Found in Translation

Theo Canter’s deep ties to Greece get a boost through a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Athens.

May 25, 2023

Amanda Nagy

Theo Canter.
Theo Canter '23
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Theo Canter will enrich his Greek identity while strengthening his language skills with a Fulbright teaching fellowship based in Athens, Greece. 

On top of his desire to teach and live abroad, Canter was drawn to this particular Fulbright program because of his personal connection to Athens. His grandfather was born and raised in Athens, and in 1956 graduated as valedictorian of his class at Athens College—the same high school where Canter will teach English. 

“Such a full-circle moment is incredibly meaningful,” says Canter, a May 2023 Oberlin graduate with majors in cinema studies and comparative literature and a minor in Middle East and North African studies. A native of New York City, Canter feels a great level of familiarity with Greece and its people. “Here in Oberlin, I've been proud to connect with other Greek students. There is something strong and unifying in our shared culture, food, and language.” 

Canter’s fellowship begins in September, and he will remain there through July 2024 to help with a school-run English-language summer camp. In addition to classroom responsibilities, the fellowship includes supplementary work teaching debate, theater, and public speaking in both Greek and English. “This combination of disciplines, as well as the chance to spend extended time in a city I love but have only ever visited for brief intervals, all led me nicely to this Fulbright opportunity.”

Last fall at Oberlin, Canter taught poetry to Langston Middle School students as part of creative writing professor Lynne Powell’s Writers in the Schools residency program. His final semester, he taught an introductory Hebrew course through Oberlin’s Experimental College (ExCo) program. “I've enjoyed both of these opportunities as a chance to share things I'm passionate about—namely writing, language, and music,” he says. “I find that teaching pairs nicely with my experiences of performance: putting that level of commitment to the 'act' and sharing how much I love what I'm teaching.”

Canter has enjoyed several study-away experiences since his gap year between high school and college, when he studied Hebrew, Arabic, and history on Kivunim, a program based in Jerusalem with travels around the Balkans and Middle East. For his first Winter Term, he lived in Warsaw and worked for a magazine called Culture-PL—likened to the 'New York Magazine' of Warsaw—where he led a production team for a history podcast and contributed articles to the site's English section. 

For the months he was home during the pandemic in 2020, Canter participated in an online artist symposium through the Onassis Center, a visual and performing arts center based in Athens, where he produced Nostos, a short performance art piece featuring music, poetry, and family history. 

This year, he returned to Jerusalem to produce an audio documentary for the podcast Israel Story, which has been compared to This American Life. For his capstone in comparative literature, he translated the novel Kastoria by Benjamin Shvili from Hebrew. “This book is of particular relevance to me as it is a poetic reflection on the author's journey to Greece. Both the author and I come from the small Jewish community of Greece, and so I relished this challenge to translate a work that draws on multiple cultural maps I've been raised in.”

Canter says Oberlin has provided many opportunities to learn and grow. A variety of rigorous courses have “challenged me and pushed me to produce some of my best work.” 

“I wrote some of my best songs in the class Song and Book with [English professor] DeSales Harrison and wrote my first short story in Claire Solomon's comparative literature course Love and Death. And the classroom is just part of it,” Canter says. “For me, what makes Oberlin special is the chance to be around so many creative and kind people just looking to collaborate. I'm quite excited for my adventures in Athens to come, carrying with me the memories and bonds with friends and teachers.”

Outside of the classroom, Canter spent four years on the leadership board of Chabad, the Jewish student group; was a resident of Keep Cottage co-op as a head cook, granola maker, bread maker, and historian; and hosted several radio shows on WOBC. He also played bouzouki and accordion in the klezmer band Shtick & Poke with friends from the college and the conservatory. 

Canter plans to pursue a career in creative storytelling and media production, which may include documentary filmmaking, screenwriting, and radio journalism.

“As a musician, I am also interested in the way music tells stories,” he says. Building on the music shows I’ve hosted on Oberlin radio and independently, and the articles I’ve written, I’d like to eventually have my own dedicated presence on the radio or film, to be something like NPR’s Rough Translation, conveying simple stories from faraway places. In a similar vein, I’d hope to be able to both perform and educate. It is my goal that I can pursue a career combining my talent for languages and passion for music.

“Whenever I look around in Greece, I laugh to myself how everyone looks like they could be my cousins—and many in fact are! It's one thing to be Greek in the diaspora, something else to be in the center of it all.” 

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