The Student Perspective

student perspectives

The Student Perspective

The Life of a Classics Student (Lance Klemple)

Ever been curious about the life of a Classics student? I get asked all the time by friends and family about what I study and what Classics is all about. Allow me to unveil the mystery of the Classics from my own experience at Grand Valley State University.

There are so many reasons why students come to study the Classics. Since I am a lover of literature, I am drawn to Greek and Roman philosophy, poetry, and literature. I am curious about their thought processes and the history of their lives. As much as I love the English language, I am equally enamored with learning ancient languages. Right now, I am learning Ancient Greek as part of my Classics studies. One day, I hope to understand enough Ancient Greek to read the original texts of my favorite ancient authors, like Homer or Sappho. What I love about Classics is that within its broad scope, you can find out about any subject available, from the arts and humanities to the sciences and mathematics.

What makes the Classics program especially great is how much professors care about their students’ education when teaching ancient languages. Professors are invested in teaching and give personalized feedback on pronunciation and translations for each student. This personalized approach to learning has helped me flourish as a Classics student, by showing me the strengths and weaknesses I need to work on. Class sizes are also smaller, allowing for students and professors to build community together. Smaller class sizes allow for the professor to teach to the needs of each class and incorporate the students’ interests into the learning experience. The Classics Department also offers advanced ancient Latin and Greek courses, which is perfect for those who wish to pursue graduate studies.

Studying ancient history and mythology also helps us better develop our media literacy skills. Modern media takes inspiration from classical myths so often, we might not even realize it at first. Did you know that The Hunger Games series draws its inspiration from the myth about Theseus going to the labyrinth to slay the minotaur? The more I read ancient myths, the more I realize their lasting impact on modern storytelling. Even the three-act story structure we use today originated from Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher. Learning about the past catapults our understanding of all kinds of media.

I also love to attend events on campus hosted by the Classics Department, like Greek and Latin Summer Reading. This event is a free, two-day event in May, open to Classics students and friends. Over Zoom, you’ll meet with professors and peers to read Ancient Greek and Latin texts, open to all skill-levels. If you are interested in challenging your skills or testing the waters, it is a wonderful way to sink yourself into the Classics. Or if you want a full, immersive experience, GVSU offers study abroad opportunities for firsthand learning in Greece, Rome, and other locations all over the world. Then there is the Paleo-Olympics, the great yearly celebration of ancient games, tools, and demonstrations with a focus on having fun while learning. It is a free event open to everyone on campus. There are always new events and lectures happening in the Classics Department, so check out the Classics Department’s website for the latest events and details.

With so many paths to take, being a Classics student opens an entire world of possibilities for you to choose from. Look around, explore, and build connections with our community. Grand Valley State University is a diverse landscape for students to soak in all kinds of knowledge. See for yourself! Come in and visit the Classics Department today.




A Student’s Journey (Lance Klemple)

What’s bigger than going to university for the first time? Finding out that as an English major, you suddenly have a new fascination after the first week of class: the Classics. For me, deciding to add on the Classics major felt natural to me as breathing. What I want to talk about is my own journey through the process of discovering what the Classics means to me and how new students coming to Grand Valley State University can begin the trek through navigating university, and their own ever-evolving path. Often where we begin is not where we end up, and where we end up can surprise us if we let our hearts take the lead.

Where the Thread of Fate Began

One might say the way Classics came into my life again was serendipitous, because when I was applying for Grand Valley State University, I chose English Literature as my major, but my minor I had not thought of once. I scrolled a little bit down the list and saw Classics. My curiosity was piqued, so I looked up what Classics students studied, and a surge of nostalgia washed over me. Memories of thumbing through a battered, sepia stained copy of, “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton during high school washed over me. To me, myths were everywhere, and they would not let themselves be only a relic of my past, but an active participant of my future. Before I dove straight into the deep end, I had to dip my toe in to make sure the water was warm. I was officially an English Major with a minor in Classics.

The Taste of Ancient Greek is Ambrosia

But that was before I stepped into my Ancient Greek class, the very first class I ever took at GVSU. My nerves started to kick in as the clock ticked to our meeting time. My leg bounced, my heart skipped, my hands a bit shaky from my coffee, everything was so new. We first started by going over the alphabet in Greek. Once we got the hang of it, with vigor, our professor put words on the screen in Greek. Each student went around to sound out a word and introduce themselves. My first word, admittedly, was probably the easiest: logos. Logically, it made sense why the Classics enthralled me. Beauty, knowledge, history, combined for a subject meant to challenge and inspire. I read my word aloud, and my fate was sealed. I was hooked.

A Double Major Decision

            To major in one subject is fun, to double it, is to double the fun. I hope my experience as a double major may lend advice to students who may find their hearts leading them into two directions. My answer for you is to go for it. If you are passionate about two subjects, then challenge yourself to pursue your interests. For me, I find so much joy in being able to learn about both English and Classics, especially when they complement each other so well. I can apply the grammar I learn in Ancient Greek to concepts I learn about in my linguistics class or see new connections between symbols in English literature and ancient myths. The beauty of double majoring comes in broadening your scope academically so you can create new meaningful connections.

            If you find yourself worried about the workload, trust in your capabilities and trust that you have made it this far for a reason. If you love what you do and you’re good at it, why not? What’s stopping you from achieving your dreams? Make those obstacles as small as you can, find new ways to overcome them, and forge a path made perfectly for you, by you.

            As for my personal experience so far, the workload is manageable. With proper time management skills, you’ll find you can do more than you think in a day. Being on campus every day also helps with staying focused on homework and I still have time to read Greek poetry on the weekends or socialize with friends. It’s a balanced blend of hard work and relaxation, as both are necessary for keeping your cool as a college student.

For any student, I always stress the importance of self-care. Being able to stay mindful throughout your day about how you are doing and what you need to be the best version of yourself is imperative to stay strong when tides are rough and to relax when the sea is smooth. Getting enough sleep and eating well will help with retaining new information and keeping your focus sharp.

            So, to all the students who are finding their way, you’ll make it in no time. Follow your passions, then before you know it, you’ll be right where you were always meant to be.  


Non-Traditional Student Challenges (Tanys Lowry)

One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a non-traditional student is balancing work with my class schedule. My time is often split between work and classes, and there are some days when I cannot do much of anything besides take off my shoes when I get home before crawling in bed. Fortunately, I have been lucky to have supervisors who were, and are, very understanding and willing to work with my class schedule.

Another daunting obstacle for non-traditional students is feeling comfortable in a classroom setting. Sometimes we harbor fear in these settings:  fear that we won't excel, or fear that we won't be able to handle the pressure. These fears can make us hesitate to participate, or in some cases, overcompensate because we feel like we must go above and beyond to justify being here.

The best way to overcome challenges is to have an idea of what strategies work best for you, so I will share what strategies I have utilized over the years. While none of the options I suggest are meant to be “one size fits all,” I am suggesting them from my point of view as a non-traditional student.


Strategies for Non-Traditional Students

First, build relationships with your professors and your classmates! Attending group study sessions, going to office hours, and asking for clarification during class are some of the most helpful strategies for me. If there is a concept during lectures that I struggle to understand, I make sure to raise my hand and ask the professor to clarify or rephrase the information. If you are uncomfortable asking questions during class time, you can always ask during office hours too!

Studying with fellow students is helpful because they can teach you new study skills, and it is also a terrific way to bond. I have had many classmates bring their unique perspectives on subjects to help explain and understand the subject material. For example, I took a class focused on Roman Law and studied with a fellow student in that course repeatedly over the semester. When I was struggling to grasp certain concepts, he often rephrased the questions we were studying in a way that helped me see how he reached the answer he did. I have also picked up a lot of tricks for studying vocabulary and remembering definitions from the students in my language courses.

The consultants in Knowledge Market have been trained to help nontraditional students as well as traditional. They provide support over many diverse types of projects, and you can either drop in or schedule an appointment, in-person or virtually, to get help with a project and to help teach you skills to take with you to future courses.

Academic advisors are available to talk about plotting a path to graduate year-round. There are multiple programs focused on helping nontraditional students finish their degrees: Return to Learn, the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies, and the LEADS accelerated degree program, just to name a few.

I also recommend going to the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan Authors, especially if you have courses that involve writing research papers. During my third year at GVSU, for example, I was drafting a research paper about the Oracle of Delphi. At the time, this was the longest paper I had ever written, and I was running out of steam. My professor suggested I go to the Writing Center to get their perspective. After meeting with them for an hour I had added two pages to my paper by restructuring the layout and determining what I was oversimplifying and leaving out. Check out the Writing Center’s website for information about scheduling appointments and working with writing consultants!


Asking for Help

The strategy that I work to refine every day is asking for help. Many times, I could have gotten all the help I needed if I had tried to ask for it. Everyone on this campus – tutors, professors, library liaisons, every single member of this community – want students to succeed. While the challenges students face can be numerous and feel overwhelming, the most important thing to remember is that they can be overcome.

Finding Community When Living and Working Off-Campus (Tanys Lowry)

Students often find their “tribe” in college by attending on-campus events, living on-campus with other students, and being entrenched in on-campus life all day, every day. However, as Grand Valley State University grows, there are more and more students who live off campus and commute to class by car, by public transport, or even by foot if they live within walking distance of campus. Also, it is common for college students to work during the academic year. So, a question that students who live and work off campus might ask is, “How do I find my people?"

Option One:  Utilize Similarities

The first thing I would suggest is to forge bonds with other people in your major. Sharing a major already gives you something in common with strangers who, with a bit of effort, can become your friends. Ask your classmates if they want to have a study session with you, whether that’s in person, over Zoom, or on a Discord voice chat where you’re all studying the same things. One of my closest friends was in at least four of my courses for my major. We studied together for big exams and stayed up way too late together while trying to finish the same assignment. But then we started going to events together and even had movie nights at my apartment.  The Classics major is perfect for this, as a small tight-knit group of people who are passionate about their work.

Option Two: Expand Your Horizons

It can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone. But as you explore the things you have in common with people, I would also suggest going to events you may not usually consider attending. I went to the GVSU Spring Concert at the Fieldhouse by myself one year because I decided I wanted to see live music, even though I did not know the band, All Time Low.  They had a great performance, and I found a new band to enjoy, but the real highlight was the people I met at the concert. I ended up standing next to a young woman who became one of my dearest friends for a few precious years, and I never would have met her if I had not decided to go see a band I did not know.

Option Three: Remote Access

I know it might seem odd to think about, but one silver lining to come out of living through the Covid-19 pandemic is the increased accessibility to events. Lately, a common practice is having online accessibility, whether the event itself is online, or the event is being streamed live, like the Fall 2022 Convocation. Either way, this makes it much easier for students, especially off campus students, to attend events. As someone who works part time during the semester, I have been able to attend different lectures or readings on topics I was interested in with more regularity because there was online access. For those events, I did not have to stress about being late or feel bummed about missing an event because I did not have enough time to get from my job to the event before it was over.

Don’t Give Up!

Meeting new people and making new friends takes a more concerted effort when you do not live on campus, and it can be daunting to walk up to someone and start chatting. But sometimes, you can find people who just fit you so well it feels as easy as breathing. I found a friend like that my sophomore year, and two years later she officiated my wedding. Even if it may not seem like it at first, it is possible to find a place where you belong in one of GVSU’s many communities.

Page last modified November 21, 2022