Crammed in the back of the car between two strangers, I looked out at the winding road ahead and listened to my companions discuss their loves for Greece. “The Greek landscape provides insight into metaphysical questions!” exclaimed one. Although I had only been in Paros for a few days, I immediately felt that he was right. In some places, we said, you could see only mountains or sea or farmland, but in Greece the three often run into one another, providing a visual representation for the idea that everything and everyone is connected.
During the six weeks I spent in Greece this summer thanks to a Sigma Tau Delta Summer Program Scholarship, I spent much of my time outdoors, watching the moonrise between the mountains from my house in Kakapetra, seeing the way all the trees on the island grew sideways because of the wind, and lying on sun-warmed rocks beneath a temple of Apollo. The beauty that surrounded me inspired me to write and helped clarify questions about my future, but so, too, did the connections I made with others, from Barry and Yuko, the lovely and welcoming expatriates who run Hellenic International Studies in the Arts (HISA, a small study abroad program based in Paros), to the Greek woman who worked at a nearby hotel and took me in when my electricity went out, gave me dinner and coffee, and told me her stories.
I spent the last three weeks of my time in Greece with HISA, taking painting and Cycladic art and culture classes as well as shorter trips to Athens, Antiparos, Naxos, and Santorini with the other nine students on the trip. However, I arranged with HISA to arrive in Paros three weeks before the other students because I wanted more independence. During this time I met with the program director for a creative writing class, but had the rest of my time to myself to explore the island and interact with locals. This time, in particular, was beneficial in terms of my future plans, since I was able to gain a greater understanding of the Greek culture and language and intend to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Greece. The funding I received from Sigma Tau Delta was also incredibly valuable, as it allowed me more financial freedom to purchase bus and ferry tickets to travel across the islands and enrich my experience in Paros.
One of the most important parts of my trip, however, combined both the natural beauty I saw around me and the connections I made with others. On one of the first nights I was in Paros, I hiked up the mountain next to my house with a former HISA student who now returns to the island each year. We were strangers when we started the hike, talking about easy things like sea urchins, sunburns, bad wine, and moussaká, but by the time we reached the top, we had shared our life stories and cemented our friendship. I wondered, then, if in ten years I, too, will be back on Paros and climbing that mountain. Does it capture everyone like that, or only its chosen few? What gives the island such power, and what allows it to draw people in and keep them in its grasp? Perhaps these questions are too metaphysical for even the island to answer, but regardless, I am grateful to have had the chance to spend my summer in writing and exploring such a beautiful, welcoming, and captivating place.
Summer Program Scholarship
The Summer Program Scholarship provides up to $1,500 for the purposes of attending a special 2022 summer program, either in the US or abroad, which furthers the applicant’s engagement with Sigma Tau Delta’s mission. Qualifying summer programs must be at least three weeks in length and no longer than three months. Applicants should demonstrate academic scholarship and chapter service and must explain the relevance of their summer program to fostering their engagement with the English discipline, including literature, language, writing, or literacy.
Application Deadline: April 11, 2022 for programs in summer 2022
For more information on applying for Sigma Tau Delta Scholarships, view the On-Demand Webinar—Sigma Tau Delta Pays You Back: Scholarships and Internships