This week's row2k Interview is with Barry sophomore Maria Stampolkou. We talk with her about finding her way from Greece to row in the United States.
row2k - How did you get your start in rowing?
Maria Stampolkou - When my old club decided to shut down the kayak team in which I was a member, I changed sports and tried rowing for the first time. Many people in Greece believe that rowing and kayaking are the same sport or have not heard about them. The change of the sports was hard at the beginning because in a kayak you use mostly your upper body without any significant movement of the legs. Rowing is completely different; you have to move and “drive” the boat with your legs. The rowing boat moves differently than a kayak and the fact that in rowing you go backward excited me a lot. Eleven years have passed since I started rowing, but I never thought to change or start a different sport.
row2k - You’re in your sophomore year at Barry, how did you end up there from Greece?
Maria Stampolkou - I was going to a private, non-profit high school called the American Farm School, located in Thessaloniki. The school prepares students to either study in the United States or take the PanHellenic exams to study in Greece. During my freshman year in high school, I signed up for the Study USA Program which focuses on advising and preparing students to study in the United States. In Greece, there are no sports involved with Universities, and I knew if I decided to stay there, I had to stop rowing. I could not imagine myself stopping rowing for a long time. My college counselor helped me to communicate with many college coaches and make the right decision about which university to select.
row2k - What has been the most difficult thing about coming to the United States for your education?
Maria Stampolkou - The hardest thing I had to face was the language. I barely knew any English before my senior year at high school. I know five different languages, but I did not know English. I had not taken the Study USA program in my high school very seriously, and I started learning English very late. During my senior year in high school, I took many private classes in English for at least four hours every day. Also, I had to maintain my good grades at school and be a good athlete at the same time. It was mentally tough. When I came to the United States, I realized how much English I did not know. It was really tiring to have to translate everything into a language I did not grow up with. I found difficulties to express my thoughts because the exact translation from Greek to English does not always make sense and vice versa. I was missing many words when I was talking, and people had to guess what I wanted to say. It took me some months to adjust to an environment where not even one person knows Greek. Now I feel more comfortable with the language, but it was hard at the beginning.
Stampolkou at HOCR
row2k - What’s your favorite aspect of rowing?
Maria Stampolkou - Travelling. Who does not like travelling? We see new places, meet new people, row in different sceneries, and generally change our routine a little bit. When travel is combined with good friends and rowing races, it is the most fulfilling feeling ever.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why?
Maria Stampolkou - The Head of the Charles is my favorite regatta ever. It always happens in the middle of October, and I feel blessed I went in my freshman and sophomore year. Both of those years I was feeling exhausted from school and rowing, so it was a good opportunity to take a break from my daily routine. There are thousands of people watching this race every year, and many of them travel all the way to Boston only for this purpose. It is amazing how many people in the US support rowing. It is not a popular sport in Greece, and I was not used to seeing that many people at a rowing regatta.
row2k - What are you studying at Barry and do you have any plans for after graduation?
Maria Stampolkou - I am studying Criminology, but I am taking all the pre-law requirements. I am interested in many different areas and fields, and this makes it harder to make a final decision about what I will do after graduation. So far, I want to study at a law school or do my MA in history or education.