Looking back on my summer experience, I revel in the memories that I have from both programs and the valuable friendships that I have formed between colleagues and mentors. This summer has been a very special formative and learning experience for me. It has opened new doors for my future and taught me many things.
I find it difficult to compare my experiences at ARCHELON and the Katelios Group, because although I was doing the same work and research in sea turtle conservation, the atmosphere and the execution of the project was very different. In the Katelios Group, on the island of Kefalonia, I saw few turtles and few nests. Since there was no natural predation in Kefalonia, the work we did was mostly in public awareness (PA). We had shifts specially designed to approach people and tell them of our work, thereby awakening and/or increasing their sensitivity and concern for the turtles. We only monitored 3km of central beach, so the number of volunteers fluctuated with a maximum of approximately 15 volunteers at a time. We lived in little apartments, made our own food and although community life existed, it was natural for people to tend to fend primarily for themselves. That’s not to say that we did not do things together, however the circumstances were very different to those in Kyparissia.
In Kyparissia with ARECHELON, things were quite different. From the start, we monitored around 10km of central beach, which required an average of 25 volunteers. However at the height of the season we had around 40 volunteers for a while. We had a lot of turtle activity and many nests, all of which had to be protected from foxes, dogs and birds, which would dig up the eggs. This was hard work and limited our PA work to kiosk shifts. In ARCHELON we lived on a campsite in tents, ate communal meals and spent almost every waking hour with other volunteers. This helped to raise camp morale and liven up camp life so that we were never bored or lacking something to do. Everyone looked out for everyone else and we all grew very close.
I appreciate both projects for the lessons they’ve taught me and the people I had a chance to meet and work with. I wouldn’t choose to change anything in my summer or do anything differently. I think both projects are effective given their situations and the work is done with great enthusiasm and ample guidance. ARCHELON receives more support and recognition internationally than the Katelios Group does, however that does not stop people flocking to both projects from all over the world.
My summer has provided me with an opportunity to meet people of many different nationalities and backgrounds and engage in life in a multicultural micro-community that would be difficult to reconstruct.
I can remember many times where language was a barrier. This was a barrier easily broken and used instead as a source of merriment when sentences were misconstrued or words meant different things in different places. We also had people of many age groups: from teenage years to late 40s. But the age gap didn’t stop of from growing close and sharing our stories.
I’ve also gained a lot of insight into my future, my career and the work I want to do. All in all, I look back on my summer as an experience I wouldn’t trade or change for the world. I enjoyed every moment of it, through laughter and tears and I’m left with the special memories.