The sunrise on my first morning in Crete
Hello. My name is Rachel and I am a Design and Merchandising student at Drexel University. For the Summer 2010 term, I am participating in the Drexel in Crete program. The study abroad program is open to sophomores, pre-juniors and juniors in any major at the university. The curriculum is comprised of four courses regarding Greek culture, history, economy, society and language. The classes begin with two weeks of study in the States, continue with four weeks on the glorious island of Crete and conclude with four additional weeks of online learning.
Crete is the largest and most populous island off of the southern coast of Greece. It is the bride of the Mediterranean, serving as a cultural crossroads that links Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The island was the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, the first advanced society in Europe dating c. 2700-1420 BC. It passed under the control of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Arabs, Venetians and Ottoman Turks before gaining autonomy and finally joining the independent Greek state on December 1, 1913. These various influences created a complex cultural identity, evident in all aspects of life on Crete.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving on the island was the unique landscape. There is a striking play between harsh, dry mountainous terrain and the marine shores of the Mediterranean. Our hotel, Xenia Helios, is located in Kokkini Chani, a town fifteen minutes outside of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. It is run by students who study tourism during the year and work at the hotel in the summertime. This is amazing because it allows us an inside view of the youth culture on the island. I am sharing an adorable little room with my friend Devon, another D&M student.
Our program advisor, Dr. Maria Hnaraki, is a native of Crete and knows practically everyone on the island, which grants us some spectacular opportunities like meeting the first female governor of Crete. Our graduate assistant, Theodore, is also from Crete and instructs our classes on economics and business. We take classes at the hotel three days a week with the other two days reserved for lengthy field trips. On those days we all pile into the Golden Bullet, which Devon has so fittingly deemed our tour bus, and take off across the island to an assortment of fascinating locations.