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My Summer of Shoshin: Applying Beginner’s Mind to Learning Ancient Greek

By Dr. Heather Harwood, Classics Faculty

My Summer of Shoshin: Applying Beginner’s Mind to Learning Ancient Greek

Imagine this. You fly across the ocean to a different continent to go to school. You miss a connection and your plane is delayed, so you arrive a day late. You make your way from the airport to the campus of the school where you meet your roommate (someone you have never met before) and several other “ new” students. Most of the students you soon realize are returning for their third or fourth year to the school. These students know the campus, they know each other, and they know the teachers. At the opening night ceremony and for the remainder of your time at the school, the teachers and many of the returning students all converse in a language which, while you have studied it in books your whole life, you have never really heard spoken or spoken yourself. You go to bed a jumble of conflicting feelings: brain-numbing exhaustion from your journey, excitement and eagerness to start learning, uncertainty about whether you should even be here, homesickness for your dog, and total fear.

Sound familiar?

While this is the experience of many students coming to St. Mark’s for the first time from abroad, it was also my experience this past summer when I traveled to Greece to participate in Paediea Institute’s Living Greek in Greece program. I now have a much better understanding of what many of you who come to St. Mark’s from another country experience. The “school” I attended, however, was actually only a two week workshop held in a small coastal town called Selianitika where students, professors and high school teachers of Ancient Greek gathered to learn how to understand and speak Ancient Greek.

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Baseball: A Diplomatic Tool Between the U.S. and Cuba

By Matt Walsh, IV Form

Baseball: A Diplomatic Tool Between the U.S. and Cuba

When Mr. Calagione, our varsity baseball coach, first mentioned the prospect of visiting Cuba in the spring of 2017, I was dubious. Although President Obama had shown signs of improving diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, I had believed that American travel to Cuba would have to wait several years. The opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of Cuba, a country impoverished by many regimes of cruel dictators and gripped by the historical intervention of the United States and the Soviet Union, intrigued me. I never considered Mr. Calagione’s idea to visit Cuba as a realistic proposal. It was not until he gathered all members of the baseball team in October that the prospect of visiting Cuba became legitimate. The appearance of the word “Cuba” on that piece of paper immediately enlivened me. While I looked forward to playing baseball, enjoying the warm weather, and interacting with locals using my Spanish, the learning aspect of the trip was what excited me the most. The historical context of Cuba from colonialism to the revolution created a unique social, cultural, and political landscape that I was excited to learn about. My eagerness to learn about the livelihoods of those with different social and cultural backgrounds often drove me to engage in what I call “research frenzies”: the hectic act of researching a topic of interest by delving into articles, videos, and photos on the internet using more than thirty tabs. This was often a time consuming (and battery consuming) endeavor that acted in place of actual traveling, and it fulfilled my desire to learn about other cultures. I would always choose travel over feverishly scouring the internet, so the opportunity to visit Cuba for a week energized me. (more…)