Duke University | Classical Studies:

Without a doubt, taking the summer session abroad to Greece affected the direction of my studies as well as my life.  Visiting the ancient cities, walking through the architecture, and seeing the objects that I had studied so diligently in books and through photographs shifted my interest in Classical Greek art and archaeology into a desire to further my studies in graduate school.  Though brief, I learned more in the month we spent traveling through Greece than I ever would have if traveling alone, and I made friendships that I never would have exclusively on campus.  I returned to Greece the following 3 summers, traveling, studying, and working as an archaeologist.  I eventually received a Master's degree in ancient Greek art history and archaeology, and I never would have continued in that direction had it not been for my inspiring professor, John Younger, supportive graduate students, and enthusiastic fellow students in that session abroad.  

Reagan Baydoun Ruedig, Duke 2001

I took advantage of two different study abroad programs while at Duke, and there’s no doubt that they both added an incomparable dimension to my course of studies. I participated in the Duke in Rome summer program after my freshman year, just after taking a seminar course on Roman Civilization. I fell in love with the city and its history and art, certainly helped by the structure of the course, which consisted of exploring on foot. We also traveled to see Etruscan tombs, suburban imperial villas, and the Roman sites near Naples, including Pompeii. After that I was hooked on classics, and returned to Duke knowing I would make it my major.

It’s unusual to study abroad during one’s senior year, but for me it was the perfect time to travel to the Mediterranean again and see more of the places I had studied in my classics courses. College Year in Athens placed me in classes and housing with other classics enthusiasts. I spent nearly every weekend on a school-organized trip or traveling on my own to see for my studies archaeological sites I had previously only seen in pictures. And nothing quite compares to having a class about the Parthenon while sitting right in front of the Parthenon. Studying abroad sparked a passion for my eventual major, and it also provided a perfect capstone.

Elizabeth Rudisill, Duke 2008

Simply put, studying abroad was the most intellectually and socially rewarding experience of my life.  Until that point, everything I knew about the Classics had been restricted to texts and pictures--these gave me a good foundation but were insufficient to understand how the Romans lived.  To actually go to the cradle of Classical civilization, Rome, and explore the archaeology, art history, and architecture as a Classicist contextualized my previous knowledge.  The environment was fantastic.  I met Classics majors from around the nation who loved this as much I did--pretty rare to find--and challenged me.  My new-found lens on ancient civilizations even inspired a senior thesis about ancient medicine because of a project I did there. Overall, I'd recommend studying abroad, especially if there's a program that fits your intellectual or social interests!

Amol Sura, Duke 2011

My time spent abroad in Rome was one of my most memorable semesters, and one of the most important for my intellectual experience at Duke. One of the most exciting things about studying abroad was that most of the lectures were taught on cite. Rather than simply looking at pictures of remains and monuments, we were able to see them for ourselves and to stand in the very places where events took place as we learned about them. This immersion into the ancient world allowed me to internalize what I was learning more than I was able to at home.
    As a Classical Languages major, it is important to work on translation ability, as well as to understand the history and culture of the Greco-Roman world.  Studying in Rome enhanced my major because I was able to take Latin and Greek courses, as well as a quality course in Roman history, covering everything from the Etruscans to Constantine. In my Latin class, I read Juvenal’s Satires, and it was exciting to relate what we were translating to the places we’d been. For example, we saw the grotto of the Sybyl at Cumae, and the remnants of baths at Baiae, two places discussed by Juvenal in Satire III.

Living in Rome for three months allowed me to understand what a deep history the city has. Rome is truly built upon itself, with layers of remains from many different periods of history.  Traveling outside of the city for class was important as well, as we spent time in Cosa, the first Latin colony, whose remains show the typical structure and layout of colonies, or Ostia, the port city, where many buildings and mosaics are preserved. Roaming through the ruins of cities such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, I could really imagine that I was living in the ancient cities, seeing where various temples, stores, and houses were located, and looking at the graffiti and well-preserved wall paintings.  

   In addition to enriching my knowledge of Classical Studies, studying abroad exposed me to a different modern culture and language. The Centro is in a non-touristy neighborhood on the Janiculum hill, so Italian stores and cafes where we could try out our Italian skills were readily accessible. We ate delicious Italian cuisine daily. I took a few side trips to see some of the cities we didn’t trek to as a class, and I really enjoyed traveling through this beautiful country, both in class and out. Partaking in the ICCS in Rome study abroad program was a wonderful experience for me, and something I would highly recommend to any undergraduate who is passionate about Classics.

Tara McKenna, Duke 2011

The light bulb switches on.  Something just clicks. Eureka!  No matter the expression used (although the last seems to be quite fitting for a Classics major), that moment of realization, when the abstract suddenly becomes palpable and real, is a phenomenon we’ve all experienced at one time or another.  Standing across from an ostrakon propped up in a shiny glass case was that moment for me: I imagined an Athenian scratching the name Themistocles on the potsherd, or a supporter of Aristides handing them out pre-written as citizens walked into the agora that morning, and Aristides boarding the ship that would keep him from Athens for ten years.  To study Classics from ancient and modern sources is enriching and extremely rewarding, but to actually be in the same room as an object once used by one of the great civilizations of the world, to stand in the agora where Socrates once contemplated justice, and to peer over the edge of the Acropolis gave a sense of life to the texts and pictures that had previously seemed so far removed from my own life.  Seeing the ostraka of Themistocles led me to a fascination with Athenian democracy that has since translated into a senior thesis project.  Never have I felt more like a scholar, fueled by a curiosity to understand the complexity of civilization.  Studying abroad gave me the ability to see Classics in action, as the dynamic and evolving discipline it truly is.


Kathy Chu, Duke 2012


I can’t think of a better way to supplement one’s education than to study abroad.  My undergraduate experiences overseas have consisted of summers spent on archaeological digs, particularly at the site of Stabia in Southern Italy.  The weeks I’ve spent at Stabia have been among the most formative periods of my life, not only influencing my choice in majors and career path but also shaping who I’ve become as an individual.  On these digs I learned the practical applications of ideas I’d learned in the classroom: there’s nothing like the hands-on experience of working among ancient structures and handling delicate artifacts to bring the past to life.  I’ve been fortunate to find various outlets at Duke through which to continue developing the interests that my time abroad has fueled.  Whether I’m interning at the Nasher Museum of Art to work with artifacts in a museum setting or researching Roman topography for my senior thesis, the physical world of antiquity continues to fascinate and inspire me at a level that wouldn’t have been possible without the contextualization of foreign travel. 

Kiki Fox, Duke 2012 


  • Pompeii 1
  • TaraLynnMcKenna_Augustus Swoon
  • Kathy Chu, Propylaea
  • Roman Forum 1
  • Acropolis
  • Rome
  • Agrigento 2
  • Morgantina 1
  • Hadrian's Villa 2
  • TaraLynnMcKenna_Theater at Segesta
  • Hadrian's Villa 1
  • elizabethrudisill knossos
  • Jake 1
  • dig in azoria crete in 2013
  • Paestum 1
  • papyrus
  • Pompeii 2
  • Agrigento 3
  • Trench tour at Azoria, 2013
  • pottery
  • barbara blachut dig in azoria crete in 2013
  • Jake 2
  • site
  • Pantheon 2
  • Paestum 2
  • TaraLynnMcKenna_Canopus Hadrian's Villa
  • Morgantina 2
  • p70609351