Faces of the Humanities: Maggie Easton Goes Greek

Maggie Easton in Greece (Photo: Maggie Easton)
Maggie Easton in Greece


Last winter, undergraduate Linguistics and Greek and Roman Studies student Maggie Easton left the comfort of Ring Road to gain hands-on experience in Greece, earning academic credit while taking courses and visiting important cultural and historical sites across the country.

Now back home and able to reflect on her experiences, it’s apparent that what started as an intellectual journey has become, for her, one of personal growth and exploration as well.


Hi Maggie. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I'm a third year student, with a major in Linguistics and a minor in Greek and Roman Studies. I'm from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and moved to Victoria two years ago to attend UVic.


What has your experience at UVic been like?

UVic, and Victoria in general, is very different from home. It was difficult at first to adjust, but I love it here now. UVic has offered me the opportunity to explore what I'm passionate about. I've found that classes here don't always feel like they're about the grades, but about actually learning something, finding what you love, and figuring out how you can contribute to the community.


With that said, what you have you found in your coursework that interests or excites you?

In linguistics, I have two interests that are quite different: language acquisition and speech-language pathology for people who are non-verbal. I really enjoy working with people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, for example. Helping them to communicate using different augmentative and alternative communication measures is something that always excites me and allows me to use linguistic theories in a more practical application.

My second interest is in the history of language and writing. Last term I took a seminar in Greek and Roman Studies called The Technology of Writing in the Aegean (GRS 482A), taught by Professor Trevor Van Damme. What blew my mind was the Minoan "Linear A" language of Crete. I think it's absolutely fascinating that we can have so many texts of an undeciphered language, and know so much about the civilization through archaeology, but not be able to tell which language they spoke. If I had to pick an academic dream, it would be to decipher Linear A. But that is much easier said than done!


I understand that you spent a semester in Greece as part of your research. Can you explain the program for our readers who don’t know about it?

The Semester in Greece program is a three-month-long field school organized by the department of Greek and Roman Studies. I was part of a group of nine students that stayed in Athens for one month while taking four courses taught by different UVic professors at the Canadian Institute in Greece. The professor who led the program, Dr. Brendan Burke, also taught us a course about Ancient Greek history during visits to important historical sites in Athens. For three weeks, we travelled outside of Athens with Dr. Burke to see and learn about other important historical and contemporary sites. These travels brought us to Northern Greece, the Peloponnese, and to the island of Crete. We visited ruins, archaeological dig sites, and museums to learn about the history of Athens, Classical Greece, seafaring, and the Byzantine Empire.


Did your experiences abroad inform your studies when you returned home?

Yes, they did. I participated in the semester in Greece after having learned a lot about the Ancient Greek language but not much about Greek history or archaeology. The semester in Greece opened my eyes to how interesting the field of Greek and Roman Studies is, and how much it relates to my major in Lingustics and my interest in the history of language. When I got home, I declared a minor in Greek and Roman Studies and have continued to take classes in it.


Did the trip have an impact on you personally?

Personally, studying abroad made me more independent and adaptable than I would have thought possible for myself. I became much more willing to take risks and say yes to novel opportunities, and to problem-solve and work with people quite unlike me to get over a cultural or communication barrier.


What was the most rewarding aspect of your semester in Greece?

I think the most rewarding aspect of the trip depends on which lens we're looking at it through. Academically, it introduced me to a field I now love and gave me an excellent knowledge of history and archaeology through hands-on experience that you can't get in a classroom. Personally, I think the most rewarding part was to make lifelong friends and to become confident in myself and in my ability to navigate the world outside of UVic.


Did you have any particularly unique or special moments that you could share with us?

To me, the most special moment was seeing the artifacts from the UVic archaeological site of Eleon in the local museum. It gave the artifacts new meaning for me to think that they had been found by the professor and some of the students who I was working with, which piqued my interest in a way that could never have happened in a normal classroom.


Would you recommend studying abroad for others?

Absolutely. I cannot recommend it enough. Besides the excitement of living in a foreign country and the academic benefits, the practical skills I developed by getting around a foreign city and being self-reliant are indispensable. 


The Greek and Roman Studies Study Abroad program will be offered again in Winter 2021. Click here to learn more about it.