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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Peter Milios
September 7, 2017—No. 35 (202) 785-8430

Ninth Annual AHIF Foreign Policy Trip to Greece, Cyprus a Success

Students Gain Firsthand Experience about Eastern Mediterranean Region

The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus completed its ninth year as ten students from across the United States participated in the two-week program held June 21 to July 7, 2017. 

The student participants were: Elizabeth Tzimopoulos Conway, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 2017 with Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Political Science; Christopher Coombs, who graduated from the University of Utah as a double major in History and Political Science and is currently attending Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts to pursue a Masters in Divinity; Giana Damianos, a Dean’s List student at Indiana University who is majoring in Economics and Political Science and minoring in Psychology;Theofilos Koulianos, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hampden-Sydney College with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Economics and Business. He currently is in graduate school at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business pursuing a Masters of Management Studies, and he will be studying in Shanghai beginning in January 2018; Theodore Pedas, a sophomore at Yale University who is a prospective Global Affairs major with a concentration in International Security; Stavros Piperis, who is a junior at Boston College studying Political Science and is a member of the department's Honors Program; Nico Bamberger Priskos, a 2017 graduate from the University of Utah where he double majored in Entrepreneurship and Political Science, along with a minor in International Studies; Paraskevie Ramfos, a sophomore and honors student at the University of Alabama, majoring in International Studies and minoring in French and Public Policy Studies;Stephanie Tanzi, an honors student at the College of Charleston, who is an Arts Management major and who participates at the school's Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community program; andLuke Tassopoulos, who is a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia, currently pursuing a B.A. in History as well as a Religious Studies minor.

During the two-week program, the students received 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. Meetings or briefings were held with American embassies, officials from various foreign 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 visited the Turkish-occupied area. In Greece, the students also took a day-trip to visit Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete, where they toured the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and received a briefing.

“For the ninth consecutive year, the trip has provided a wonderful opportunity to lead an exceptional group of students to Cyprus and Greece,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “It was rewarding to see them gain firsthand experience about the foreign policy issues that concern U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus. The AHI Foundation looks forward to offering this program annually as support for it has grown and student interest remains at significant levels since the program’s inception.”

Washington, DC: Diplomats, Legislators Brief Students

Prior to their departure for Cyprus, the students gathered for briefings in Washington, June 21-22.

On June 21, the students assembled at AHI’s Hellenic House in Washington for a briefing by President Larigakis and AHI Legal Counsel Nick Karambelas, Esq., partner, Sfikas & Karamebelas LLP. In the afternoon, they received briefings on the policy issues from top legislators on Capitol Hill and diplomats at the U.S Department of State. They learned about the latest on Capitol Hill pertaining to Greek American issues from the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). The students also visited the State Department to meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen and Larina Konold, Cyprus desk officer. In the evening, they received a tour of the West Wing of the White House.

A full day of briefings with additional diplomats occurred June 22. In the morning, the students met with Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Leonidas Pantelidis at the Embassy of Cyprus. Following, they visited the Embassy of Greece to receive briefings from: Alexios Mitsopoulos, first counselor for Political Affairs; Fani Lenou, first secretary for Economic and Commercial Affairs; and Captain Panagiotis Papanikolaou, Naval Attaché.  In the afternoon, the students were briefed by Ambassador Tom Miller, former U.S. ambassador to Greece, Ambassador Patrick Theros, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar; Paul Glastris, editor, Washington Monthly; and John Sitilides, an expert on the eastern Mediterranean and its geostrategic importance. In the evening, the students were hosted for dinner at Metro 29, owned by AHI Board Member Peter Bota.

 

Cyprus

The delegation arrived in Nicosia, Cyprus on June 24. During their five-day stay, the students met with several high-level government officials including: Cypriot Government Spokesman NicosChristodoulides, Greek Cypriot Chief Negotiator for the Cyprus Problem Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis, Commissioner to the Presidency for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots FotisFotiou, and President of the House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris. In addition, the students had an audience with American Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus Kathleen Doherty and members of her staff at the American Embassy, June 26.

With energy finds in the eastern Mediterranean playing a pivotal geostrategic role, the students received a timely energy briefing with Ambassador George Zodiatis, director of Energy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Energy Sector Director Dr. Stelios Nikolaides, and Evi Neophytou, Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, June 26. In addition, the students toured Stavrovouni Special Forces Camp and were hosted for dinner at the Officers’ Club in the evening by Lt. Gen. Elias Leontaris, chief, National Guard General Staff.

In addition, Lt. Gen. Leontaris briefed the students on defense matters, and hosted them for lunch, June 27. The day also provided the students with an audience with His Beatitude Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II at the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus where they also visited Archbishop Makarios’ room. The students paid their respects at Tymvos Cemetery and Kolokassides Military Post prior to departing in the afternoon for a visit to Turkish-occupied Cyprus.

Visit to Turkish-occupied Cyprus

One of the most eye-opening portions of the trip to Cyprus was the visit to the Turkish-occupied area. The students described their crossing over into the occupied area as entering a different world. They observed a strong, undeniable Turkish presence in the occupied area. Monuments to Turkish nationalism, culminating in two giant flags on the side of the Pentadaktylos Mountains, a Turkish flag and the “flag” of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” marked the landscape. They serve as constant reminders of the injustice of the occupations and filled the students with a range of emotions.

While in the occupied area the students visited a desecrated Orthodox Church. The church was decrepit, filled with pigeon droppings, broken windows, and ruined icons. They also witnessed desecrated and looted Orthodox cemeteries.

Furthermore, the itinerary included a visit to the ghost city of Famagusta. They left knowing that what was once a busting port city is now a haunting testament to the realities of the Turkish occupation. They were shocked to see brand new resorts juxtaposed against abandoned, dilapidated properties once belonging to Greek Cypriots.

“Foreign policy came to life as we explored pressing issues facing the Republic of Cyprus and Greece,” Participant Elizabeth Tzimopoulos Conway said. “It is one thing to read about foreign policy in a textbook or newspaper, yet another thing entirely to watch it unfold before your eyes. In Cyprus, we witnessed firsthand the consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974—desecrated Greek Orthodox Churches, pillaged villages, and the abandoned ghost city of Famagusta. Despite the invasion and its devastating effects, however, we witnessed a nation that wishes to be known for more than just the Turkish conflict.”

On June 28, Commissioner Fotiou and Xenophon Kallis, director of Service for Missing Persons, briefed the students prior to Commissioner Fotiou sponsoring a lunch for them that Thalia P. Antoniou and Andri Trichina hosted. The day began with the students touring Old Nicosia Airport. UNFICYP Major Robert Schutz provided the tour. For the students, visiting the old Nicosia airport brought the Turkish invasion of the island to life. The students made the observation that the airport, which was once a hub of travel and a monument to the modernity and prosperity of Cyprus, is now wrought with bullet holes, barbed wire, and crumbling walls. It stands as a decrepit monument to the horror of the Turkish invasion.

Also on June 28, the students received a presentation on Cyprus history provided by Titina Loizidou. In the evening, they enjoyed dinner sponsored by Sophie Michaelides, director, Press and Information Office, and Melina Demetriou, press and information officer.

On their first full day in Cyprus, the students enjoyed a day at Agia Napa beach.

Overall, the Cyprus journey provided the students with a lasting impression about the Cyprus issue. Their visit to the island was both informational and inspirational, informing the students about the different facets that make up Cypriot foreign policy and showing them the devastating effects of the illegal military occupation by Turkey since 1974.

Greece

After an enlightening trip to Cyprus, the students embarked for an eight-day visit to Greece.

On their first day in Athens, June 29, the students hit the ground running with a briefing provided by Eleni Tsekoura, director, A7 Department for North America, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also received a guided tour of the Acropolis Museum and were hosted for dinner by Michalis Kokkinos, head of the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Students Meet Greece’s President, PM, U.S. Ambassador; Tour Parliament

The students were excited to have an audience with President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the Presidential Palace on July 3—a definite highlight of the itinerary in Athens. During the hour-long meeting, President Pavlopoulos wished the students success in their studies and engaged in a Q&A discussion where he stressed his views about the importance of U.S.-Greece relations. The students were honored to meet the president and appreciated the generous amount of time he afforded them.

Furthermore, the students met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the prime minister’s Deputy Head of Diplomatic Office Eleni Porichi on July 6. They also met with U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt at the Ambassador’s residence that day. The students received a guided tour of Hellenic Parliament on June 30. There, they met members of Parliament who comprise the Greece-U.S. Friendship Group: Evangelia Karakosta, Ioannis Tragakis, Andreas Michailidis and Ioannis Kefalogiannis; and they met with Member of Parliament Dimitrios Sevastakis, chairman, Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs. Also, on July 5, the students met with President of New Democracy party Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Students Receive Tour of NSA Souda Bay, Crete

The students departed on a day-trip to visit Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete, July 4. Upon their arrival, they were welcomed by Captain Stylianos Papadakis, H.N., director of Command Directorate of Souda Naval Base. They also toured: the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and received a briefing from its commander, Brigadier General Anastasios Gkoumas; and the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC) and received a briefing from its commander, Commodore Georgios Tsogkas. The students also received a briefing at the 115thCombat Wing by Col. Ioannis Birbilis, Hellenic Air Force. The students were treated to lunch hosted by the NAMFI’s Officers’ Club.

“A special thanks to Brigadier General Angelos Choudeloudis and Nora Spiliotopoulou for their support and assistance that helped to make our visit to Souda Bay a productive and educational one,”Larigakis said. “They really went above and beyond the call to ensure the students had a memorable visit.”

The students continued to learn about Greece’s defense and military capabilities with a briefing they received from Lt. Col. Christos Anastasiadis, deputy director, Public Relations Directorate, Hellenic National Defense; and a meeting with Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chief, Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense (essentially Greece’s Pentagon), June 30. They also received a defense policy briefing and presentation, along with a visit to the ministry’s Operations Center, led by Brigadier General Theodoros Lagios.  

On their last day, July 6, the students arrived at Salamis for a Greek Naval Fleet Headquarters presentation, including a visit to a Greek naval frigate and submarine. They met with Commander in Chief of the Hellenic Fleet Vice Admiral Ioannis Pavlopoulos, H.N. A tour of the H.S. Psaras, a frigate, was provided by Lieutenant Commander Dimitris Bogiatzis. Commander Michael Labiris, H.S.Papanicolis, provided a tour of the submarine.

Students Meet Ministry Officials 

The students met with Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura, July 5. Briefings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs resumed July 3, highlighted by meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Terens Quick, Head of General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad Michael Kokkinos, and Director for North America Ambassador Dimitri Alexandrakis. Meetings continued with: Eleni Lianidou, deputy director, A7 North America; Ambassador Nikolaos Garilidis, A4 Directorate for Turkey; Ambassador Sophia Grammata, A3 Directorate for the Balkans; and Ambassador Giorgos Dimitriadis, A2 Directorate for Cyprus.

Additional Highlights

During their Athens stay, with the students met with the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) Director General Dr. Thanos Dokos, who discussed foreign policy and contemporary issues facing Greece with the students, June 30. Captain Panagiotis Tsakos hosted a luncheon and tour of Tsakos facilities, July 5.

The busy Greece itinerary did allow for some downtime and relaxation for the students, who enjoyed an all-day boat outing compliments of Katerina Pangopoulos, an AHI supporter, July 2. That evening, AHI Member George Mermelas sponsored a dinner for the students at Myrtia restaurant in Nea Smyrni. An enjoyable time was also had when the group toured Karaiskakis Stadium, home ofOlympiacos F.C., June 30, which was sponsored by Olympiacos President Evangelos Marinakis. They also sponsored dinner that evening at the exclusive Vammos restaurant. Domenicos Masoulas, director, Olympiacos Corporate Social Responsibility, represented the sponsors.

“We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Marinakis and his staff for a private tour of Olympiacos Museum and the stadium,” Larigakis said. “He granted our students exclusive access to the entire complex, opening it up for their sole enjoyment, including the exquisite Vammos restaurant. Again, the students received a truly memorable experience.”

Students were also guests at U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt’s residence for the U.S. Embassy’s Independence Day Reception, July 3. In addition, Dimitri Contominas hosted the students for dinner at the fine dining landmark Athenian restaurant, Aegli, July 1; Tim Ananiades, general manager, Grande Bretagne Hotel, hosted the students for a reception, July 5; and AHI-Athens President GeorgeEconomou hosted them for dinner later that evening at the Athens Club.   

The trip concluded with a farewell dinner hosted by the American Hellenic Institute Foundation at the Grande Bretagne. Many of the officials with whom the students met and AHI supporters attended the dinner. Each student gave a speech about his or her experience. The students’ statements differed, but there was a common thread of gratitude to all of the AHI Foundation supporters. All of the students described their experiences on the foreign policy trip as educational and life changing.

“We are extremely grateful to all of our sponsors, both in Cyprus and in Greece, for their generous hospitality and for helping to make the students’ trip a memorable one,” Larigakis said. “Their selfless contributions to the AHI Foundation program are invaluable.” 


 

Student Testimonials and Reflections…In their own words…

2017conwayThe American Hellenic Institute Foundation Foreign Policy Program is an unparalleled experience. Foreign policy came to life as we explored pressing issues facing the Republic of Cyprus and Greece. It is one thing to read about foreign policy in a textbook or newspaper, yet another thing entirely to watch it unfold before your eyes. In Cyprus, we witnessed firsthand the consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974—desecrated Greek Orthodox Churches, pillaged villages, and the abandoned ghost city of Famagusta. Despite the invasion and its devastating effects, however, we witnessed a nation that wishes to be known for more than just the Turkish conflict. “We need to change the brand name of Cyprus,” Government Spokesman Christodoulides told us. Cyprus, he said, is a “predictable, stable, and reliable” country that is working with the United States to combat terrorism, enhance security and military efforts in the Mediterranean and Middle East, and to explore energy development.

Throughout the program, we engaged with perspectives of all kinds—politicians, policymakers, foreign service officers, non-profit activists, military personnel, and legal experts. But the prevailing message was clear: the geopolitical significance of Cyprus and Greece is indisputable. Both countries serve as bridges between the East and West, at the crossroads between three continents, as “anchors of democracy” in the Mediterranean, and as links to the Muslim world. The AHIF trip has offered me a new appreciation for the paramount value of a fair and equitable solution in the Republic of Cyprus based on the rule of law, and for the importance of continued advocacy for lasting peace and prosperity in Cyprus and Greece.

Elizabeth Tzimopoulos Conway graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 2017 with Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in political science. Recently she joined Deloitte's federal advisory team in Washington, D.C.

 

2017coombsOf all the various government internships and volunteer opportunities I have completed as an undergraduate, the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip stands out. It was a special experience to be able to reconnect with the land of my ancestors and to learn about the role of Greece and Cyprus in the contemporary world as well as their challenges and opportunities. It was also a great honor to be able to attend meetings and tour the region as a proud American citizen. Greek culture and history is important to Americans of Hellenic descent because it has formulated us into the productive and loyal citizens we are. It is for this reason that Americans of Hellenic descent must strive to maintain some sort of connection to their homeland, all the while acting to solidify closer ties between the United States, Greece, and Cyprus. The greatest impression I received on the AHIF Foreign Policy trip was the invaluable aspect of developing and maintaining relationships. Never before have I been afforded a remotely similar chance to interact with military, political, business, and cultural leaders of two entirely different countries. The most important elements surrounding successful diplomatic visits and discussions is cooperation. In any given scenario, both sides need to be able to communicate with one another in order for the door of prosperity and peace to open.

Christopher Coombs is a graduate from the University of Utah with a double major in History and Political Science. Chris currently moved to Brookline, Massachusetts to attend Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology to pursue a Masters in Divinity.

 

2017damianosHaving the opportunity to participate in the AHIF Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus has been an experience of a lifetime. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see places and meet people I probably would have never otherwise had the chance to. I learned a great deal from witnessing and speaking directly to people who handle large-scale issues such as foreign policy, international relations, or national security. While I have been to Greece before, this trip gave me a completely different perspective of the country, allowing me to see it from a more objective viewpoint and better understand the country beyond what is seen on the surface of beauty and culture. Furthermore, I had never been to Cyprus and prior to the trip was very unfamiliar with what life is like there, the country’s geostrategic value, and even the Cyprus issue. I did not know what to expect when going there, especially regarding the Turkish occupied area, but by the end of the trip realized how significant it was to learn about. Not very many people actually know much about the Cyprus issue, if at all, so I am grateful that this trip has equipped me with the knowledge and first-hand experience to speak about it as an advocate and create awareness for something more people ought to be familiar with. Because of this program, I feel more confident and empowered as a student invested in these topics, as a young adult on a path to a professional career in a similar field, and as an American of Hellenic descent who can speak out about these foreign policy issues. -

—Giana Damianos, a Dean’s List student at Indiana University, is majoring in Economics and Political Science and minoring in Psychology. Giana is a junior and has been named a 2017 award recipient by the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation.

 

2017koulianosI have traveled to Greece many times, but the two weeks spent on the AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip to Greece and Cyprus were my most impactful and memorable experiences in Greece. As an economics and business major in college, I was not exposed to learning the issues affecting Greece or the Republic of Cyprus. Much of what I knew came from news articles and discussions with family living in Greece. The AHIF Foreign Policy College Student Trip offers a unique opportunity for Americans of Hellenic descent to see Greece and Cyprus from a completely different and rewarding perspective. AHI provided unrivaled access to top officials in the Greek and Cypriot governments, and it was transformative to witness the treacherous wrongs that are continually committed in the illegal Turkish occupied area. I now am equipped with the ability to speak intelligently on these issues in any setting. I plan to use the perspective gained from this trip to advocate for my Hellenic heritage and inform friends and fellow Greek-Americans about the present situation in Greece and Cyprus.

Theofilos Koulianos graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hampden-Sydney College with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Economics and Business. He currently is in graduate school at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business pursuing a Masters of Management Studies and he will be studying in Shanghai beginning in January 2018.

 

2017pedasThe AHIF Foreign Policy Trip has certainly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. It has dramatically shifted how I view Greece: rather than just a vacation destination or place to visit family, I now also view it as a key geostrategic player with much potential for further engagement with the United States. However, the experience itself went far beyond my increased knowledge of policy. The trip provided a unique degree of access in our meetings and tours. People who live incredibly busy lives, in immensely specialized fields, allowed us firsthand glimpses into their worlds. Because of this closeness, there were striking moments, such as seeing a live Turkish violation of Greek airspace when at the Ministry of Defense in Athens, talking to a pilot at Souda Bay who had just the day before engaged in a dogfight, or seeing the bones of the missing people from the invasion in a lab in Cyprus. These in the moment experiences provide a certain power that one cannot get from an article or briefing, and thus I know they will live with me and be at the forefront of my mind when thinking of Greece and Cyprus.

Theodore Pedas, a sophomore at Yale University, is a prospective Global Affairs major with a concentration in International Security.

 

2017piperisThe trip was jam-packed with real-life contact with the people and institutions that steer American, Greek and Cypriot politics. As a student of both politics and history, the value of our days in Washington, D.C. and the eastern Mediterranean is indescribable. Sitting down and conversing with the officials who bear the responsibility of governance in three different nations, as well as seeing the pieces in action myself, was a huge gift. I would call the AHIF trip a must for anyone concerned with international politics; and for those of Hellenic descent, I would insist on applying even more.

Stavros Piperis, a junior at Boston College, is studying Political Science and is a member of the department's Honors Program.

 

2017priskosThe AHIF College Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus was an unforgettable and transformative experience that has inspired and moved me to act as an advocate for issues related to Cyprus and my ancestors home of Greece. Before this trip, Hellenism already has a deep and profound place in my heart. This incredible opportunity to combine Hellenism and a new-found passion of politics and policy was thought provoking and enlightening.

After this trip, I know feel the accountability as an American of Hellenic descent to fight for the removal of the Turkish troops in Cyprus, the religious freedom of the Christians and the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, promoting Greece’s geostrategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean, protecting the Aegean Sea boundary, and other issues that are important to the well- being of Greece and the United States of America.

I am forever grateful to the American Hellenic Institute for expanding my knowledge on the issues and allowing me to partake in a once in a lifetime trip which allowed us to meet with a vast majority of movers and shakers in both Cyprus and Greece. A passion for Hellenism and a sense of Philotimo is what is needed to solve these tough problems.”

—Nico Bamberger Priskos, graduated from the University of Utah in 2017, where he double majored in Entrepreneurship and Political Science, along with a minor in International Studies.

 

2017ramfosI am proud Greek American; plain and simple. The cultural values, morals and standards are embedded in my soul and have shaped me as a person. It is my heritage, ethnic background, family history; however, it’s phrased, it is a huge part of my life. Since a young age my parents taught me Philotimo. Philotimo is a Greek word that doesn’t exactly translate into one specific English word. It roughly translates into words such as duty, courage, generosity, empathy, humility, humbleness, kindness, respect and honesty. It is about making personal sacrifices, taking pride in our work, rising above trivial matters, and it is beyond our own self-interests. Philotimo is about devotion to family, friends, community, and a strong desire to give back. These personal principles of mine are intertwined into almost every aspect of my life.

Going on this trip has only amplified what I already know; Greeks are disciplined hard workers that have a dedication to bettering Greece and protecting the front lines against terror. They teach us that doing the right thing is not about recognizing the glory and honor of the action, but it’s about the glory and honor within ourselves. Every encounter in life leaves an impression of who you are and what you value. My faith, judgements, and volunteer work keep me humble and grateful for the life I have. Most of all I’m thankful that I’m Greek American and that the culture gives me strength of character to not be selfish but selfless.

Paraskevie Ramfos is a sophomore and an honors student at the University of Alabama majoring in International Studies and minoring in French and Public Policy Studies.

 

2017tanziWhen I first discovered I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the American Hellenic Institute Foreign Policy trip I was unsure what to expect. Not only had I never been to either Greece or Cyprus, but I also had never studied foreign policy or global affairs to such a capacity. While having this trip be my first time I visited either of these countries set my experience apart from those of my peers I believe that it was to my benefit. I say this because often times beautiful countries such as Greece and Cyprus, with their gorgeous beaches and magnificent tourist spots are seen as just that, vacation areas. While these attractions are part of what contributes to the overall beauty of these places, I have noticed that they can also blind people, myself included, from seeing them as actual countries. Instead they are viewed either as vacation spots or purely as government entities that occasionally make their way into U.S. headlines; neither of which do them justice. However, after attending this trip I now feel like my view of both Greece and Cyprus is a more realistic one, and intend to pass on the knowledge I have learned to my peers in the U.S. so that they may have the same cultural awakening that I did.

—Stephanie Tanzian honors student at the College of Charleston is an Art's Management major who is part of her school's Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community program.

 

2017tassopoulosI am extremely grateful to the American Hellenic Institute and Mr. Nick Larigakis for putting this trip into place as an opportunity for me to grow and learn about the geostrategic importance of Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The access offered by this program is a once in a lifetime experience. The people with whom we met are the real policy makers and actors. Their personal experiences bring the legality of the facts on the ground into stark relief. I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend this program and have my knowledge of Greece and Cyprus extendbeyond that of the mere tourist.

Luke Tassopoulos is a fourth year at the University of Virginia, currently pursuing a B.A. in History as well as a Religious Studies minor from the College of Arts and Sciences. He also starts on his first year of a two year Accelerated Masters Program in Public Policy from the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

 

 

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For additional information, please contact Peter Milios at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected] For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.