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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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