A 'memorable and meaningful' summer study experience in Greece

Aug. 25, 2023

By Catherine Curan

Henry Cammerzell, Class of 2025, has spent two years at Princeton – and two summers as a Seeger fellow learning Modern Greek at the Princeton Athens Center.

Cammerzell chose to spend two summers in a row in Athens because of the immersive learning opportunity the Seeger Center provides. “So much of the educational experience (both linguistic and cultural) occurs outside of the classroom through interactions and conversations with locals,” said Cammerzell.

Last June, he lived in central Athens, passing the Acropolis and the Roman Forum on his daily commute from the Gazi district in central Athens to the Princeton Athens Center in Pangrati. Cammerzell studied Advanced Modern Greek several hours a day with a cohort of Princeton University students.

A group of students around a conference table.

Cammerzell and classmates in the Advanced Modern Greek Summer Institute at the Princeton Athens Center.

One day a week, the class explored a different section of Athens with their instructor. When the time came to visit Gazi, Cammerzell led the tour. After several weeks as a resident, he felt at home in the neighborhood and comfortable speaking Greek.

Other excursions proved more challenging. On his way to meet friends at a bakery in Kifissia, north of the city center, Cammerzell found himself lost without cell service. He wandered for a while, unable to locate his destination, before asking strangers for directions in Greek. The locals he spoke to were quick to assist. One even informed Cammerzell that he had walked past the bakery several times.

The delays didn’t faze Cammerzell. He had tested his skills unexpectedly – and communicated effectively with Athenians in Modern Greek.

Cammerzell, a linguistics concentrator, has returned to campus for his junior year at Princeton. Last May, the Princeton Classics Department awarded him the Stinnecke Prize for mastery of Latin and Ancient Greek demonstrated during a three-hour exam. For Cammerzell, the study of Modern Greek builds on his knowledge of Ancient Greek, revealing “the full progression and evolution of a language from its earliest stages to the present day.”

Reflecting on his time as a Seeger fellow in Athens, Cammerzell called it a “memorable and meaningful experience” that he will carry forward.  

“Forcing myself to try to break down that language barrier really taught me how to be independent and confident in such unfamiliar situations,” said Cammerzell. “When learning is not just an academic exercise, it becomes part of who you are.”