Clarkie of the Week: Despoina Lioliou
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Despoina Lioliou (‘17) is a psychology major and an education minor from Veroia, Greece. She’s the president of Psi Chi Chapter, and the program coordinator of the Educational Studies Program. After Clark, she will study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Scarlet: Where are you from?
Despoina: I’m from Veroia. It’s a small town in northern Greece. Even though I was born there and spent a good chunk of my time there, we moved around a lot. When I was still a baby we moved to Chios, which is an island in Greece. After that we went to New York City, and we stayed there until I was four or five. Then we went back to Greece – to Athens, for a year. After that we went to Belgium for three or four years. Finally we moved back to Veroia, so by that point I was in middle school. In eleventh grade, I went to an American international school in a neighboring city. Then I came here.
Scarlet: Would you identify as a third culture kid?
Despoina: I guess, to an extent. I spent my teenage life in Greece, and my parents did a really good job of enculturating us – taking us to church and to Greek communities. I feel like I’ve always had a deeper connection with my Greek side than anything else, but I definitely am not exclusively that.
Scarlet: Why did you come to the U.S. to study?
Despoina: All the schools I went to abroad were American international schools, so I think it’s a more familiar education system. After being in the Greek education system for long, the American system was a breath of fresh air. There’s much more individuality, not as many exams, and a more creative atmosphere.
Scarlet: Do you miss Greece?
Despoina: I really miss the social life in Greece. It’s much more of a relaxed culture. I feel like here it’s more live to work, and there it’s work to live. People take a lot of trips, and people go out a lot. You see your friends all the time – you don’t have to like book a meeting to see your friends. I definitely miss that relaxed attitude. I miss the food and my family too, of course.
Scarlet: I know that you’re interested in helping refugees in Greece. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Despoina: That’s actually why I’m going to Harvard. I’m trying to devise an educational system for refugee children in Greece. They’re in a limbo there: they can’t leave, but they don’t want to stay. It’s not their final destination with their families. After they do leave, they might be “permanently temporary,” so to speak: they’re always going to be moving places. I’m trying to devise a system or a conceptual tool to help with their education. Every camp has authority over what to do with the children: some camps have schools, but some don’t. There are a lot of kids who have never been to school – not because they’re too young, but because they’ve never had the opportunity. There are other kids who do go to school, but it’s not really a school: they find residents that speak the language, give them a book, and they’re like “teach.” That’s how it happens in most places. I don’t want them to be a lost generation.
Scarlet: I heard you work at the Writing Center. What’s that like?
Despoina: It definitely comes with its challenges, but I really, really like working at the Writing Center. I feel like it’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had, and that anyone can have on campus. First of all, you get to work with a diverse group of people. You get to work with grad students, and undergrads that come from so many disciplines, so many backgrounds, and have different reasons for why they want to be here. Second of all, you get to meet all these new people. I feel like I would not have met any of the sophomores or freshmen at Clark if I didn’t work there, because that’s usually the population that comes in. It’s a challenging job – it’s really mentally taxing to try to help someone who might be freaking out about their essay in fifty minutes – you gotta be present.
Scarlet: What’s your favorite thing about Clark?
Despoina: I really like that people put a lot of trust in their students, and give them a lot of opportunities to succeed and to try something new. They give validity to your ideas. I think it’s something really important, but that I think isn’t present everywhere. Everybody’s involved in something at Clark, because people really believe that their students have the potential, the ability, and the competence to do these things. I think it’s something unique about Clark. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I hadn’t been given all these opportunities.
Scarlet: What’s your spirit animal?
Despoina: I’ve talked about this at length with my roommates. The owl, because it’s intellectual, and has eyes everywhere. One of my roommates is a swan, and my other roommate is a bunny. We actually have conversations like this at my house. Like, “what is the spirit animal of everybody we know?”
Thanks for the interview, Despoina!