Name of National Geographic Trip: National Geographic Student Expedition to Italy and Greece

Year traveled:  2012

On Assignment project theme: Ancient Culture and Architecture

Names of trip leaders: Erin Carnes and Peter

Name of expert: Massimo Bassano

How did you decide to travel with National Geographic, and why did you choose your particular trip?

I received a magazine in the mail with a list of Student Expeditions. I flipped through the pages and saw the Italy and Greece trip. I had always held a deep fascination and love for ancient Greek and Roman cultures. The trip photos and details struck a chord; I immediately ran to show my parents…and applied as soon as possible!

Describe your most memorable experience from your trip.

My most memorable experience on the trip was during the stay in Delphi. Only a few members of our group woke up early one morning and went on a hike.The experience seemed to exist out of time. I felt connected to people who had lived and walked those hills long before me.

Describe something you did on your program that you thought you would never do.

I never thought that I would ride a chairlift across the isle of capri, co-write and act out a play in the scenery of the Roman Forum and Greek amphitheater ruins. I also never thought that in such a short amount of time I would develop great friendships that would last for life.

What have you been up to since your trip? Please include detail.  We’d love to learn more about your current passions, what your day-to-day is like, and your current goals.

Since traveling with National Geographic, I have continued to pursue a life of learning and adventure. I went back to Italy after finishing high school and lived with a family I found through a workaway program in the mountains near Lucca. Here, in a tiny mountain village, I continued to learn the language and truly immerse myself in the culture. During my undergraduate years, I further invested in my Italian studies through studying abroad in Florence. Also during my undergrad years, I traveled with fellow Biology majors to the Amazon in Peru where we studied the diverse native species, tropical ecology, and spent time with the native Amazonian people. As a biology major I have conducted and helped with multiple research projects focused on wildlife restoration.What I learned in the classroom gave me the tools and opportunity to go out into the greater community and help teach people about the world around them. One of the most important things to me is helping people realize the significance of the relationships they hold with other people, creatures, and the land; and see the spark of curiosity to discover more light up in their eyes. I think that I learned this myself while on the National Geographic Student Expedition.  Currently I am finishing up my last few major requirements and am working as the Biology Lab Coordinator and a lab TA for the college. I also coach girls recreational soccer, and I am president of the school’s Sustainability club.  I have continued to travel as often as feasibly possible.The last adventure was up to Alaska where I spent time camping in Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks in Alaska. After I graduate in December, I’m considering getting my Masters in nutrition with a focus in culinary arts. What better way to connect the land, people, environment, and culture than through food? I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I know that whatever I do, I will always continue to explore and learn new things.

What do you think makes National Geographic Student Expeditions special?

I think that National Geographic Student Expeditions is special because it brings education to life. Sure, you can read about the Parthenon, but to hike up to it next to friends you’ve made from Spain and Qatar is an entirely different matter. The Nat Geo Student Expedition provides an environment which encourages creativity, curiosity, and wonder in which students can explore and learn about themselves and their relation to the world around them.