Matthew Dekneef came to Athens from Hawaii via Chapman University in the spring of 2008. He is back where he came from, living in Honolulu where he is an Editorial Director at NMG Network, a broadcasting and media production company that focuses on Hawaii. Matt works closely with the production of FLUX Hawaii, a publication that offers a curated look at island arts, culture, style, travel, design, and innovation.
Recently we asked Matt to think about his semester in Athens now more than 10 years ago. Here’s what he had to say:
What, in your opinion, are a few of the strengths of the Arcadia Athens program?
The charming vibe of what felt like a smaller, tighter-knit curriculum (compared to what appeared to be larger university study abroad programs in European countries my college friends attended elsewhere). The encouraging and eclectic faculty; and, the films and literature they introduced us to; that in their recommendations they often insisted on the local—their homegrown artists, past and present—which left an impression on me; in one of our classes, a professor put a Cavafy poem in front of us I continue to remember vividly. The independence the program afforded the students. Living-wise, what appealed to me most was how everyone's apartments were situated in residential buildings and spread out throughout Athens. Integrating us into the urban fabric of the city, and scattering our peers out into various neighborhoods, really set forth this idea that in this program the entire city would be an extended classroom. That if you gave yourself to the streets, its cafes, squares, you'd be charged and electrified with lessons daily.
How did your time in Athens impact your career or career path?
My time there didn't directly correlate to any career ambitions I had at the time; I was majoring in Public Relations and Advertising, so nothing in the curriculum was fulfilling any course credits for me, and I wasn't trying to intern or get to know any of the creative agencies in Athens. What it did do, however, was position me to know what I would want out of any career or career path upon graduation: opportunities to travel, to interact with vibrant communities. My time there planted in me a sense of curiosity that I would later aim to carry with me and nurture in all my professional endeavors since. I think the program's impact in this regard is largely retroactive. Meaning even today in the position I have — I currently work as an editor/writer for a publishing company that produces arts and culture media in Hawaii — I notice myself drawing from skills, memories, experiences during my time there and indirectly applying it to my work in the travel space. This is how I know it was such a generous and enriching experience for me because it still finds ways to inform the career I didn't plan to have then now. My time there was more holistic than I would have initially expected.
What 21st-century skills did you gain or enhance during your time in Athens?
A confidence (but never arrogance) in navigating a foreign arena. How to ask for help, an underrated skill! My time there also enhanced an interest in my own cultural roots and native birthplace. Being in Athens, somewhere so ancient and modern, unexpectedly reminded me a lot of where I'm from, Hawaii, in that it's a popular travel destination complicated with its own specific set of histories and issues for the people who actually live there. That while I felt like I was having this fantastic and formative experience, I would encounter locals similar to my age who expressed a sort of weariness to the beauty and richness of their city. Through that, I came to reconcile my own jadedness for where I had grown up, and it inspired me to recognize, re-look, and reconsider the offerings of where I'm from and to travel deeper within my own backyard.
Thank you Matt. And don't miss Matt’s Hawaii on his gorgeous Instagram feed @mattdknf.
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