This past summer, a graduate student from Montclair State University had a life-changing experience studying at the Athens-based Hellenic American University (HAU) via the Greek America Foundation’s Semester in Athens Scholarship.
Ereni Sevasti — a musician, singer and voice instructor — spent almost the whole month of July studying at HAU and the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, a prestigious music academy whose faculty includes professors from the Berklee College of Music.
During the program, Sevasti received private vocal and guitar instruction. She also took a course with a professional Greek musician and educator — who she said helped her understand important musical differences related to culture and history.
Sevasti said that the month-long summer program was “life-enriching and rewarding” and that it served as a pivotal milestone in her professional career.
“This opportunity reconnected me with a forgotten history and musical voice that was very much a part of my present,” she said.
The New Jersey native said that she has “had dreams” about pursuing a project related to Greek music in the United States, adding that the program gave her clarity.
“The encouragement and guidance I received while on this trip affirmed that I must work on this project,” Sevasti said. “That is really exciting for me.”
She added: “I began new relationships with extremely intelligent professors and highly skilled and serious students, which is very special to me and I hope to maintain.”
In addition to academic experiences, the graduate student engaged with Greece’s ancient past in what she called an “incomparable” archeological and art history course — named “Walk Across Greece.”
The five-day course included excursions outside of Athens to more than 13 museums and historical sites, two islands and an abundance of Greece’s artistic and historical past.
Sevasti and other students visited sites such as Corinth, Delphi, Mycenae, Epidavros, Osios Loukas Monastery and the Palamydi Fortress — among others. They experienced the Archaelogical Museum of Nafplio, Museum of the Olive, Bouboulina Museum and more. The group also made stops on the islands of Hydra and Spetses.
“I learned a great deal about Greece’s history from the ancient past to the modern day,” Sevasti said. “I learned about Bouboulina, a fierce woman who is considered a heroine in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, and I discovered that each beautiful beach has it’s own special charm.”
Sevasti said she has already received an invitation to sing and teach at HAU and the Nakas Conservatory next summer. She plans to work as a liaison between her US school — Montclair State University — and Hellenic American University.
“I can’t stress how important these programs are for young students and even graduate students too,” she said. “The relationship between Nakas Conservatory and Berklee College of Music is such a draw for American students looking to study over the summer, receive credit and then maybe take a vacation week to visit islands and enjoy the Greek way of life. I hope to bring this program to Montclair State University where I attend.”
“I am extremely thankful to the Greek America Foundation for their support of this opportunity.”
Sevasti created a brief video compilation of her Semester in Athens experience.