06 Dec 2021

Understanding Greek Culture through CYA Religion Courses

When arriving in Greece, CYA students come in contact with an unknown social and cultural landscape. Throughout their studies here, they take classes and partake in cultural activities that help them unravel the fabric of Greek culture and learn to recognize different identities and their origins. 

One of the subject areas that play an important role in this process is Religion. CYA offers the class “The Religions of the Middle East: A Comparative Approach” every Fall Semester and “The Orthodox Church” every Spring Semester. Both, taught by CYA Professor Despina Iosif, are a catalyst in understanding the context, beliefs, and dynamics that contributed so much to the formation of Greek Identity.

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“Something I didn’t know is how high percentage of the country has been Greek Orthodox, the big part it plays in the national identity, and I think it’s been really great coming from America to learn about that different culture” Fall 2021 Student 

Understanding Greek Culture through CYA Religion Courses
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The Religions of the Middle East: A Comparative Approach focuses on the three monotheistic religions of the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Monotheism is the shared theological orientation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that often embraces almost every aspect of the private and the public life of their followers. Students of this class examine main teachings and simultaneously explore how these teachings manage to affect the everyday lives of their followers. Additionally, students learn about the ways in which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have constructed their distinctive meanings, compare them, and note the similarities and the debts to each other.

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The Orthodox Church offers students a journey into the Orthodox Church, the largest of the Eastern Christian Churches. Students explore its history, faith, liturgy, and spirituality, based on lectures, readings, audio-visual presentations, discussion, and personal experience. Special emphasis is given to primary sources since tradition is greatly valued by the Orthodox Church. Students are invited to explore how Orthodoxy is lived and practiced in Greece and are expected to submit their own observations and reflections throughout the course.

“Something that’s really interesting is how applicable religion was throughout history. Understanding Greek Orthodox Christianity not only gave us a better idea about modern Greek society, but historically too, we got to understand why these major shifts in Greek culture happened.”  Fall 2021 Student

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When we asked Fall 2021 students about their favorite aspects of this class, their first answer was ‘The Professor’! Despina Iosif is a historian of the Graeco-Roman world with a special interest in the history of religion. She received a BA in History and Archaeology and an MA in Ancient History from the University of Crete and a PhD in Early Christianity from University College London. She conducted her post-doc on Late Antiquity at the University of Thessaly and research on Monotheism at the Fondation Hardt in Geneva. Iosif is always remembered by students for her energetic style and her interactive teaching methods.

“She teaches in a very passionate way, it’s very easy for us to stay focused, she is very knowledgeable. We also have a lot of debates in the class and she stays neutral and lets us bounce ideas off of each other” Fall 2021 Students

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Dr. Iosif courses at CYA: