Written by Constantine Baltzis
Like many Americans, I can trace my roots back to Europe. Unlike most Americans, I don’t have to go back very far. Both of my parents are immigrants, They left Greece over 20 years ago for a better life in the United States. They raised me with Greek ideals. I learned Greek at a very young age and attended Greek school twice a week from kindergarten to freshman year of high school I was a part of a Greek youth group and served as president my senior year. Being Greek is a very central part of my life.
I spent last summer visiting family in Greece. For me, going to Greece was not just about going to the beach or sight-seeing, it was about visiting family and seeing, firsthand, some of the historical places I learned about. I visited Olympia, where the first Olympic games were held. It was a unique experience to see the track where runners, almost 3,000 years ago, engaged in the first Olympics and began a tradition that, though it had ceased for a while, was picked up again in 1896 with the start of the modern Olympic games and continues today. Other than the impressive temples outside the stadium, the track was essentially the only facility, as the first games featured only track events (with the exception of pankration, a form of wrestling where anything goes). I also had the opportunity to visit Mistra, a Byzantine era fortress that has remained intact and mostly undisturbed since 1249. It became a UNESCO site in 1989 and is very well maintained – a must-see stop for anyone interested in history who is visiting Greece.
The Hellenic Cultural Association (HCA) was one of the first clubs that I joined at NJIT. I enjoyed the Greek youth group in which I participated while in high school, and I wanted to find a similar organization in which I could be involved while a college student. HCA offers me an opportunity to meet other Greeks on campus as well as keep in touch with the traditions with which I was raised and be an active member of the NJIT campus.