COLLEGE ESSAY: Amelia Drew to attend Indiana University

Avery Maier

Every year, the Scroll publishes a series of college essays written by the graduating seniors. This is the college essay of Amelia Drew, who will be attending Indiana University this fall.

“Amelia Drew.” My heart was pounding. I took a deep breath and told myself to relax. There was no reason to be nervous. My counselor moved away from the microphone as the priests’ wife announced “Victoria.” I stood up and walked toward the clustered crowd to meet my Greek family. I couldn’t believe this would be my family for the next two weeks.

I handed my host a rose as we formally greeted one another and kissed cheek-to-cheek. Beaming ear-to-ear, she led me back to her seat. She was so proud to host me. Anyone sitting remotely close to us was going to hear all about me.

Yiayia, my Greek grandmother was my host. Yiayia didn’t speak one word of English. I thought it would be impossible to get to know her, let alone communicate with her. I knew roughly 25 words in Greek and only two or three words proved useful the first couple of days. It was obvious we were both trying to get to know one another but we didn’t share a mutual language. Fortunately, Christina, her 26-year-old niece, lived across the street and was majoring in English at the local university.  She proved to be invaluable. She translated all of our questions. However, when we were alone, it was a different story.

Every morning, Yiayia would corral me into the kitchen to introduce various foods. She would hold up an egg or a bag of cereal. I would point to the corn flakes, but she would have everything from a ham and cheese sandwich to ice cream already spread out on the table. Trying to explain to her that I didn’t eat much breakfast didn’t help, so I would go and change for work. When I came back she would be sitting on the other side of the table waiting for me. I would sit across from her and eat my cereal. She never ate. Smiling, she watched me and made sure I ate everything. This was difficult for me because I am a very picky eater. When she laid out a ham and cheese sandwich for me every morning, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I didn’t like ham, so I ate it. Suddenly, we’d hear a knock on the door—which meant time for work. I raced to get my shoes and she would run after me screaming something in Greek, waving a frappe and a big bag of food for me to take to work: two chocolate-filled croissants, some juice boxes, two gigantic peaches and of course, three ham-and-cheese sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil.

When work ended, around 1:30, the 18 people I worked with and I walked straight to the town church to have a huge meal cooked by the village women. I returned home with a full stomach, and Yiayia was waiting for me. I walk into the kitchen only to see another offering; more food. I found myself using repetitive vocabulary such as “ouhe” (no), and “they pinowo” (I’m not hungry-I’m full). As time went on, somehow, miraculously, we understood each another. One night, Yiayia and I stayed up in my room looking at pictures of my Cincinnati family. We looked up words in my English-to-Greek dictionary, laughing and trying to communicate. Finally, the turning point we had both been waiting for had arrived.

What I realized is that we did “speak” to each other. With every piece of food she offered me she was trying to tell me how much she enjoyed my company. Every bite I took, I was thanking her for everything she did for me. Every frappe I drank made us feel closer. Eating and spending time together in her small kitchen at the small table helped us connect. Christina told me the next time I visit Greece, I always have a place to stay. However, the next time I go to Greece I will know more than twenty-five Greek words, so then we can actually communicate.