There are thousands of volcanoes we could have gone to, each with its own unique lure. Hot springs in Iceland, jungles in Central America, romance in Italy. The “chosen” one had to have historical significance in the western world. It had to be relatively easy to get to – I am not willing to take 9 students to remote locations in Indonesia or Africa. What location combines tectonics, volcanism, archaeology, good food, leisure, and cultural enrichment all at once? My vision narrows to the Mediterranean. Santorini: the most beautiful island in Europe.
This May, first- and second-year students from NAU travel to Santorini to live the volcano. The students have a variety of excursions and exercises awaiting them. What is the volcanic history of the archipelago? How has the geology influenced modern life on Thera? What is the legacy of the Minoan eruption? Our goals are lofty. I’ve created a long list of them: understanding the plate tectonic setting of the Mediterranean and Cyclades, describing caldera-forming eruptions, describing in place volcanic rocks and their spatial relationship to one another, increased spatial awareness, and the list goes on. The speed and depth at which students will learn disciplinary content while living on Santorini is truly unmatched by any other classroom environment. Then, beyond learning the material are the more intangible outcomes in the area of personal, social, and emotional growth.
If the goals are met, with hard work and hope, we will return a different group all together. One with a greater understanding for the formation and destruction of land via volcanic eruptions and a heightened intercultural awareness and appreciation for human difference.