Q&A: From Greece to Aggieland
Professor Vasilakis gives a glimpse into his personal life
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 23:09
Alexandra Slaughter, lifestyles writer, sits down with English professor Apostolos Vasilakis
THE BATTALION: What was it like growing up in Greece?
VASILAKIS: My father was in the military and every two years we would move to a different part of Greece. It was fun, but difficult since I didn’t have a chance to make friends. I was growing up during the dictatorship, and I was there when democracy came. It was difficult since my father was in the military at the time, which was part of the dictatorship. It was one of those experiences you will never forget. These were historical events we were living in. Though we were young, we were still shaped by them.
THE BATTALION: What was the difference between New York
VASILAKIS: Twenty-four years ago I moved to the States and lived in New York for about six years in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The main difference was New York was very cosmopolitan. Very big. I loved the cultural chaos that New York had. I have a huge family in New York. Believe it or not, more than in Greece. I also lived in Atlanta, Ga., for about five years and Chicago.
THE BATTALION: What has been your favorite city?
VASILAKIS: My favorite cities have been Chicago and New York. Chicago is really cultural, and I like all the cultural ingredients that it has that you don’t get elsewhere in the architecture and the water. It is much different than New York. It was a huge change when I came to Texas. The University here is great, and the students are great so I enjoy it here.
THE BATTALION: Why did you move to Texas?
VASILAKIS: We, my wife and I, both got jobs here. My wife is also in academia as well. We also felt it was better for our sons, 8 and 11, to grow up away from the city of places like Chicago and New York. When I first moved here, I was by myself for a month and the air conditioner broke. I had to stay in a hotel for a few days. The heat doesn’t bother me, but the humidity does. Greece also had warm temperature but not humidity.
THE BATTALION: How did you meet your wife?
VASILAKIS: I met my wife at graduate school. We were both in the same department and we took seminars together. We were friends first and the rest is history. So it was a good thing, moving to Atlanta as I got my doctorate degree and found my wife.
THE BATTALION: What made you want to be professor?
VASILAKIS: I loved literature. I have a degree in computer science. It was very boring. It wasn’t something that excited me. Since I went back to school, I knew I might as well get a degree in something I loved. It is the whole idea, when I teach my classes about Greek tragedy, the idea that these old stories and myths can relate to today. And why we keep reading the same plays — Shakespeare, Homer — and what they tell us about today.
THE BATTALION: What is your favorite book?
VASILAKIS: That is very difficult. I would have to say one of my favorite books would be Homer’s “Odyssey” to reread and teach. I like that it is so close to the human experience. It is about a man who spends most of his life away from his family — 10 years fighting the Trojan War and 10 years trying to get back. I have students who are veterans who can relate. The students in my class, especially the ones who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, like to compare their own experiences with Odysseus’.
THE BATTALION: How would you compare Texas to Greece?
VASILAKIS: People in both places are very friendly — very open. I have had very positive experiences in both. You can depend on your neighbors when you are away to let you know if something happens. Both College Station and Greece have a small, tight-knit culture. The differences are in topography and locations. You aren’t close to water or islands here in Texas. Greece is also going through a financial crisis, which complicates things.
THE BATTALION: What was your favorite memory growing up?
VASILAKIS: My favorite memory was with my grandparents when I would go swimming in the summer. That is probably my most vivid memory, enjoying the freedom that summer offers.
THE BATTALION: What advice do you have for your students?
VASILAKIS: You don’t have to read a lot of books, but read the ones you do carefully. And read one poem a day. It is like an aspirin. You don’t see the benefits now, but you will.
THE BATTALION: Pick one word to describe yourself.
VASILAKIS: I am a very energetic person. I don’t stop. I always need to be doing something. You will rarely see me sitting when I am lecturing. When I am in big rooms I like to walk around a lot. I don’t like standing still.