Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Month Spent All Around Greece

by Neil Mulvey

Throughout college, the idea of studying abroad always appealed to me. However, with tough course loads every semester and the pressure of graduating on time, I never gave study abroad much of a viable chance. When I decided to push my graduation date one semester back, it provided the opportunity to take advantage of the extra time. My first thought was to explore study abroad options to continue to gain credit, but more importantly to fulfill my want to travel and explore a different part of the world.

While searching through the available summer study abroad options, I could not believe my luck in finding an option to travel to Greece for a month and study the relevant topic of renewable energy. Since I was young, I have been intrigued by the ancient world the Greeks inhabited along with their mythologies. A chance to go to the lands where these stories took place and to the sites where historical events occurred was one I could not pass up.

Upon arrival to Athens, Greece, I knew I would not be disappointed with my decision to join the program. After a night that featured our first Greek meal of the trip in the Syntagma district, we enjoyed a personal tour of the Parthenon. This was just the beginning to a trip including many historical sites throughout Greece including Corinth, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora, and Knossos. The history is well documented and every site visited was kept in great condition which provided a very enjoyable experience.

The historical sites were not the only places that provided extraordinary experiences. Greece is known for their many beautiful islands and we had the pleasure of visiting multiple. In just one day, we took a cruise to three unique islands. The boat ride allowed great views of the Aegean Sea and passing islands which was amazing all it its self. As a group, we decided to take a weekend visit to Santorini, which is known as one of the more popular tourist islands. Crete, the most southern and largest Greek island, provided multiple experiences. Crete is where the Knossos ruins are along with the Samaria Gorge, which we spent six hours hiking through one day. Greece offers an abundance of both historical sites and natural beauty.

One of the greatest pleasures of the trip involved our experiences with the Agricultural University of Athens. The PhD candidates and professors were always extremely helpful and knowledgeable while working on our projects. They also provided relevant and interesting lectures on their courses of study. It was particularly interesting to learn about multiple renewable energy sources and machinery and their particular application to Greece and Europe. Our AUA friends also gladly took it upon themselves to introduce and immerse us into the Greek culture.

To me, studying abroad was so much more than an opportunity to gain knowledge in renewable energy. It was a chance for me to see firsthand history-book worthy sites and learn about life in a different part of the world. It is important to me to have a better understanding of what is going on not only in America, but everywhere. Living outside of the normal comfort zone for any period of time is a powerful experience that everyone should take advantage of.

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by theInternational Programs in Engineering Office of the College of Engineering. Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to research and apply renewable energy concepts to real-world technical and societal questions . This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a European Union Center of Excellence grant. It is planned to repeat the program in summer 2015.

Neil Mulvey is a senior graduating in December 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in mechanical engineering and science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His interests include swimming, hiking, and anything else outside. 

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