Emmanuel Galanos’ Greek roots are evident as soon as he introduces himself, also providing some explanation of why the 24-year-old came from his home in the US state of Ohio to study archaeology and the history and literature of ancient Greece in Athens. But what is 22-year-old Anas Bouzaggaoui from Morocco doing here, or 18-year-old Ma Danni from China, for that matter?
A pillar of the humanities, ancient Greek culture doesn’t appear to be losing any of its allure for foreign scholars, which is why the University of Athens chose this area of study to join the international race of English-language degrees. Now, with the academic year starting, Athens University’s School of Philosophy has welcomed the first 28 foreign scholars to join Greece’s first-ever English language undergraduate course at a public university.
The first multinational class in the BA Program in the Archaeology, History, and Literature of Ancient Greece comprises 14 young men and women from China, three each from the United States and Egypt, two from Canada and one each from the United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Kenya, Morocco, Albania and the Palestinian Territories. The start of classes marks the beginning of a new chapter not just for Athens University but for all public universities in Greece as it opens the way for them to also tap the market of English-language degrees.
“My family has its roots in Samos,” says Galanos, referring to the eastern Aegean island. “I remember my grandfather telling me stories about Greece and then all the reading I did at school made me take an even greater interest in the land of my forebears,” he adds, speaking in English, except for “pappou,” the Greek word for grandfather.
Kathimerini joined the first group of students as they were being shown around the School of Philosophy’s campus, before they started classes.
Anas is from Casablanca and was inspired to study Greek archaeology by a documentary, even though he already has a degree in electrical engineering. “This is such an opportunity, to study archaeology in Greece,” he says.
Ma is excited about making new friends and possibly even settling in Greece. “I have traveled to Greece several times already, and I love the culture, the people, the landscape, the architecture and the history of this country,” she says.
The BA in the Archaeology, History, and Literature of Ancient Greece is a four-year, eight-semester program, on a par with other undergraduate degrees in Greece and other parts of the world. It comprises 30 classes and two seminars, as well as educational visits to archaeological sites and museums all over the country, such as Crete, Santorini, Delos, Olympia, Delphi and Vergina, among others, while tuition fees are set at 6,000 euros a year. Students in the program have all the rights afforded to other university students, while classes are taught by professors from the School of Philosophy and from other universities.
“[The professors] must have an excellent knowledge of English and publications in foreign scientific journals,” Athens University Rector Thanos Dimopoulos tells Kathimerini, stressing that the course is of the highest caliber. “The people who designed the program have worked really hard to ensure excellence and to attract foreign students. Let’s not forget that the international tertiary education market is particularly competitive and also that we are making our debut in English-language degrees in particularly difficult circumstances, with a lot of worry and a lot of problems with travel because of the pandemic.”
Eleni Karamalengou is the president of the administrative committee and scientific supervisor of the program, which is very much her “baby.”
“An arduous and ambitious effort that has been several years in the making is finally coming to fruition,” she tells Kathimerini with obvious delight at welcoming the first group of students. “This program paves the way for serious international studies in Greece, and promotes Greek education and Greek culture. It is the University of Athens and its School of Philosophy at their pioneering best. With the high standard of education we are offering, the ability to deal with all matters of practical and other problems, constant communication with the students and all of our TLC, we have all the components of success,” she says.