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04 Oct 2017

Understanding the Unfamiliar

Urban Culture, society, design, and change…

In this blog, we take an inside look at three innovative courses running this fall semester with an emphasis on urban culture, society, design, and change.

The varied and unique environment of study abroad invites students to learn to become familiar with unfamiliar spaces and places, the culture, and people that surround them in their day-to-day lives. The following courses, at CYA, compliment this personal learning by adding context, and an in-depth academic gaze on the same unfamiliar places and spaces students’ interact with daily.
Indeed, many of these lessons also occur outside the classroom, perfectly illustrating the concept of experiential learning that we value so highly CYA.

Learning in these “real” spaces, standing in the actual buildings, and being in amongst the community, our students learn how to make stronger more meaningful links that tap into their existing and new-found knowledge deepening their universal understanding of the subject.

Modern Athens: Space, Art, and Urban Cultures

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“This class is spatially and temporally located at the intersection of modernity and antiquity in the heart of Athens. Through engaging readings with very relatable material and concepts, as well as guided walks and observatory fieldwork, Professor Vourloumis takes us on an anthropological journey through a city full of contradictions.” — CYA Student  Fall ’17


Modern Athens: Space, Art, and Urban Cultures is a course that involves an in-depth analysis of various forms of artistic expression including but not limited to music, graffiti, performance, and film. The combined emphasis on fieldwork offers students opportunity to engage with the myriad aspects of the city. Recently students went on a Modern Athens Neoclassical walk and a field trip to explore the “The Trilogy” (The three hills of Athens) and Anafiotika”. Future projects will see students study the converted newspaper factory and independent cultural hub of Embros theatre as well as Mt. Lycabettus.

“Students are particularly enthusiastic when we walk through the city and find that they are equipped with the tools to analyze the ways in which, for example, nationalism and modernity can be discerned in neo-classical architectural forms and choreographies such as the changing of the national guard, to how a history of migration and persistent connections to the east can be heard in everyday music or tasted in their tavern meals.”

— Professor. Hypatia Vourloumis

The Culture of Modern Greece: The Ethnography of a Society in Transition

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“Professor Aimee Placas weaves both personal and academic pursuits of students into one curriculum, managing to entertain us by answering questions about our everyday anthropological encounters as well as our scholastic interests” — CYA Student  Fall ’17




The Culture of Modern Greece: The Ethnography of a Society in Transition is a course where students learn about Greek society while at the same time re-discovering their social influences and cultural surroundings. It invites students to explore the society in ways they might not otherwise find on their own. The class recently took a walk around their own neighborhood of Pangrati to discuss urbanization and neighborhood space from an Ethnographers’ point of view. In an upcoming on-site class, students will visit a cemetery to examine Greek death rituals, and also explore the area of Echarxia to investigate the social impact of political activism.

“Their own cultural patterns of thought are laid bare as they make Greece familiar to them—exploring the meanings of friendship through interviewing Greek college students; breaking down the riot of noise, song, and ritual at a football game; engaging with the full-sensory experience of a Greek Orthodox liturgy; turning the strangeness of their neighborhood into a network of acquaintances and friends.”

— Professor Aimee Placas 

Contemporary Urbanism: 10 Narratives of Design and Change in Athens

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“Every other class we go out and explore the city then we meet in the next class to discuss and compile our thoughts. This has helped me understand the city. Now when I walk around and not only recognize places, but also stories from that place” — CYA Student Fall ’17



Contemporary Urbanism: 10 Narratives of Design and Change investigates the Athenian landscape, environment, society and urban fabric as space and as a city evolving in time, bringing together historic and contemporary architecture, routes, communal areas, as well as spaces for the public and private realm. Essential to the course is the class field trips, which take place every other class, they encourage students to truly get to know not only the places but the stories behind them interlaced with history and modern times. Some of the site visits so far have included an exploration of the Agora, Garden, Monument, and the small historic center of Monastiraki, Plaka, as well as an investigation of the re-use of former industrial areas such as Gazi. Future classes will see students venture out to research the port of Piraeus, bayside towns, and developments and other private and common spaces.

“I share narratives of the city, to give students a broader sense of how the cityscapes were formed. With this student create their own maps and routes through spaces, objects, landscapes or monuments, and their own archive of records, images, sketches and critical interpretations to write their own narratives about the city through their experience and understanding of the city’s places and spaces.”

— Professor Maria Vidali

For further information on these courses and more visit our website.