Studying the Classics: Chiara Behm, Cohort of 2016

Villa FalconieriBeing asked to write this article on what I have been studying brought on a twinge of nostalgia as I realized that it is already my junior year, and thinking about why I am pursuing a major in the Classics made me take an even further look back on my high school experience. Perhaps, and most likely, one of my favorite parts (they were strikingly few and far between) was my involvement with the Lukeion Project and their courses in the Classics. This opportunity, combined with my mother classically homeschooling my siblings and me, was appreciated by my high school self, but also taken for granted. The importance of this way of learning and thinking was what I had grown up believing, and – to some extent – what I had always known. The languages, history, literature, and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome are a love of mine which I have been lucky enough to be exposed to from a young age, though it had at least marginally become a sort of white noise.

It was not until my enrollment in the Templeton Honors College that I noticed and fully appreciated, for perhaps the first time, the classics’ crucial importance. It was evident the intentionality and effort that went into the preparation and format of the courses I took my first semester (as well as those since). A new environment allowed me a clear view of how greatly these professors cared both about the Great Books and Classical traditions, and also how they cared deeply for each of their students. The clear quality of these courses in contrast with my other classes which were mainly general education courses on things I did not personally enjoy in the same way allowed me a better glimpse of the importance which learning the classics holds, as well as my own love of it as a subject.

Once I realized that I wanted to study Classics, I looked into transferring since this major is not offered at Eastern. It came to my attention, however, that I might be able to create a course of study in the classics as an individualized major. This was quite a hopeful realization, as it would allow me to continue to study with the professors and classmates I had come to cherish, while also giving me the opportunity to study what excited and interested me. And so, that same week I wrote up a proposal and justification for my Classics major– a choice that has afforded me some of my best experiences.

“The fact that Templeton, and Eastern University as a whole, is so small and close-knit has been extremely helpful to my major as well as the classes and directed study courses I need to take. I have been able to study Latin, Greco-Roman History, Ancient Philosophy, etc. with professors willing to work with me and put in extra effort on my account. For this I am extremely grateful.”

Students in RomeOne of my fondest memories that came as a result of studying the classics at a place like Templeton was last spring when I was able to travel to the Academia Vivarium Novum in Rome. At the Academy the students are immersed in their study of the Classics: having daily classes in its disciplines, forming a choir and orchestra in its tradition, and enforcing Latin as the only spoken language on the premises. While I was there I was able to take a great number of courses under the school’s capable faculty. An observation that has stuck with me from the time I spent there was the excitement these professors also had about the material they were teaching, as well as the excitement with which they imparted it to their students. Being immersed in the culture and language I love was a surreal and overwhelmingly delightful experience. Having to say everything in Latin, take classes on history and literature in Latin, and hand in homework on grammar or composition in Latin all greatly improved my competency with the language (my competency with many other aspects of my life surely needs improvement still…). Seeing and being a part of this community — some native Italian speakers, others speakers of German, French, Bulgarian, and English – all operating under the common tongue of Latin is an experience that will stick with me and has left a lasting impact on my experience and love of the Classics.

Another opportunity I was fortunate enough to be given was working in the Honors College office this summer. I was able to work closely with the Summer Scholars program as well as the new Master of Arts in Teaching program. Being around and working with these two programs was an amazing experience. Witnessing prospective students interact with texts that I have come to love and seeing them eager to ask questions and understand the importance that the books hold was exciting and encouraging. Preparing the material and attending some of the events for the MAT program was part of the summer job that I was  ecstatic about. I would love to eventually be teaching Classics some day, and listening to the discussions that the Professors and Masters Students were having as educators about education and the importance of a classical approach was amazing. It was a wonderful way to spend my summer. I was also able to travel to a practicum for one of the homeschool co-ops I used to attend and speak about Templeton to them.

All in all, I have really enjoyed studying at Templeton and am extremely lucky to be able to study Classics under an individualized major with such great professors. I am very thankful.

Chiara Behm ‘20, is a Junior in the Honors College and has been intricately involved in Templeton’s life on campus. She has designed her own major in Classical Studies, spent a week in Rome learning Latin, worked for Dr. Williams this past summer, served on student council, and is currently studying abroad in Oxford. Chiara has graciously provided reflections and insight on some of these unique experiences and how they have shaped her view of the Classics.