Read about our recent majors and their experiences in Classical Studies at Wesleyan!
  • Ana Rodríguez Santory '20

    Pronouns: She/her/hers

    Major(s): Classical Civilization

    Hometown: Boquerόn, Puerto Rico

    “The thing is, back home there’s no such thing as Classics. So there I was studying foreign languages and art history when Maria struck, and Wes opened its doors to anyone who could make it up to the North. And I came here.”

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    “I was 8 years old in this small montessori school, I was the tallest girl in the class, and I was the only person in the class tall enough to reach this workbook ‘From the Minoans to the Fall of Rome.’ It took me three years to get through (it was in English—I still hesitate when I have to spell ‘Mycenaean!’) So I spent the better part of my childhood transcribing this book into this dingy old notebook.

    The thing is, back home there’s no such thing as Classics. So there I was studying foreign languages and art history when Maria struck, and Wes opened its doors to anyone who could make it up to the North. And I came here, and all the classes were full—I think there was one space available in Greek, maybe two—and I remember emailing Professor Birney saying, “please, I made it all the way here, I’ve always liked these guys, but I don’t know anything about them other than what I learned myself, please let me take a class!” And the rest is history. I was suddenly surrounded by people who did this with their lives. It wasn’t just a dingy old notebook that I carried around.

    I was really lucky that the Classics department believed in me. In some places in the world, being a Latin-American studying Classics is a crazy thing to do. I think about it every day. Some days are good and some days are not that great. From really ‘innocent’ things like picking up a book that says ‘the surrounding barbarians adopted the Roman way because the Roman way was the best way’—I’m like, ‘I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about but I’m filled with suspicion.’ And that comes in part from being a part of the group of people that have been called savages themselves.

    I feel like it’s a tension. People that have similar dilemmas that I’ve met either try to resolve it somehow—they’ll do social thought, they’ll do decolonizing classics, they’ll do reception—but I’ve also met people who just live with the tension. They either haven’t figured it out yet, or they think, look, this is paradoxical in its nature, as it is, and there might be no way of resolving it, because, well, the truth is, white nationalists are all about classics, the truth is, yeah we were barbarians, and the truth is, that we have infiltrated this sacred sanctum, that only certain people have been invited into. So, I haven’t figured out my own personal brand. But It’s always in the back of my mind. 

    I went back to Puerto Rico [this past fall], because the deal with the University was ‘we’re taking in your students while you get your feet under you, but we’re not gonna steal them—we’re not gonna let them stay on.’ And that was okay by me. I wasn’t ready to leave my house, my single mom behind, my dad who is an immigrant and doesn’t have any other family on the island. But when it came for me to leave, Professor Visvardi said “are you gonna keep studying Classics back home?” She didn’t know it wasn’t a thing. But it didn’t even take five seconds for her to say, ‘you know what, e-mail me in September. We’ll set you up, so you don’t lose it.’ And it was never on the grounds of ‘because you’re coming back’— I felt that they all hoped that I would, but they were willing to offer me that, even knowing that I was going back to a country that doesn’t have reliable electricity, and that means that your savings go into a solar system to keep your house running, so that your neighbor who has diabetes and needs dialysis can hang out in your living room, and probably didn’t mean that I had thirty-two thousand dollars lying around. So she would Skype me three times a week, and the days that she couldn’t, she would do it on the weekends. Because I was not going to miss my hour and a half of Greek. And I didn’t have to ask Professor Birney for recommendation letters—she was the one who said, ‘When the time comes, hit me up.’ Professor Parslow approved my Squire fund, even not knowing that I was coming back. Professor Andy was the first person who ever hugged me. (Americans are not big huggers!) So this department is, in great part, the reason why my Mom and Dad and I put together our savings. It’s not just the dream of studying Classics. It’s being here with you guys. It’s being part of this department, that never doubted me, ever.”

  • Ronald Kelly '19

    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Major(s): Classical Civilization and College of Letters

    Hometown: Decatur, Georgia

    “Latin, when you get into it, is just a tool people use to speak to each other. There’s as much graffiti as there is poetry. So Latin was kind of a gateway for me to enjoy language in a way I hadn’t before.”

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    “I started doing Latin in High school out of maybe the worst reason that you could possibly start doing Latin, which is that I was really, really pretentious. So I started out of this weird sense of elitism, but then I got really into it. It’s weird— because I didn’t know about languages at the time, I think I didn’t realize the extent to which no language is elite. Like Latin, when you get into it, is just a tool people use to speak to each other. There’s as much graffiti as there is poetry. So Latin was kind of a gateway for me to enjoy language in a way I hadn’t before.

    And then when I came here, I skipped into the second semester of first year Latin, and from that point I kept taking Latin just about every semester. And then Junior year I was like, I have eight Classics credits, what am I doing? Clearly this is more important to me than a hobby, because I am spending all of my time doing it. And I joined the major while I was in Professor Andy’s Lucretius class, which was stunning, just an unbelievably good class, and it felt right to come into the field in a more full way.

    Everyone in this department is at a super high level of academic rigor, but in terms of memories that really stick out to me, it’s things like the Homerathon, you know, just this complete and total enthusiasm— I think that kind of joy isn’t something that exists everywhere, and I feel really strongly a connection to that. I think for me, this department is wonderful in that no one expects you to stop feeling that joy, no matter how deep you are into the study. Because they’re all there too. And the students here—we’re all trying to do different things. Most people in our major aren’t trying to be Classics professors, right? They just really, really love this, and have decided to spend four years of their lives studying it. No one is in Classics because their parents forced them to. This isn’t like “I’m going to make millions when I graduate, so I’m going to put up with this now.” It really is a labor of love for all of us.

    I get this question a lot: “how can you, Ronald Kelly, be a fan of the Classics?” Because I think there is this belief that because Classics has been so often invoked in the name of white supremacy, and that it’s so much about the West, that someone who is not white would not enjoy the Classics. And I think, for me, first of all—you can’t know anything about the Classics if you think that's true. I think it’s very difficult for people to understand how much of what outsiders know about the field is not true. Like the assumption that the Romans were one thing that correlates to what the West is now, I think is very silly. The Roman empire was not just like Italy, like six white dudes in a corner. There were African emperors in Rome by the mid-second century. There is a sense in which people just don’t really get that what an empire was then isn’t defined on the same lines as what an empire is now. Of course I didn’t get into Classics for that reason, I just found it fun. But I think it’s not been an unwelcoming environment for me, in the sense of, if we want to call it “representation.” I think antiquity was a lot more cosmopolitan than a lot of people believe.

    But then, as a sort of secondary thing, I am an American, I was born in Georgia, and I was raised in an American school system with American textbooks and so on and so forth. And so in a lot of ways, even though I’m sort of from this place of alterity, and I’m now in this institution, I’m very much a Westerner at the same time as I am all of these other things. So I think people should re-evaluate the extent to which they think Westerners of color have not inherited the Classical legacy. I think to some extent we have to, growing up in this culture. I mean, for better or worse, it’s something that you— I say, speaking to the West at large— you gave us. It’s something that you insisted that we have. So now you have to deal with it. Now you have to handle the sight of people like me in fields like this. Because that’s the culture I live in.

     

  • Finnian Day '19

    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Major(s): Classical Civilization Major, Film Minor, Writing Certificate

    Hometown: Chevy Chase, Maryland 

    “The way I’ve sort of come to think about it, and the way a lot of people have talked about it—either professors here, or people who kind of know what Classics is about—is that it’s a skills major. You learn to read, write, think—all these skills that will help you excel, anywhere you decide to put your foot forward.”

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    “When you’re going to Wes, you have to put down a prospective major. So I looked through the list, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and Classics just sounded very neutral. I didn’t know what it was, exactly. I obviously learned about Ancient Greece and Rome a little bit throughout High School and Middle School, but I didn’t know what Classics was. So I came here, and I had my first meeting with Professor Visvardi, who was my initial advisor, and we were talking about which courses I was going to take second semester freshman year, so she was like “what do you want to do? What are you interested in?” and I was like, “I dunno. I have no clue.” And she was like, “but you did choose… Classics, didn’t you?” She was a little confused! 

    But I was in a class in the COL department on the Fall of Rome, and Professor Birney came in at the end of that and kind of pitched Greek to us. She was like, “you’re in this class, maybe you’re interested in studying Classics a little further.” And I was like, yeah, that sounds cool, I mean, I don’t know what I’m doing, so, I’ll hop over there. So my first real Classics course was the Intro to Greek course, which can be a little tedious as an introduction to Classics as a major. But it was fun, it was a challenge, it was just like a puzzle for me. At the end of the semester we did this thing in preparation for our final; Professor Birney told us to meet her in the big room on the main floor for class time, because that’s where we would do our “Greek Rodeo.” I had no idea what to expect. And we hear this old Western theme come on, and Professor Birney walks out her door, head held high, and then she cracks a whip. At 10:50 in the morning on a Friday, I woke up like ten minutes ago and busted my ass over to class, and that’s what was there. I remember I had to give this kid a piggy back ride, and do a three legged race to the end, and then conjugate a verb and then carry him back. It was just a really silly way of learning and studying for our final. It was fun. I haven’t done that for any other class.

    I think where it paid off the most was when I made it to Professor Visvardi’s course on Homer and the Epic and we read the Odyssey in Greek. I’d read it way back in the day in English, so then reading it again, in Greek, alongside with another translation was very rewarding. I’d like to still keep in touch with that. I think it’s hard to envision specific situations where Classics is the answer to a problem—like, whatever we’re dealing with, if I’m just like, “ah, my Classics major,” that’ll get us through. But the way I’ve sort of come to think about it, and the way a lot of people have talked about it—either professors here, or people who kind of know what Classics is about—is that it’s a skills major. You learn to read, write, think—all these skills that will help you excel, anywhere you decide to put your foot forward.

    I love the little community we have here. It reminds me of my high school—very small, tight knit. The Goat Roast last year was a lot of fun; it was great to talk with everyone in the department. That’s honestly a big reason why I stuck with Classics: the professors and the people who were here. They’re all brilliant, and it’s wonderful for me to be able to learn from and be close with all of these people. I can’t think of a class that I have not enjoyed in the Classics department—and I can think of a few that I haven’t enjoyed, like the Multivariable Calculus course I took freshman year! Jeez, Classics saved me from that whole racket.”

  • Adrianna Perez '19

    Pronouns: She/her/hers

    Major(s): Classical Civilization and Biology 

    Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

    "I think that the skill set that I learned from the Classics department, of analyzing everything and using your prior knowledge, all the way down to grammar and thinking in formulas, is obviously helpful for anything STEM related. And I memorize the parts of the brain, or parts of the body, or what specific chemicals in the body do, based on the Latin root! Like, which side is the posterior part of the brain... oh, I know, because 'poste!'"

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    “In elementary school, I vividly remember stealing the D’Aulaire’s book of Greek myths from my library. I would be in my school library for as long as I could until my parents came to pick me up, just reading it, and I didn’t want to put it back, so I just put it in my bag! I think my librarian realized that I was so obsessed, and she was like: “here, you can keep it! It’s ok!” It was just so fascinating to me, all the stories and how they intertwined, how they explained how our world works—it wasd so clean-cut. Then, going into it more when I was grown, and being able to criticize it more—realizing, oh, Zeus is a serial predator! Or when I was younger I wanted to be Persephone for a bit, and then I grew up and I realized I didn’t want to be Persephone! I went back to Barnes and Noble two years ago and bought the book to freshen up my knowledge, and it was nice going back and seeing that this was why I love Classics— knowing now the sources where we get the stories from. People are always like, ‘why do you keep reading the Aeneid? I’m over it!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not over it! I want to talk about it more! Let’s just keep talking!’

    I started studying Latin in High School. Then I came here, and I was already set on doing Biology, because I want to go to Vet school in the future. But in Biology, and any STEM major, it’s so tiring and overwhelming and I really wanted time to do something that I enjoyed that wasn’t as tedious. So I went to the Classics tab in WesMaps just to see see what they were offering— what I could do for fun here that wouldn’t completely diminish my Latin. I took Greek History with Professor Andy, and I took the Metamorphoses, and I really loved the classes, and I thought, maybe I should try to double major in this— why not? I initially thought that I would feel out of place because I was this Latina girl from Brooklyn, and Classics is normally a white male dominated thing, and I thought it would be the same thing here. But there were so many female professors and a diverse group of majors and I was like, this is awesome! I wanna do it. 

    I can’t be a Latin professor and a Vet at the same time. Even though I wish I could— that would be amazing! But I think that the skill set that I learned from the Classics department, of analyzing everything and using your prior knowledge, all the way down to grammar and thinking in formulas, is obviously helpful for anything STEM related. And I memorize the parts of the brain, or parts of the body, or what specific chemicals in the body do, based on the Latin root! Like, which side is the posterior part of the brain... oh, I know, because “poste!” I think it has also helped me to be a better communicator, which is definitely necessary because half of being a Vet is communicating to patient’s families; how am I going to effectively tell them “this is why we have to euthanize your animal”? And I think that Latin and Classics has helped me figure out better ways to talk.

    I used to be so intimidated about talking about Latin or my own ideas, because of where I came from, and not feeling as comfortable at first here. As knowledgeable as I knew I was, I just couldn’t talk about my ideas in front of people because I was afraid that I wasn’t smart enough, or that my ideas wouldn’t be taken as seriously. But then I took the Utopias class, and it changed my life; I started talking more and more, and Professor Visvardi and I had a meeting, and she said ‘you have really good ideas, and I really want you to speak up more because they are right in line with how I want you to be thinking about things.’ And I was like, oh, I should do that! I had to do a presentation on Plato’s Republic, and it was easily one of the hardest things I have ever read. I was just really happy that she kind of pushed me to one of the hardest parts of the book, and I was able to explain it to the class in a way that everybody understood. All of the faculty here really want you to expand your ideas, and become better and more confident in yourself intellectually, and not being afraid just because of your background. I didn’t feel like that in my Biology classes; I knew what I was doing, but I felt like I wasn’t challenged as much nor encouraged as much. I’m so grateful for this department for really helping me find my confidence.”

  • Charles Anpei Qian '19

    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Major(s): Classical Civilization, College of Social Studies, and Medieval Studies

    Hometown: Zhejiang, China

    “What really fascinates me about Classics is not just the subject in itself, but also what it stood for in connection to the world. Most of my courses here are related to the Romans, and they were an integral part of the transcontinental trade network that had been functioning for millennia. The classical period was really the beginning of globalization—or continentalization if we are being precise—if you think about it, and I am trying to somehow connect this fascinating and foreign world to my homeland.”

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    “What really fascinates me about Classics is not just the subject in itself, but also what it stood for in connection to the world. Most of my courses here are related to the Romans, and they were an integral part of the transcontinental trade network that had been functioning for millennia. The classical period was really the beginning of globalization—or continentalization if we are being precise—if you think about it, and I am trying to somehow connect this fascinating and foreign world to my homeland.

    So far, I’m working from a research project I did in my junior year when I was abroad: I explored the knowledge of these two worlds, China and Rome, of each other. So what did China know about Rome in the third century CE, and what did Rome know about China at approximately the same time? There were a lot of distortions; at that time, when you were picturing a world that has never been seen, that is so far away and on the very edges of your continent, there’s a lot of information that has to be relayed. It’s going from mouth to mouth, a couple of people will put their imagination to it, and in the end, it’s some accurate geographical information and cultural information as well as a lot of mythical details: that Rome is where the Queen Mother of the West lives, or the Chinese are giants with blue eyes and red hair—things like that. Rome was much more of an expansionist in China, while China had more of an admiration of the Roman people, so much so that they call the Romans Da Qin, which roughly translates to “the great China of the West.” Many of the classical source introducing China, like Pliny the Elder and Periplus Maris Erythraei, on the other hand, were much more focused on the economic aspect, specifically the production of a weird fabric that many thought to be silk, and that’s for a reason, isn’t it? So in the end, much of Rome’s knowledge of China tells more about Rome than it really tells about China, and vice versa. 

    I have recently been accepted by Oxford University to do an M.Phil in Economic History; it was a huge gambit and majoring in Classics is literally the last thing I thought would help my application. But I wrote up, based on my previous paper, a research proposal exploring further indirect relations between the two empires of the continent through the a transcontinental trade network or the early Silk Road. Because the information didn't flow through a diplomatic channel, simply because it’s too far—both sides attempted, but nothing came into fruition—it had to be flown through economic channels and luxury trade. Imagine, this one tradesmen carries this one good—let’s say from Rome to Parthia, or from Rome to Kushan—and from there the Kushan or the Parthian tradesman would carry that good to some other part of Central Asia like Bactria, and then it gets relayed to somewhere like Gandhara and eventually China, and the other way around as well. Bits and pieces of information were carried and disseminated this way likely through just literal gossip between the merchants, which makes information such a fickle subject of study, because it can be changed and distorted from one person to the next, whereas goods are very concrete. And records of them are very concrete as well, which is why I have proposed to research further on this topic.

    What I have done here at Wesleyan in studying Classics is not so much studying Classics alone, but studying connections. That has been a theme of my undergrad life. I’m trying to study the connection between the West and East. Aside from this geographical connection through space, I also try to explore the temporal connection through generations. I think that’s partially why I’ve chosen these three majors that explore thought, literature, and philosophy of the western world throughout time—I’ve been able to see how these thoughts really progressed. This is one of the things we talked about in Professor Andy’s class when we were reading about the construction of society in Lucretius; suddenly, I was like, 'this sounds Marxist!' And then Professor Andy said, 'yeah, I think that Marx wrote his dissertation on classics,’ and we literally found out his PhD thesis was precisely on Democritean and Epicurean philosophy. And similarly when you study people like Hobbes and Aquinas, you still see so much reflection on the older thinkers. Clearly they are borrowing and transforming something from there. And with a perspective of all three majors, it’s fascinating to see these thoughts progress through time under different contexts, but still remain closely connected to each other.”

  • Catherine Kiall '19

    Pronouns: She/her/hers

    Major: Classics

    Hometown: Freehold, New Jersey 

    "I’ve pretty much been set in becoming a Latin teacher for awhile. Probably K-12, mostly in High Schools, maybe some Middle Schools. Coming here, knowing that I wanted to continue to take Latin every term, and major in Classics—it was with that end in view."

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    “For my thesis, I’m looking at some of the arguments people have made for taking Latin. I first became interested in the topic when I realized that some of the Latin departments and programs in High Schools were in trouble, and there were problems with enrollments and a possibility of them being closed down. And that led to looking at the arguments that people are making now—the brochures and lists and things like that. I then realized that people have been doing this for well over a hundred years—that even when Latin was at its height, everyone was worried that it was very quickly going to disappear, and were looking at new ways of promoting it and getting people interested, depending on the circumstances of the time. So it’s been interesting to look at the different handbooks for teachers, the advice that they give, and the methods and suggestions for making the class more engaging. 

    At first the argument was very much “you take it so that you can read the Latin,” all aimed towards people who were able to go to college and take more courses. But eventually it became, “you take it so you can read the Latin, but you’re able to get benefits right away;” even if you’re not going to college, even if you’re only taking it for one or two years, the whole process of learning the language is beneficial and enjoyable. I think that is the argument I personally like the most—that it can be enjoyable. That you do it because you love it. I think that’s probably why we continue to do it now.  

    I loved taking Latin in High School. I took it because I knew that I was interested in the stories and wanted to learn more about those, but that was pretty much all I knew at the time. And then immediately I loved the class, I loved the environment, I loved what we were reading. I knew that I wanted a similar experience in college. I jumped pretty quickly into the Classics Major. I took Greek right away freshman year. The seniors when I was a freshman encouraged it and said how much fun it was. I didn’t need much convincing.

    It was definitely a lot of work. Plenty to memorize! But I enjoyed the experience of starting something fresh, having to start again, meeting new people, making new friends along the way, and knowing that it was okay to not know everything all at once. It was definitely worth it to take Professor Visvardi’s Bakkhai class; it was completely amazing—probably one of the best classes I’ve had. But also the most work and time that I’ve put into a class.

    I’ve pretty much been set in becoming a Latin teacher for awhile. Probably K-12, mostly in High Schools, maybe some Middle Schools. Coming here, knowing that I wanted to continue to take Latin every term, and major in Classics—it was with that end in view. I knew that I wanted to learn as much as I can and eventually be able to teach in the future, because I enjoyed the subject so much and also because of the Latin teachers I’ve had and the professors here. I’ve always admired how passionate and how engaged they are in their subject and their students, and how supportive they are in finding opportunities for us and pushing us into new things that we might not have considered on our own. Professor Visvardi encouraged me to speak at The Power of Language conference coming up next month. Professor Andy’s class last spring, where we tried out writing new pieces to speak about Classics to a general audience, was a great experience. Recently Professor Parslow has been really helpful in teaching me how to grade papers and how to work with students to get that experience now before jumping into next year. We are lucky to have the department that we have."

  • Benjamin Saraille '19

    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Major(s): Classical Civilization and College of Letters

    Hometown: Washington, DC

    “Classics is one of those fields that allows you to do everything. It’s kind of funny, because there’s this movement right now to have more multi-disciplinary study, and one of the oldest stereotypical fields of academia is inherently multi-disciplinary. So I’ve really enjoyed my ability to move through history, into philology, to philosophy, and to combine all of those things as I like.”

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    “Classics is one of those fields that allows you to do everything. It’s kind of funny, because there’s this movement right now to have more multi-disciplinary study, and one of the oldest stereotypical fields of academia is inherently multi-disciplinary. So I’ve really enjoyed my ability to move through history, into philology, to philosophy, and to combine all of those things as I like, as is fun, or as is propitious to my work. You’re never really bored—you’re just thinking, ‘what do I want to do now?’

    I was raised on seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century poetry, especially British Romantic poetry. My parents introduced it to me; I was a weird kid and I was struggling with a lot of things in school, and math was one of the things that worked for me at the start, but humanities and reading didn’t. And then they gave these shorter-form poems, and I loved how there was structure to it, and I loved the content of it. So I really tore through Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge. And they were sort of working back to the Classics, in a time that wasn’t the Classics. And I was in a time that wasn’t theirs, but was kind of working back to them, who were also working back to the Classics. So when I got to start to read through Latin and through Greek these things that they were riffing off of, there was this wonderful sense of a newness, and at the same time a nostalgia for something that I had kind of heard of.

    For my thesis, I was planning to write on the Iliad, because I just love the text a lot. But then I just kept translating sections, and sloppily trying to get it into different meters, and just having fun picking out words and thinking ‘what happens if I do this? What happens if I do that?’ I love that feeling of finding the right word for something in a different language—that really gets at that nagging instinct of ‘this isn’t it.’ You never really get past that, but you eventually find something that makes you think, ‘close enough.’ And not in a self-deprecating way, but in the sense of ‘you know—we got there!’

    I’m trying to figure out how to navigate continuing my studies while doing translation, which is very, very against the mold of what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. And I understand the point, but the reason that I fight against that is that one of the things that I’ve done in this project is look back at who has translated the Iliad, and how old they are. And I think in the last two hundred years, the youngest person was thirty-eight; the average was about fifties, and the highest was someone in their ‘90s. (Who’s a total champ—you should read his translation, it’s great.) But it’s weird for me to see classicists look at the texts they’re giving to students in classrooms and wonder why they’re not resonating, and not ask the question, ‘why are we only allowing a certain type of person after a certain track to to translate?’ If you look all the way back at one of the first canonical translations by Alexander Pope, he did it when he was 25. And he just kind of did it on his own—asked for subscribers and did it on his own willpower. And it’s outdated, definitely, but it’s fantastic. At the very least it seemed kind of hypocritical of me to say ‘yeah, people should do this younger,’ and then ‘no I should wait, I should wait.’ At a certain point, it really is just about diving in, being willing to make some mistakes, and sort of finding your way to something that’s not perfect, but that works. And that, in its imperfection, allows for layers of meaning that weren’t even in the Greek Iliad, but are now. And hopefully they are expressed clearly enough that when you hand the text to someone in a classroom in late high school, or early college, they think, ‘wow, I like this.’”

  • Emma Graham '19

    Pronouns: She/her/hers

    Major(s): Classical Civilization and College of Letters, Art History Minor

    Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

    "People think that the only career you can do a PhD, which is completely not the case, because I think we’re prepared to actually do a lot of really interesting things, that either relate to Classics or don’t. What we’ve learned is how to combine a lot of different things, and write, and read, and talk. I think that’s the value.”

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    “I started Latin when I was in seventh grade because I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter. And I wanted to have a deeper relationship to that text. I wanted to be able to learn the spells and their meanings, because I was like ‘JK Rowling was a Classics major, there’s all these allusions—I need to know.’

    I did it all through high school, and I really loved it, and my junior year of high school I read the Aeneid and it kind of changed my whole perception of myself and the world. At that time my life had been going in a very direct course towards being an athlete—I was a competitive swimmer, I was going to college to swim, but I was really unhappy in that sport, and I kind of felt like my life was out of my control. And the Aeneid was one of the first pieces of real Latin that I read, and I really resonated with a hero not being perfect, a hero not really liking the fate that is set out for him, and how sometimes there is movement within that—you can find a different path, or go on the path that is laid out for you. So when I was reading that, and I was swimming,  I realized that swimming was my fated path, but I didn’t really want to be doing it, and it just kind of all came together in that text.

    But then I came to Wesleyan, and I didn’t think I would be a Classics major, because I was kind of like—‘I’ve done it, I’ve read what I have to read, I’m kind of over it.’ But then I took a Latin class my first semester, and after the first day, I knew that I would just not stop. For the first time in that class I was really pushed past the language. In high school we were just reading. There wasn’t any discourse. But here we would translate and we would talk about it! And we would read scholarship! I always knew that I was having feelings and ideas about what I was reading, but I had never been pushed to talk about them. And I was in that class, and it was amazing.

    And then I went abroad to Rome my sophomore spring, and that’s where I really realized why Classics was important to me. I was in Pompeii, and I was touching a wall, and I was like, this wall is so old! And I’m walking on this street, and so many people have walked on this street, and they’ve all had lives, and they’ve all had emotional experiences, and maybe they’ve even read some of the texts that I’ve read, and had emotional responses to them. I think what people don’t really understand about why we study Classics is that they think there’s this very rigid view of the past. Or they just see of the Machine of Rome, and the human daily life gets overlooked. But that is what amazes me—2,000 years ago, when Catullus was writing poetry, he was just a guy! That had the same human emotions, and like, weird things happening in his life that I have. And that’s crazy!

    I realized I’ve had a class—or three—with every professor in the Classics department. And they are all so passionate about what they do. And so passionate about teaching what they know, and so open to discussion, and sharing knowledge and hearing your ideas. I think it’s oftentimes not the case— to have people that are very important scholars in their field, who also really care about the student. It usually seems to be one or the other. But I think the difference with Classics is that it’s such a small, self-selecting group, and so you have these people come together who all really care about what they are doing, past the purely academic pursuit. And you get these amazing connections. I think I really have met some of my closest friends at Wesleyan in Classics classes.

    I am applying to law school next year, so we will see how that goes. But I think another thing that is important about a Classical education is that it combines so many different things into one, and you need to be able to adapt. Studying this teaches you how to think really creatively and apply so many different kinds of knowledge together into one big stirring pot. People think that the only career you can do a PhD, which is completely not the case, because I think we’re prepared to actually do a lot of really interesting things, that either relate to Classics or don’t. What we’ve learned is how to combine a lot of different things, and write, and read, and talk. I think that’s the value.”

  • Alyssa Aldo '19

    Pronouns: She/her/hers

    Major(s): Government and Classics

    Hometown: Mansfield, Massachusetts

    “I’ve always had an interest in law, so when I went to college, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to try Latin. And after the first class I just kind of fell in love. I had never expected it."

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    “I’ve always had an interest in law, so when I went to college, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to try Latin. And after the first class I just kind of fell in love. I had never expected it. I thought I was just taking it as my language course. I had never even heard of declensions before. But the way the language was presented was just so orderly. It seemed like everything fit together well, and I was interested in that. At first it looks so intense, but eventually you get the satisfaction of taking it all apart. 

    I didn’t even understand the depth of Classics or really have any of that knowledge given to me in High School—yeah, you hear of Rome or whatnot, but I really didn’t know anything. Especially in comparison to a lot of kids that did get to take Latin in High School. I’m a transfer student, so I came to Wesleyan after my freshman year. The Classics department here is definitely a lot bigger and more developed. So I learned about Greek and took a lot more classes, and it really helped further my love for Classics. 

    Sometimes, when I’m translating, I find myself getting bogged down in it—like, “this is too hard.” There’s definitely a point in the learning curve where you think “what am I doing here?” But the feeling once you get past that is of my favorite things. I experienced that with Latin, especially as a transfer to Wesleyan, where the department was taken very seriously, and I felt like I was a little bit behind my sophomore year in Latin. Making myself push through that, and how good it felt at the end, was really what kept me going, and why I was interested in also starting Greek and doing it all over again. I wouldn’t call it a competitive thing—you just want to figure it out, you want to look at it and be able to determine what’s going on. 

    I have to say, one of my favorite experiences in the department would have to be the scavenger hunt that we did in Greek 102 at the end of last semester. Basically we showed up to class, and we were not allowed in the room— a very weird situation! We were all very confused. There was just a scroll with some Greek writing on it, and that was all we had. So we put it all together, we figured it out, we ended up across campus at the gym, and fifteen stops later, the scavenger hunt was complete. And the fact that it was all in Greek made it all the more fun, because we wouldn’t have been able to figure any of that out at the beginning of the semester. I’ve never had a professor put so much energy and care into something. It was fun—it made you realize that it’s not just a bunch of old ancient texts about philosophy or warfare.”