November 12, 2002
A 2002 graduate of philosophy has returned from a summer in Greece with a new philosophy on life.
Joseph Miller of Jacksboro was one of seven Americans chosen for a scholarship by the Greek Ministry of Culture to participate in an intense summer course at the International Summer School in Thessaloniki, Greece, this past July.
Though drawn to the program initially by an interest in ancient Greek civilizations and philosophy, Miller discovered a passion for the Modern Greek culture and a philosophy that would fuel ideas for a future project.
“Philosophers are identified with the places they are from. It's one thing to read about Athens from Aristotle and Plato but another to actually see it,” says Miller, who explains how his love for Greek culture began on a study-abroad trip to southern Greece with Dr. Tim Winters, associate professor, languages and literature.
“One thing I didn't expect was to pay more attention to Modern Greek culture rather than ancient culture.”
While studying at the University of Thessaloniki, Miller picked up some books on Modern Greek philosophy and became fascinated by its distinction from the analytic traditions of ancient Greek, English and even the more renowned French and German philosophies.
“Modern Greek philosophy is based more on ethics,” says Miller. “It's refreshing and practical because it teaches you how to live, how to achieve happiness and basically how to get the most out of life. U.S. philosophy is so hard-core analytical that it ignores discussion about life and life pleasures.”
One could say that while the rest of Western European and North American philosophy has maintained its basis in antiquity, the Modern Greeks have moved on.
Now living in Clarksville, Miller says he plans to expose more people in the U.S. to Modern Greek philosophy. He will continue to improve his Greek so he can translate Modern Greek texts into English and turn them out onto the American market for discussion.
Miller credits his current proficiency in the Modern Greek language, his initial love of the culture and knowledge of the scholarship awarded by the Greek Ministry of Culture to Winters.
“Joseph studied Latin with me first, then went along on my study-abroad program to Greece. I teach an intensive course in Modern Greek on that trip, and he simply fell in love with the place and language,” says Winters.
When they returned to Austin Peay, Winters developed for Miller an independent study program that enable him to study Modern Greek at a second-year level.
“Joseph is an enormously curious and disciplined individual, which is fundamental for making any progress in a language,” says Winters. “Competition for the scholarship is worldwide, and Joseph worked very hard to get his Greek to the point where he would be a viable candidate. I'm very proud of him.”
The scholarship, which funded Miller's tuition, room and board, is not publicized widely by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Winters came to know of it only through an acquaintance at the ministry, and he passed the information onto Miller who was looking to pursue studies in ancient philosophy in conjunction with Modern Greek.
The entire application process for the program in Thessaloniki, which is operated by the Institute for Balkan Studies, is in Greek. This is one way, Miller says, the institute is able to check the applicant's competency in the language and eligibility for the program and scholarship. In addition Miller submitted three recommendations from professors as well as publications and papers he had presented at conferences, and he took a diagnostic exam to determine placement.
With only two years of Greek under his belt, Miller placed into level four intermediateâ€”
an achievement he says he felt pretty good about. “My independent study with Dr. Winters really paid off there,” says Miller.
While still a language-intense program, at level four, Miller was able to take more courses in Greek focusing on Modern Greek literature and philosophy, history, art and
archeologyâ€”another passion he acquired during his visit abroad.
Thessaloniki is known as the “cultural capital” of Greece and is home to some of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Archeological sites, unique to the northern Greek area due to their climate and time periods, remain within driving distance from the city.
“The soil content is different in the north than in the south of the country,” says Miller. “The preservation of the objects is remarkable, and you should see some of the gold ornaments and treasures they have found in the tombs.”
Miller, along with some other classmates, had the opportunity to work with the archeologists in their digs as part of their program.
“Each week's schedule was very intense,” says Miller. “Six days of classes and then a free day with excursion.” These excursions included visits to Amphipolis, Philippi and Kavala, Pella, Aigai and Dion, Meteora and Mount Athos as well as to recreational activities such as folk-dancing classes, museums, ancient drama, concerts and shadow theatre. “But believe me,” he says, “you've got your crazy nights, too.”
“Thessaloniki is the kind of city Greeks like,” says Winters. “You have lots of city action, mountains, trees and the sea all right together in this attractive, northern city.”
“The scenery is beautiful,” Miller says. “The water is clear blue, the climate is warm and mountainous and lush with palm trees… It kind of reminded me of east Tennessee,” he says with a laugh.
Interested students, however, should take heed. “This program is rewarding but intensive,” says Miller. “If students are serious about it, the money from the ministry is there. Your stay, food, everything can be paid for. Just get your Greek up to par and get good recommendations.”
To get your own taste of Greek life, language and culture, Winters directs APSU's Study-Abroad Program in Greece every year.
For further information regarding the Study-Abroad Program in Greece, telephone Winters at 7118, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
or view his Web site at www.apsu.edu/winterst