The experience between my first trip to Paros and this trip has been significantly different. Many of those differences are due to my shifting roles from that of a student to an SLA (Service Learning Assistant). The responsibilities, expectations, and how I am viewed – both by professors and students – is altered. I realized within a few days that I didn’t quite fit into either dynamic – I wasn’t a student, and I wasn’t a professor. It left me feeling like the odd man out. At home in Indiana, I might have been some tragic figure moping in a room and stuffing my face with Oreos… but I was on Paros surrounded by a beautiful ocean and wonderful people, so nothing was going to spoil my time here.
It took a bit of time – two weeks – to get adjusted to the differences in workload and responsibilities. In retrospect, I began this program in full graduate student mode and by that I mean a grad student who does full-time schoolwork and part-time TA (teaching assistant) work. As a TA your responsibility ends when your shift is over, but as an SLA your responsibility is 24/7. As an undergrad, let’s be honest, I was all for going out every night, staying up until 5 am then dragging my tired and cranky butt into class the next day. This time around I have had to be the voice of reason – it’s unthinkable!
I have heard several of the students say that they were ready to go home. This experience has been amazing for them, but they miss the simple things we all take for granted in our home countries such as food chains, bathroom configurations, friends, and family. I remember vividly that I too had these feelings the first time I visited Paros; however, this time around I felt more comfortable and adjusted to the differences. For example; while out walking I stopped to talk with a local shop owner. During our conversation, he had suggested that I come and work for him during the summer. I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not, but I found myself contemplating a summer residency here on Paros.
Having a more laid back approach to my time here on Paros has made every old experience a new one. I have had so much fun this time around and was able to experience things I choose not to do the first time. I have enjoyed all of the students and professors. It’s very interesting – and sometimes entertaining – to see how people react when they are placed in a new situation or place. Those who were quiet are loud, and those who are shy become bold. It’s been an amazing summer.
Written by Wen Krogg