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Arnold School of Public Health

Students learn about sports culture and personal perseverance during Maymester course in Italy and Greece

July 20, 2018 | Erin Bluvas,

For the past few years, exercise science faculty members have partnered with the USC Study Abroad Office to lead students from academic units across the university in Maymester courses abroad. Athletic training clinical associate professor Jim Mensch taught a Maymester course in Australia in 2017 and 2018, adding a European-based (Ireland, Germany and Netherlands) course this summer. Other exercise science faculty members have journeyed to Ireland in 2017 and 2018, where students compared health sciences professions to those found in the United States.

This year, the department offered An Overview of Sport Culture: From Ancient World to Present (EXSC 555). Exercise science clinical instructor and director for the office of undergraduate student services and clinical instructor Barbara Cuevas, instructor and advisor Morgan Collins and associate dean for undergraduate affairs and clinical associate professor Sara Corwin led students throughout Italy and Greece, learning about the history of sports.

“These two countries offer fantastic opportunities for students to visit and study the ancient history of the regions, trace the origins of the Olympics, and explore the global development and influences of sport and sports sciences,” says Cuevas. “Using both an academic and a cultural perspective, we learned about ancient sport culture in Greece and Italy, and how it has changed over time.”

After arriving in Greece on May 14, the group spent five days in Athens before traveling to Nafplio, followed by Gythio, Kakovatos, Olympia, Itea, Delphi, Glyfada, and then Syros—finally returning to Athens so they could travel to Italy. After landing in Rome and exploring the ancient city, they traveled to Pompei and then back to Rome to return to the United States. Students blogged about their experiences throughout the trip (Roman through Greece 2018).    

One of the highlights of the Maymester course was the Syros Run. Held on Syros Island in Greece, this event attracts nearly 2,000 participants and supports local charities. Four of the 29 Maymester students ran in the race (Yui Ishibashi, Exercise Science; Ashley Dobson Public Health; Caroline Beverly, Dance; Julianna Nikolich, Exercise Science), and the entire group had the opportunity to meet Makis Kalaras, one of the event’s featured speakers and a participant in the race.

Kalaras is a renowned athlete who has medaled in multiple summer Paralympic events and also participates in the winter Paralympics. He is the only person from Greece to participate in both the summer and winter Paralympics. The faculty members and students were inspired by his personal perseverance and accomplishments, especially his ability to motivate others. [Learn more about Kalaras’ journey and see the four USC participants in a video about the Syros Run on the event’s Facebook page].

Other physical activity highlights included hiking Mt. Vesuvius, biking and spending hours roaming the ancient cities and sites they visited. The Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, Parthenon, Ancient Olympia, and countless delicious foods were among the many cultural highlights of the trip. 

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