By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Taking pictures in Greece is one recent college assignment Delano High School 2010 graduate Christie Gleason was happy to carry out.
“I had an excuse to take 3,000 photos, and that’s what I love to do,” said Gleason, who ended her sophomore year at Concordia College, Moorhead with a month-long summer study abroad session.
From May 8 to June 6, Gleason was immersed in Greek culture, language, and scenery, through the “Photographing the Landscape and Culture of Greece” program.
“Everything around you is spectacular,” she said. “It was fun to be able to go out and take photos for hours. It didn’t feel like class.”
For Gleason, making Greece her first foreign excursion wasn’t an obvious choice at first.
“Concordia has a lot of really great study abroad options,” Gleason said. “I knew I wanted to be part of it, but I couldn’t figure out what.”
However, after hearing about a friend’s experience with the photography class in Greece, Gleason’s decision was easy.
“Right away, it caught my attention,” said Gleason, who operates her own side photography business called Photos by Christie.
Gleason, who has taken some photos of seniors, weddings, families, babies, and school sports, plans to expand her business in the future.
An array of expertise
Photography isn’t Gleason’s only interest, however.
“I also have a passion for non-profits,” she said. “I want to explore all my options.”
During her first year at Concordia, she helped with Habitat for Humanity in Mississippi during spring break. Sophomore year, she served as the group’s spring break coordinator, planning seven trips for a total of 130 students.
Gleason also participated in a variety of activities during high school, such as Youth as Resources (YAR), journalism, Students Helping Adolescents Resist Pressures, (SHARP), and service at Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Delano.
Her mother, Deann, graduated from Delano High School in 1977; and her brother, Matt, graduated in 2008. This fall, Matt will be a senior at Concordia College, Moorhead.
Capturing the moment
For Gleason, studying in Greece was an unforgettable part of college life.
“I not only learned a lot about photography, but I learned a lot about myself as well,” she said.
Free time consisted of activities like hiking, snorkeling, pottery, cliff jumping, shopping, traditional Greek dancing, and spending time on the beach.
One evening, Gleason and some classmates rented four-wheelers and rode to a lighthouse, where they watched the sunset. Later, they observed the night sky through a friend’s telescope, before zipping back to the hotel.
Throughout the trip, Gleason explored the volcanic island of Santorini, which is considered to have some of the most diverse and beautiful topography in the world.
“The landscape was exactly what I’d imagined and had seen in photos, but it was 10 times better seeing it in real life,” she said.
Gleason’s typical weekday in Greece started with a culture and language class, where she studied Greek letters, numbers, grammar, and essential phrases.
“Learning Greek was really fun,” she said. “We got to have little conversations with some of the store owners and children. Mostly everyone spoke English, but it was neat to even say ‘hi, how are you?’”
The culture and language class was followed by photography classes, which included technical and creative aspects.
“Each assignment was different,” Gleason said, explaining that they focused on things like aperture, portraits, lines, shapes, and patterns.
Concordia College, Moorhead offers a wide range of study abroad opportunities, lasting anywhere from a week to a year.
In addition to photography, astronomy, and poetry in Greece, this year’s month-long summer sessions included nursing in Tanzania; psychology in York, England; cultural immersion in Scotland; Spanish in Argentina; vocal music in Italy; worship in Great Britain; German in Wittenberg, Germany; culture in South Korea; and business in Washington, DC.