Experiencing Sociology  vassilaki class photo
11 Jan 2022

Experiencing Sociology 

This semester, my goal was to take classes that would focus on experiential learning, taking me outside of the classroom and into Athens headfirst. The Sociology of Dissent * had been on my list since I first began my application process, and I was quick to enroll in it as I finalized my schedule. 

From the beginning, I appreciated seeing Greece from a new perspective, especially given its revolutionary past. I loved learning about groups in this country that do not stay silent in the face of injustice. Through rich conversations in class as well as walks around Athens and even a soccer match we were able to learn so much about why people disagree, what leads groups to go to the extremes, and how these conflicts are solved. 

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As the semester came to an end, I began reflecting on what my favorite part about the course was. I concluded that it was definitely the space that we were given to ask questions and have conversations. After all, a class about dissent needed to prepare us to have different opinions. I loved our debates, even when the topics felt impossible to argue for or against. I was happy to be challenged, to express my thoughts and to research topics I genuinely found interesting. 

I asked my classmates about their favorite part of the class. One of them told me that she loved being able to simply talk about anything with us during class, and appreciated having the space to do so. Another classmate said that her favorite part of our class was being taught Sociology professor Rosa Vasilaki. She echoed the sentiment of loving our class discussions but added that she appreciated that our instructor “is approachable, helpful, genuine and really kind. Someone you could actually learn something from.” 

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Rosa Vasilaki (PhD) University of Bristol. Doctorat (Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) made this class extremely memorable. I am always thrilled and thankful to learn from people that are clearly passionate about what they are teaching and this was the case with her. I believe that the most important thing I learned about this course is how ingrained dissent is in all our cultures, and how seemingly small acts of resistance can lead to changes in all levels, especially social changes. During our walk around Exarcheia, we were told stories of resistance, strength, and of bravery through the graffiti on the walls as well as her voice and her hands that explained, translated, constructed, and painted a picture clear enough for all of us to see. Professor Vassilaki has taught history and sociology on the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and conducted research in a number of universities in Greece, Israel and the UK. Read more about the fascinating projects she is involved in on the CYA Website.

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I asked prof. Vassilaki to tell me her favorite thing about this CYA course, and what motivates her to teach it. This is what she had to say:

“Field trips are one of my favorite aspects of the course and a moment that I enjoy with every new cohort of students. There is a magical moment in every such field trip, where theoretical concepts explored in the course, lively in-class debates around difficult and ethical deliberations, meet the actual lived experience and become tangible for the students. Field trips are also an opportunity to answer more general or more special questions about Greece and what makes political culture and everyday life unique in this country. The convergence between theory and experience and the excitement of students when they are able to put theory into practice to make sense of the modern world is what motivates and inspires me most when it comes to teaching this course.” 

It has been an honor to learn from my brilliant professor and peers, but I would like to especially thank Athens and its people for being such giving educators. I have never experienced such a hands-on approach to academia until I arrived in Greece, particularly with this class, and I look forward to using the tools I have learned this semester to make every city I visit a learning experience. 

Daniella Marie Castillo Vasquez, CYA Fall 2021 student & MediaLab Intern

*The Sociology of Dissent is offered on both Spring and Fall Semesters at CYA

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Athens Street Art, discovered during the Graffiti Walk class outing.