Iycis Smith: Mentorship Inspired by the Greek Lifestyle

500 425 Ellen Ensher
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Iycis Smith in Greece with cobblestone background

I think about how I got to where I am a lot, both in life and in this moment of time. I had to overcome so many mental barriers just to get through my tumultuous freshman year filled with startling surprises, decide to apply for a study abroad spot, and work to save money through extensive budgeting. While I was excited, the fear of leaving the country for the first time without my family or anyone that I was close with sent me into an occasional spiral. Overcoming my mental barrier was the first thing I knew I inevitably had to do, and I felt like that would be the first of many daunting tasks I’d have to accomplish on this journey until I landed in Greece.

To my surprise, by the end of week one, I felt I had carved a space for myself in the commotion of the new world I felt I was in. The importance of vulnerability and self-expression were two motives I made sure to push to the forefront of my mind, no matter what the day’s activities were. When we got to the mentorship section of our course, I felt that the lesson got me thinking about how I could benefit from both finding a mentor myself, and becoming one on campus next year for students thinking of embarking on new and unexpected journeys of all kinds. Being a student as well as a tourist, I learned to synthesize the key points of our mentorship lecture by doing extensive research with the Greek energy I was experiencing, my mind focusing more on how far meaningful interactions carried my spirits throughout the day.

The ladies at the mini shop I visit at least once a day gave a perfect example of just how much it means to say hello, and make consequential dialogue that begins with a sincere “how are you doing” and ends with a “see you tomorrow!” at the end of each visit. I found myself looking forward to visiting the Clock Pizza restaurant as the waiters there always gave their time and undivided attention to any questions I had about Spetses and the surrounding islands. Focusing on the topic at hand and maintaining attentiveness really made me feel like I was being heard, and was the basis of many genuine conversations over just the few times I ate there. Even when renting motorbikes, I had only met the owners once but they would ask how our studies were going and if we had a nice time on our bike ride.

Aside from the lovely people I met on the island, I ended up making some great friendships as well that I felt were supported heavily by the welcoming aura of Greece and how normal it is to express vulnerable feelings so outwardly from the heart. The energy of openness and authenticity is something that I will definitely keep in the forefront of my mind when going about looking for a mentor and maintaining a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with them, as well as in my own pursuits to become an on-campus mentor.

After watching the mentor training course videos, I could visualize explaining how becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, capitalizing on one’s personal growth, and utilizing the power of intention, are the key elements to embracing a self-chosen, uncharted pathway for those who feel like they aren’t prepared or enough to go after what they want. Greece has transformed my thought process to what I thought I could accomplish and gain from experiences I never would have dreamed I would have, and I would love to reach other students with this message in the near future.