The classical life of the Hellenic world dates back even before the times of Socrates and Plato. The mythic and real stories of gods and heroes lay down the archetypes and patterns that inform all of Western civilization, literature, and art. This is one of the reasons why the HISA program was founded on the island of Paros, classically situated in the center of the Cycladic island group, ninety miles southeast of Athens. So sited, Paros has become one of the great crossroads of the Aegean and is served by daily ferry and air transportation. Such other popular destinations as Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete can all be reached in a few hours by ferry.
Since ancient times, the beautiful island of Paros has been a natural retreat for artists and writers. In keeping with this tradition, Paros today more than meets its reputation as a creative center. An active community of working artists and writers gives Paros an expressive and productive air that blends in well with the island's pleasant bohemian atmosphere. The vibrant local population is a valuable asset to HISA’s vision of a full social and cultural immersion.
Arriving at the port in Paroikia, the main village of Paros, and home to HISA, one sees a mile-long collection of white-washed buildings, huddled along a seafront resembling a brilliantly lighted necklace of cubist design. The village itself is an architectural treasure, with seaside chapels, one of the oldest and most important churches in the Cyclades, and the ruins of a Frankish castle with terraced gardens. Nestled among this traditional beauty are cafes, bars, and tavernas, most with open-air seating beneath trellised grape vines and bougainvillea. As the afternoon turns to evening, locals gather along the waterfront for drinks and mezes, enjoying spectacular sunsets, while fishing boats crisscross the intimate and calm bay.
"The island of Paros is beautiful. We had hot beach days up until we left in December. Both the school and student apartments are right on the water. I made lifelong friendships with the other students. I had a lot of free time to spend in the other towns and islands, which I really appreciated. I never thought I could be so happy."
Eating doesn’t take place early, even in winter. Restaurants are often filled at midnight in summer; couples and singles crowding the cafes and bars. Social life knows no hours, and though the Greeks start work early, they can be seen dancing late into the night, enjoying the traditional Greek energy, Kefi, loosely translated as “unselfconscious joy.” There is also a sober and spiritual quality to the town, inherent in its ancient traditions, inviting one along on meditative walks down narrow, winding lanes. The environment of Paroikia lends itself to inspiration and self-reflection. There is the feeling that one has reached somewhere secure. Born in ancient times, Paroikia knows itself and gives back to those who interact with it a sense of wisdom and sanctity. HISA students will find themselves living in a community of alive and welcoming companions.