Students receive firsthand foreign policy experience about the region from experts
The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus begins its eleventh year as students from across the United States gathered for briefings in Washington, June 18 to 20, 2019, prior to departing for Cyprus. The two-week program concludes July 5, 2019, when the students return from Athens.
“For the eleventh consecutive year, the AHI Foundation is proud to present this invaluable opportunity for the community’s next generation of leaders,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The 2019 program promises to be beneficial for our participants 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. With developments in the region occurring at a rapid pace, they will be immersed from the get-go, starting with briefings in Washington to high-level meetings with government officials abroad.”
On June 18, the students assembled at AHI’s Hellenic House for briefings by AHI President Nick Larigakis and Nicholas Karambelas, Esq., AHI volunteer legal counsel, and partner, Sfikas & Karambelas LLP,before enjoying a reception. During the evening, the students toured the West Wing of the White House.
On June 19, the students were briefed by diplomats representing Greece and Cyprus. At the Embassy of Greece, Second Counselor Christina Vasilatou provided a briefing and Ambassador Haris Lalacos greeted the students. At the Embassy of Cyprus Ambassador Marios Lyssiotis addressed the students. They also learned about the important role the media plays during a presentation by Paul Glastris, editor, Washington Monthly. In the evening, the students took in a Washington Nationals versus Philadelphia Phillies ballgame at National Park.
On June 20, the participants learned about the latest developments on Capitol Hill pertaining to Greek American issues from the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). They also received a briefing from State Department officials who work day-to-day on Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey issues in Yuri Kim, director, Office of Southern European Affairs, and Emily Stoll, Greece desk officer, In the afternoon, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller and Eric Fusfield, deputy director, B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, each spoke to the student group.
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, 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 Greece, the students will also take a daytrip to visit Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete, where they will tour the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and receive a briefing.
Alexandra Choate is a senior at Queens University of Charlotte pursuing a Political Science undergraduate degree. She is a first-generation college student and a first-generation American. Alexandrawas the 2016 recipient of the Byrum Scholarship at Queens, as well as the John Belk Scholarship for international programs. She has been on the Deans List for three consecutive years. Alexandraserves as the president of Phi Mu Gamma Gamma fraternity; she is also president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society, and a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the most prestigious Honor Society in America. During the 2019 Spring semester, she traveled to Washington, DC. for the annual Model Organization of American States as a head delegate for her university. During the 2019 summer semester, she completed a study abroad program in Greece, with a focus on Greek culture and lifestyle as it relates to psychology and history. In her free time,Alexandrahelps coach interfaith basketball for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and competes in Hellenic dance with the Holy Trinity Young Adult Team, Genesis. In the summer of 2018, Alexandrainterned at the American Hellenic Institute. “I am beyond excited for the AHI trip. Working at AHI was the best thing to happen to me; it helped cement my desire to work in politics to assist Greece in the international political sphere. I hope, more than anything, to garner a deeper understanding of the actions needed by Greek Americans in efforts to liberate an occupied Cyprus and push for recognition of Greek genocide in 1923,” she said.
Vasili Ioannidisis a rising junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan majoring in Economics with a minor in Modern Greek Language and Culture. He is a dedicated student focused on international political economy and a recipient of the University Honors academic achievement award at the University of Michigan. Along with his studies, Vasili is an active member of the campus community. He is an executive board member for the University of Michigan Hellenic Student Association, and the Vice President of Finance for the M-Economics student organization. Additionally, Vasili serves as an undergraduate research assistant for a graduate student in LSA Sociology focusing on Inequality in Welfare and Taxation between US States. Vasili hopes to use the experiences from this trip to continue to learn about the current political and economic climate in Greece and connect it to his studies in economics.
George P. Limperisis a sophomore who will begin his studies in Business at the Hult International Business School, in the United Kingdom next fall. George Co-founded an organization (Party-withapurpose) that partners with the Hippocratic Cancer Research Foundation and Bear Necessities aligned with Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University to further the research and development for cancer treatment affecting children. In 2018, George interned for the campaigns of Garry McCarthy for Mayor of Chicago and Bruce Rauner for Governor of Illinois. In 2019, he also interned at the office of US Representative Darin LaHood (R-IL 18th District). George has gained a deep appreciation and understanding of international issues from his peers and professors at the British International School of Chicago and Dominican University. He is very involved in the Greek community, and since 2016 has sung the Greek and American national anthems at the annual Greek Independence Day Parade and the raising of the Greek flag the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago organized by the ENOSIS Federation of Illinois. In the future, he hopes to work with British, U.S. and Greek lawmakers to return the ancient Greek artefacts to Athens. He is fluent in Greek, English, and French and proficient in Korean, Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic. George looks forward to the opportunity to have a broader understanding of US-Greek-Cyprus relations through the AHIF student trip to Greece and Cyprus.
Emily Pandis, is a graduate of The Ohio State University, triple majored in International Relations and Diplomacy, Islamic Studies and Modern Greek with a minor in History. Her interest in International Relations was sparked after attending an international school in Athens, Greece and creating friendships with her classmates whose parents were ambassadors, diplomats or foreign nationals posted in Greece. After interning at the Greek Embassy in London in the office of the Police Liaison, Emily wanted to take this experience and find a way to use the new knowledge in the context of her Greek and American roots. This lead her to a Modern Greek major where she has been able to negotiate the Greek language and culture, but also explore Greece’s diplomatic relationship with the United States and other countries. Emily is currently a Greek School teacher, runs the CLLC Modern Greek Radio website for Ohio State, and has served as a Greek/English translator in a deposition. She hopes to use the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip as an opportunity to put her academic knowledge to practice and gain a deeper understanding of American, Greek and Cypriot foreign policies. Starting in the Fall, Emily will be attending American University to pursue her MA in Global Governance, Politics and Security.
Apostolos Siopsisis a sophomore at the George Washington University where he was awarded the Tuition Exchange Scholarship offered to only four applicants per year. Currently, he studies economics with minors in political science and statistics in the honors college. Apostolos engages not only in his academics, but also in the preservation of his Greek heritage through dance and language. He is involved with the Byzantio Dance Troupe where he learns traditional Greek dance and mentors children, inspiring the same passion for the culture that he carries himself. This zeal for his culture also translates into dedication to learning about the political pressures present in Greece. Through this trip, he hopes to deepen his knowledge of Greece’s political past and present while also preparing himself for a career in international economic policy.
Basiliki Speros, a 2018-2019 EOK Hellenic Women’s Scholarship Recipient, is BA-MA candidate in International Relations and Business at New York University. She is an Associate at China Beige Book, where she utilizes her advanced Mandarin and country risk analysis training to examine shifts in China’s economy. She spent two semesters abroad at Temple University Japan in Tokyo and NYU Shanghai to improve her Japanese and Mandarin, respectively, and to take advanced courses on the politics of the Asia-Pacific region. As a former intern at the Greek Orthodox Mission at the United Nations, she gained a foundational understanding and interest in Greece’s role as a nation at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean at large. Her masters’ thesis centers on China’s long-term interests in Greece amidst growing investment and political cooperation. She hopes to leverage her experience on the Foreign Policy Trip to enhance her research on Greece’s economy and prepare for her application to become an economic diplomat in the State Department.
Demosthenes Theofanopoulosis a junior at Fordham University studying Classical Civilization and minoring in Orthodox Christianity. He is also on the pre-medical track. In the summer of 2018, he interned under Dr. Harvey Pass at the Translational Oncology Lab at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. There, he conducted several lab experiments such as the ELISA test and gained both laboratory and administrative experience. He is a member of the Fordham University chapter of the Hellenic Society, and of the newly formed Classics Club. He hopes to strengthen his connection to his Greek heritage by learning about the contemporary political life of Greece.
John Tsaousisis a junior pursuing a Civil and Infrastructure Engineering degree at George Mason University located in Fairfax, VA. Born and raised in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area with strong family roots in Greece and Cyprus. John has consistently demonstrated good character and has a strong work ethic. He has worked hard to get to this point in his life and never takes things for granted. He sets goals in life and charts a path to achieve them. He has an outstanding record of academic and extracurricular achievement throughout his college career thus far. In addition to academics, John is an accomplished and devoted athlete and plays an active role in college sports. His Greek heritage is a very important part of his life and John remains very active in the community and his parish of Saint Katherine.
Konstantinos Tsarouchisis a junior at American University pursing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration on political theory. He will also obtain a degree in Advanced Leadership Studies through the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program. In that program, he is developing leadership skills such as logistical planning and adaptive leadership through the creation of research projects designed to help alleviate public policy issues. He discovered his passion for European when he took a comparative politics class that covered the major issues in Great Britain, France, and Germany. This course sparked his curiosity of European politics, which led him to an AHI internship in the summer of 2019 to learn more about the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. In the summer of 2018, he interned for Bob Casey (D-PA) and in 2016 for the Pennsylvania State Representative Campaign of Elaine Schaefer. He was a member of GOYA, St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, PA where he went to Greek school for eight years and served as an altar boy. This strengthened his passion for Hellenic studies and sparked his interest in Cyprus and Macedonia. He looks forward to the AHI foreign policy trip to possibly further a career in European and Hellenic affairs and solidify his passion to pursue a degree in international law while also applying the skills he learned in the leadership program.
Sophia Yphantides is a sophomore at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she plans to major in International Politics with a concentration in International Law, Institutions, and Ethics. In high school, Sophia rowed competitively at the San Diego Rowing Club, traveling, competing, and medaling in world renown regattas including the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts. She was recruited to row Division I at Georgetown University in which she actively fulfills her commitment about 25 hours weekly. Besides athletics at Georgetown, Sophia has been involved in Chi Alpha, an affiliated Protestant Ministry on campus, where she has been invited to step up into a leadership role beginning fall 2019. Studying Mandarin, Greek, French, Spanish, Latin and Arabic as well as traveling internationally to Mexico, Russia, and Israel have fueled Sophia’s interest in international relations. Sophia hopes to use the knowledge and experience gained from the Foreign Policy Trip to bolster her understanding of world affairs as she pursues her passion for international affairs through the U.S. State Department.