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AHIF’s Foreign Policy Trip Program Marks 10th Year; Students Depart for Greece, Cyprus


Students Receive Firsthand Foreign Policy Experience about the Region from Experts

No. 40

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus begins its tenth year as students from across the United States gathered for briefings in Washington, June 19, 2018, prior to departing for Cyprus. The two-week program concludes July 6, 2018, when the students return from Athens.

“The AHI Foundation proudly continues to offer this invaluable opportunity to our youth,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The 2018 program—our milestone tenth year of the program—promises to be fruitful for our students as they are eager to learn about the foreign policy issues that are important to the Greek American community and United States interests in the eastern Mediterranean. They will be immersed from the get-go, starting with briefings in Washington to high-level meetings with government officials abroad.”

Program’s Tenth Year Celebrated
On June 19, the students assembled at AHI’s Hellenic House for a reception celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the AHIF Foreign Policy College program. Twenty alumni of the program were in attendance as well as AHI Board members, Nicholas Karambelas, and Dr. Athina Balta. Also in attendance were some of the many individuals that helped to make the student trip possible including: Alexios Mitsopoulos, deputy chief of Mission, Greek Embassy to the U.S.; Konstantinos Polykarpou, consul, Cypriot Embassy to the U.S.; Emanuel L. Rouvelas, partner, K&L Gates; Brian Kelleher, general manager, Capital Hilton; and Konstantinos Georgiadis, general manager, Amphitrion Holidays.

The following day the students received a briefing by Nicholas Karambelas, Esq., AHI volunteer legal counsel and partner, Sfikas & Karambelas LLP and met Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Harris Lalacos for a briefing at the Embassy of Greece and Cypriot Charge d’affairs to the U.S. Andreas Nikolaides for a briefing at the Embassy of Cyprus. In the afternoon, they received a briefing by John Sitilides, Eastern Mediterranean geostrategic expert.

On June 21, they had briefings from legislators and diplomats. In the morning, the students met with Diviya Sharma, Cyprus desk officer and Angela Gemza, Public Diplomacy desk officer for a briefing at the State Department. In the afternoon, they received briefings by Ambassador Patrick Theros, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, and Paul Glastris, editor, Washington Monthly. Next, they visited the U.S. Capitol for a tour and learned about the latest developments on Capitol Hill pertaining to Greek American issues. They were briefed by staffs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, Shayne Woods, legislative assistant, office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Christina Parisi, legislative director, office of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In the evening, they also received a private tour of the West Wing of the White House.

Itinerary Features Meetings with Presidents, Tour of Defense Facilities
During the two-week program in Greece and Cyprus, the students will receive firsthand experience about the foreign policy issues affecting Greece and Cyprus, their relations with the U.S., and the interests of the U.S. in the region. There will be meetings or briefings with American embassies, the heads of state for Greece and Cyprus, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and President Nicos Anastasiades, respectively; officials from various ministries, including Foreign Affairs; parliament members, religious leaders, think-tank organizations, and members of academia and the private sector of both countries.   In Cyprus, the group will visit the Turkish-occupied area and receive a defense briefing.  In Greece, the students will also take a day-trip to visit Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete, where they will tour multiple defense installations, including NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI), and they will also be briefed.

Participant Bios

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Vanessa Balis, an Honors Scholar and Media Fellow at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, is a rising junior majoring in English Literature and minoring in Spanish. Vanessa is the Ruth & Philip Holton Memorial Scholarship recipient, an award given to students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service. At DePauw University, Vanessa is involved with Delta Gamma sorority, is an ambassador for the DePauw Office of Admissions and is an anchor and a behind the scenes director at the college’s television station, D3TV. In the summer of 2017, Vanessa worked in Manhattan as a casting and production intern for Back Roads Entertainment which helped her realize the interaction between media and politics and how strongly they are intertwined. This experience inspired her to pursue courses in political science at DePauw. “Through the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip, I hope to learn more about U.S. foreign policy with Greece and cooperative approach to conflict resolution. I hope this program will provide me with the tools to pursue a career in foreign relations and to advocate for the rights of those without a voice,” she said. After graduation, Vanessa intends to attend law school and eventually work on Capitol Hill. In the summer of 2018, she will intern at Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s (D-IL) office in Chicago.


Flora Boardman, a rising sophomore at Fordham University, is majoring in Political Science with a double minor in Orthodox Christian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. Flora is a recipient of the Fordham University Loyola Scholarship. At Fordham, Flora is involved with the school newspaper, the Campus Activities Board, The Hellenic Society, UNICEF and Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Flora is very involved with her Greek community, she teaches Greek dance and is a member of the church choir. In addition, Flora spent 2016 working with IOCC as a youth representative, and spent the summer of 2017 studying abroad in Athens through AHEPA Journey to Greece. She also attended AHEPAcademy in 2016 at George Mason University. Flora has a great passion for her heritage, “I hope through the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip I can bring together my enthusiasm for the Greek culture and my love for foreign policy.” Flora’s ultimate goal is to become an advocate for Greece and Orthodox communities throughout the world who are being persecuted.

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Adonis Caramintzos is a rising junior at Hunter College, City University of New York where he is pursuing dual majors in Economics and Political Science and is concurrently pursuing a minor-certificate program in Public Policy with a focus on Economic Policy. He is a Dean’s List student, an active member of the Hunter College Pre-Law program, and is a board member in the Artemis Hellenic Society of Hunter College, where he is the acting Secretary and is tasked with organizing the monthly events for the Greek student body. Hence, given his prior experience Adonis states his purpose for this trip is to, “further understand the political, economic, and social issues facing the Greek American, Cypriot, and Greek communities, and in the process, allow it to shape his future career”. Adonis hopes this trip will “inspire” him to achieve the highest levels of success and to then use his skills to aid Greeks at home and abroad.


George Evangeloulis, a Presidential Scholar at the University of Southern California, is double majoring in Journalism and Marketing. He is a National Merit Scholar and a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success at USC. He was also chosen to be an ambassador for the Annenberg School of Communications. In the summer of 2017, he interned at Esplanade Studios, a major recording studio in New Orleans, and was an intern at the Audubon Nature Institute for five years. Fluent in Spanish and Greek, he hopes to strengthen his ties to his Greek heritage through his commitment to learning more about the country’s political history and present foreign policies. He hopes to become a broadcast journalist and focus on world politics.


Marina Kiotsekoglou attended The Pennsylvania State University for her undergraduate studies. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in International Politics within three years. Not a month after graduating from PSU Marina began her Graduate studies at The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. She currently has a year left until she obtains her Master of Arts degree in International Affairs. Marina’s concentration majors are conflict resolution and international law and organizations. During her graduate studies she has worked as an intern for Sughrue Mion PLLC, a patent law firm, and American Hellenic Institute both in Washington, DC. Marina is very passionate about the Cyprus conflict and finding an effective political solution in the region. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in an international organization such as the European Union or United Nations where she can fully utilize her knowledge of peacebuilding processes through multilateral and conference diplomacy. 

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Sophia Kyrou, a rising sophomore at Trinity College, is double-majoring in Political Science and Human Rights and minoring in French. A Faculty Honors student and an 1823 Scholar, Sophia was acknowledged by Trinity’s Dean of Student Success as an emerging leader, invited to serve on Trinity’s Scholars Advisory Board and selected for Trinity’s Catalyst Leadership Program and for Venture Trinity. Sophia spent a gap year learning about Middle East geopolitics and Mediterranean migration to Greece, interning at Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative and the GOARCH UN Office. “I am excited about the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip as a unique opportunity to learn how policymakers in Greece and Cyprus develop strategies to respond to geopolitical factors affecting both countries’ security and Euro-Atlantic position,” she said. Sophia plans a junior year abroad in Greece and France. She hopes to combine work in human rights and corporate social responsibility by pursuing an MBA.


Alexis Tsapralis is a rising junior and a Dean’s List student at Barnard College of Columbia University, where she is majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. Her passion for International Relations began at a young age with her involvement in Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation. Through Girl Up, she gained experience lobbying congressmen on Capitol Hill for girls’ education in developing countries and participated in annual summits which hosted distinguished speakers such as Kathy Calvin and Michelle Obama. On campus, Alexis is President of Hellas, Columbia’s Greek heritage club, a member of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and a Student Advisory Board member for Barnard’s Athena Scholars Program for Leadership Studies. These experiences have encouraged her to take Modern Greek language courses while at Columbia and continue to learn more about her Greek heritage. This past semester, Alexis interned at the Consulate General of Greece in New York City where she had the opportunity to more thoroughly explore her passion for Hellenic foreign affairs. Following the Foreign Policy Trip, Alexis will intern at the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, DC where she looks forward to using her knowledge gained in Greece and Cyprus to lobby for effective legislation in the U.S.

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Maria Nifakos, a Dean’s List student and rising senior at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, is majoring in Journalism and double-minoring in Sociology and Political Science. Maria is involved extensively with Emerson journalism organizations such as her college radio and television stations, where she’s written and reported on international events such as the 2015 Paris Attacks and the 2016 Brussels bombings, which have furthered her love of foreign correspondence. Maria has worked alongside reporters and journalists at one of Boston’s most renowned newspapers, the Boston Herald. There she’s assisted with new ideas for columns and helped modernize the papers digital media outlets. “Through the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip, my goal is to gain in-depth knowledge about the Hellenic and Cypriot political and economic systems. I hope this trip provides me with the platform to pursue my career goal of becoming an international correspondent for issues surrounding Greece and Cyprus.” Upon graduating, Maria plans on working within the Greek community in Boston.


Alexander Velis is a rising sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Gies College of Business studying Accountancy and Finance. On campus, he is an active member of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and Hellenic American Student Organization. He also co-hosted Take It Away, a weekly radio talk show on WPGU 107.1 FM. In addition, he is a new member of the Professional Business Fraternity, Phi Chi Theta, which has helped him develop professionally through networking events with corporate sponsors, case competitions, and public speaking exercises such as researching and presenting market trends. In high school, he was the President of Glenbrook South’s nationally renowned Debate team and president of the Hellenic Club. He also served as the Vice President of Saint Haralambos’ Senior GOYA and is currently a Supervising Altar Captain. He spent last summer as a counselor at the Metropolis of Chicago’s Fanari Camp, and as a pastoral assistant for weddings and baptisms at St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church.


Michael Zoumadakis graduated from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business in 2018, where he majored in Business Administration and a minor in Political Science. He has been involved in leadership activities throughout campus and studied Modern Greek for two years. A member of the Dionysios semi-professional Greek Folk Dance Group and the Sigma Chi Fraternity, Michael served as President of Dionysios, as well as holding several leadership positions in Sigma Chi. During the summer of 2017, Michael interned at Manatos and Manatos in Washington D.C where he worked on the International PSEKA Conference, gaining a deeper understanding of the Cyprus Conflict. On this trip, Michael hopes to apply his experiences, gain a broader understanding of the issue, and become an advocate for its resolution.