Dialogue of Civilizations: Greece

By Sophie Cannon

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My name is Sophie Cannon and I am very lucky. I am more things than that, but above all else, I am lucky. To start from the beginning, I am currently a second-year journalism major with a minor in international affairs. I am originally from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, although now I like to call myself a Bostonian to the annoyance of “real” Boston natives. From Minnesota, I have traveled to places like Israel, India, Poland, and Italy. And this is one of the reasons why I consider myself lucky first and foremost.

My most recent journey however, is what I consider my luckiest experience, as it is now one of the biggest blessings of my career and life thus far (I’m only 19 after all). This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Greece with 18 journalism colleagues-turned-friends and two amazing professors on a Dialogue of Civilizations called “Reporting on Crisis.” During the five-week hurricane of experiences, we were able to report on topics I didn’t think were possible to witness, eat our way through the Greek culture, and make lifelong friends. Throughout it all, begrudgingly at some points and cathartic at others, we kept a journal of our thoughts.

Looking back at my trip, the learning started before our plane even took off from Logan airport, where I wrote my first post.

“Nothing about this trip will be familiar and that is scary,” I wrote before takeoff. “Exciting and wonderful and amazing. I think that if I was calm about this experience, it would have been wasted on me. In the coming week, I will have moved out of my freshman dorm, packed my belongings, and traded in my first-year status for that of a rising sophomore. I will most likely freak out over the weight of my ever-growing suitcase, my Greek pronunciations, and just how incredible this life I am leading truly is. And then I will board a plane. Scared, excited and ready.”

All of what I wrote as a freshman was truer than what I thought was possible. Greece was wonderful, challenging, and infuriating at times.

In my other blog posts, I wrote about the amazing stories I was able to cover, on topics such as anarchist and communist protests in the streets, a new Holocaust museum being built, a world-famous sandal shop frequented by The Beatles and Bob Saget, and the devastating state of a refugee camp in Athens for the forgotten Afghani population. These were the stories that not only helped me to become a better writer, but a better listener, a more compassionate person, and an overall better version of myself.

In a blog post on humor, I learned how I can be perceived and how to stay true to myself, and so I wrote some vows on which to live by during the duration of the trip. I still follow these vows to this day.

“I promise to never stop laughing and making jokes to make others laugh around me. It is not a weakness or sign of immaturity, it is wholeheartedly me. I will not choose between being the ‘funny friend’ or the ‘smart journalist’. I will be both to the best of my abilities. I will also try my hardest to make less jokes at my own expense and try to see the value in my mistakes rather than pointing them out in a negative way. We are all amazing journalists. In a stressful and larger-than-life environment such as this, a little laughter goes a long way.”

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As the trip came to a close, I quickly realized that what made this trip so special was not just the content of what I produced but who I produced it with. In one of my final posts, called “On Support,” I came to realization why I love journalism. The people you meet along the way – be from the interview with a Holocaust survivor in his Thessaloniki apartment that keeps in contact with me till this day, or the group of 18 classmates who have seen me at my worst and helped me to get to my best – these kinds of personal connections are what I fell in love with.

“Support does not easily come by in a world (and profession) riddled with rejections and harsh criticism,” I wrote on the second-to-last day of the trip. “When you find those people who not only support you but also don’t sugarcoat the truth – cherish them, spend five weeks with them in a high-stress environment, and please try and keep them around for as long as you can.”

Photos courtesy by Sophie Cannon