Eid al-Fitr, the celebration in Islam after the month of Ramadan, which allowed us to be a part of the celebrations. Musicians played in the streets, people handed out sweets left and right, stores remained open later than usual, streets were decorated with lights; it was an amazing sight. To make my experience even better, my aunt and two of my cousins obtained Jordanian visas and were able to spend some time with us.
The week before my Arabic classes was full of sightseeing, primarily day trips to the Dead Sea, Petra, the Roman Amphitheater in Amman's City Center, and famous traditional markets. After exploring some of what Jordan had to offer, my parents and I parted ways and I was to start my class. Because of my busy course load in college, I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity to go aboard during my fall or spring semesters. I did some research online about Arabic summer programs in the states, but I didn't only want to learn the language, I wanted to immerse myself in the culture. With the help of my father's cousin, we found a program at the Modern Language Center in Amman in traditional Arabic for non-native speakers that was four hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks that would allow me to stay with family. Jordan is one of the most politically stable Middle Eastern countries and the ability to stay with family eased me and my parent's anxieties about my stay abroad.
The class I took was one-on-one in the beginning but after two weeks a student from Turkey was added to the class (I believe this helped my conversational Arabic) and during class breaks, I met a couple British students who were taking higher level colloquial classes for college. Though the classes were between four and six hours a day, the teacher was very passionate about the language which made time fly. Within the four weeks, my listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills improved and I learned well over 300 words of new vocabulary.
Outside of class I would spend a lot of time with family. We would always have big lunches when I got home from school and I would listen to their conversations in Iraqi (all of my father's family is from Iraq). Over the month, I learned some Iraqi phrases in addition to Jordanian colloquial and the traditional Arabic I picked up in school. We would occasionally go shopping in the malls or street markets in the evening. One night, however, we all went to the first ever Jordanian Opera Festival. It was held in the Roman Amphitheater in the City Center. I never thought I would say I saw an Italian opera in Jordan or that I would be in the same place as Jordanian royalty, but it was spectacular.
I will never forget this experience. I not only improved my Arabic skills but I spent time with a side of my family I don't frequently have the opportunity of seeing. I was also able to immerse myself in a culture that I personally identify with and create strong connections with family that I will continue to keep in contact with and hopefully visit again soon."
Benjamin is a double major in Classical Civilization and Anthropology.
"Over the summer I was fortunate enough to be a student in the Binghamton University Archaeological Field School. A five week course that exposed me to the methods and techniques of an archaeological excavation on an 18th century Native American village site located in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
My coursework was a great experience not only for the knowledge in archaeology that I gained, but also the confidence I gained in understanding the goals of my academic career. It really helped cement my interest in Archaeology as a discipline and make my path forward much clearer. As someone who has always held a deep passion for this discipline, it was a true joy to get out in the field and get my hands dirty. The only true way to gauge one's interest in a discipline is to jump into it and see whether or not you enjoy it. Luckily for me, it really exceeded my expectations and I loved every minute of it, even when enduring the summer heat or the torrential rain of June. I would like to think that I gained a pretty good command of the major skills of archaeological fieldwork such as excavation of controlled levels, record keeping, artifact processing, and other important skills. I believe that with the skills I have learned from the field school, I am able to approach my class work with a more informed and experienced perspective. Also, I can apply my knowledge to any further research that I may have the pleasure to work on in the future. I would advise anyone who has the opportunity and interest to work on a field school to take the chance and enjoy it."
Joshua is a double major in Classical Civilization and History.
"This summer I had the great opportunity to study abroad. I travelled to Italy with my old school, Onondaga Community College to study Italian Renaissance art. However, with the help of Binghamton's Classics department I was able to do much more. The bulk of my abroad education took place in Tuscany with one exception when we travelled to Venice. I had always had a dream of visiting the Naples region to see Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum, but I did not know how to begin to plan for it. I had no knowledge of the region, limited time, and an even more limited budget, nevertheless, with the consult of the Classics department, I was able to visit all three sites, and, also, visit Fiesole (an Etruscan and Roman town with a great museum, located near Florence) and the Etruscan museum in Florence.
These sites helped me connect more with the things I had learned in textbooks. As a History and Classical Studies major in America, history sometimes feels especially distant. All the names, places and concepts that I had learned about seemed so far away that at times they were nonexistent. For example, I had learned about Magna Graecia but it was not always something that I could fathom until I saw the Greek-built Doric temples at Paestum. Likewise, when learning Latin it is as rewarding as learning a modern foreign language but it feels different because it is not a living language. However, when I went to Herculaneum and Pompeii, I saw inscriptions, graffiti, and the remnants of the people who had spoken Latin and I had an epiphany. In a way, Latin is still a living language-- simply because no one speaks it does not mean that the authors and graffitists are not still indirectly communicating to us; their ideas and words still speak to us, and sometimes about things that are very relatable, such as boredom, frustration, or individual philosophies.
History began to feel strange and surreal to me and, perhaps, the strangeness was fueled most by the visible history. Herculaneum is surrounded by a contemporary city that used Herculaneum's buried land as its foundation. In Fiesole, there are the ruins of an Etruscan temple and Roman baths meters away from the modern town that was built in the medieval ages and keeps its architecture. I used to imagine that history happened in chunks, first, there was the Bronze Age, then the Iron Age, so on and so forth, however, after viewing this visible history, I now imagine it as a constantly forming string of lights, in order for them all to work they all have to be connected. In addition, while the bulbs have a separate light source, their combined light overlaps and their light comes from the same source. I owe a debt of gratitude for these experiences to the Classics department who helped me plan the logistics and costs for my excursions. They gave advice about the cities and great food recommendations as well. I highly recommend that anyone traveling abroad, for any class or major, talk to the Classics department to simply to gain great advice, or, like me, to gain a new perspective on old material and get a fix of classics while studying abroad."