Charlie Kocurek

Charlie Kocurek
Charlie stands by a grave circle in the Bronze Age site of Mycenae, a popular site for budding archaeologists like her to visit.

First-hand learning at ancient sites

As her plane neared Athens, Charlie pushed her forehead to the window, searching. There was the unmistakable shape of the Parthenon. She could hardly believe that soon she would be standing on the Acropolis, viewing these ancient structures with her own eyes.  

Charlie Kocurek took her first class in Greek and Roman Studies less than two years earlier. The professor’s enthusiasm and passion was infectious and Charlie was hooked. When she heard about Classical Studies Abroad, an upper level course taught in Greece, she made it her goal to join the trip. She took extra classes, saved up and applied for the Margareta von Rudloff Travel Assistance Award. That funding made it possible for Charlie to embark on a life-changing trip.

The Caryatids
The Caryatids (Porch of the Maidens) on the Athenian Acropolis quickly became one of Charlie’s favourite spots to take in the view of Athens.

Bringing the subject to life

Over the next three months, Charlie explored monuments, museums, history and architecture. A highlight was visiting the archaeological site of Menelaion. Standing on a site she’d researched so thoroughly made her realize the importance of first-hand experience.

“You can read all of the scholarship about a site, but when you are there in person, it can spark original ideas,” she says. “These are experiences you can’t get from reading books in a classroom on the other side of the world.”
The site of the Menelaion, a hero shrine, is one of Charlie’s personal favourite sites, and one that she feels will influence her future academic career.

Three months becomes six

ApothekeTowards the end of the trip, Dr. Brendan Burke, who was leading the course, took the group to his excavation at Ancient Eleon in central Boeotia. It was a rainy March day and the pits were mostly tarped up, but Charlie decided she couldn’t return to Victoria without being part of the dig. That evening, she knocked on Dr. Burke’s hotel room door and asked him to let her join the team. She would figure out flights, visa and other logistics later.

From May to the end of June, she spent her mornings excavating in the trenches and afternoons inventorying ceramic sherds. By the time she returned to Victoria, after six months abroad, Charlie had more hands-on experience than most graduate students. 

Ancient Eleon
At ancient Eleon, a few days before Charlie returned home from her life-changing trip.