Oberlin Blogs

It's All Greek to Me

March 13, 2022

Jonah Knittel ’25

It is winter term at Oberlin College, my friends (or at least it was when I wrote this. For some reason, it failed to upload a month ago, but I'm willing to push past that if you're willing to forgive). This mini semester, which falls in between fall and spring, lasts roughly four weeks and gives us students the opportunity to personalize our learning experience by curating our own unique and exciting projects to pursue. While there are official courses offered, such as a course on how to make bread from scratch or learning to get your driver’s license, many students opt towards inventing completely new projects, like writing a book of short stories or producing an album. Overall, winter term tends to be a peaceful month of creative reflection and instruction that gives us more of an opportunity to actually live in Oberlin than we normally do when juggling four classes at once. 

Or, at least it’s like that for most people.

For my winter term project, I decided I wanted to try and learn ancient Greek. Over my fall semester, I fell in love with the classics department (that is, classical civilizations, like Greece and Rome), and as a major requirement, every student has to take two semesters of either Greek or Latin. I thought winter term would make for the perfect opportunity to get Greek 101 out of the way, just in time for Greek 102 in the spring. 

What I had failed to realize was that the course, aptly titled “Intensive Ancient Greek,” has sixteen chapters to be covered in eighteen days, which comes out to about a chapter of grammar and vocabulary to be committed to memory every single day. In just my first week, I went through over two hundred flashcards and spent hours locked away in my dorm to study, desperately trying to remember the difference between Καθιζει and Καθευδε. Meanwhile, my roommate, who is taking a class on dance improvisation, sat at her desk rewatching the first season of Gilmore Girls. 

Do not mistake me: I really do enjoy learning elementary Greek, and the class is a lot of fun. Being less than fifteen students, our class feels like a tight-knit community that helps each other out when something is confusing or difficult. The course is taught by upper grade Greek students, as well, so even the “professors” are a part of the family. The moral of the story is simply not to underestimate how much work and effort a class titled “intensive” can truly be.

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