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AHIF’s Foreign Policy Students Embark for Greece, Cyprus
June 21, 2013—No. 40 (202) 785-8430

AHIF’s Foreign Policy Students Embark for Greece, Cyprus

Students Receive First-hand Foreign Policy Experience about the Region from Experts

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus begins its fifth year as students from across the United States gathered for briefings in Washington before departing for Cyprus on June 21, 2013. The two-week program concludes July 5, 2013, when the students return from Athens.

“We are excited for this year’s program,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “We are extremely pleased that we are able to offer this opportunity to future Greek American leaders. This bright and talented group of students displays a strong desire to learn about foreign policy issues that are important to the Greek American community. The AHI Foundation strives to promote a better understanding of our issues to help strengthen U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus and one way to do so it by providing an educational experience for the youth.”

On Wednesday, June 19, the students assembled at AHI’s Hellenic House in Washington for a briefing by AHI President Nick Larigakis and AHI Legal Counsel and Board of Directors Secretary Nick Karambelas.  At the U.S. Department of State, Senior Cyprus Desk Officer Lindsay Coffey and Senior Greece Desk Officer Davida Baxter also briefed the students.

A full day of briefings for the students from top legislators and diplomats on the issues were held on Thursday, June 20.  In the morning, the students 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). Turning to the diplomatic side of policy issues, the students received briefings from Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos, ambassador of Greece to the U.S., at the Embassy of Greece; Consul of Cyprus Neophytos Constantinou at the Embassy of Cyprus, and former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Tom Korologos. In addition, Thalia Assuras, former CBS News correspondent and Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly, provided a media training presentation to the students.

During the two-week program, the students will receive first-hand 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 Cyprus, the group will visit the Turkish-occupied area.

The group departed for Cyprus on June 21.

Student Participants

Alexcia ChambersAlexcia Chambers is studying International Relations with a Hispanic Studies minor at The College of William & Mary. Alexcia has held regular internships at WTOP, a top-rated news-radio station in Washington, D.C., under the mentorship of the national security correspondent. In addition to being a participant on the AHI Foreign Policy Trip this summer, Alexcia will be studying abroad in Cadiz, Spain to research the effect of education on domestic and gender-based violence. Alexcia explains, “What I hope to gain from the AHI program is a better understanding of the interconnectedness of regional politics. This unique and very special opportunity to meet with government officials and to discuss foreign policy will allow me to ask questions that have many real-life implications.” Alexcia’s passion for languages such as Spanish, Greek, and Arabic will allow her to broaden her understanding of the international system to one day effect change in all parts of the world.

Alexandra LillyAlexandra Lilly is a rising sophomore in the honors college at the University of Georgia pursuing duel degrees in Political Science and Economics. Her future plans include attending law school. She is very involved in the Greek community, and serves on her parish leadership development committee. She formerly served as president of her parish’s Greek Orthodox Youth of America chapter. At the University of Georgia, she is a team leader for UGA HEROs, an organization benefiting children affected by AIDS. Through this trip, she hopes to gain first-hand knowledge and experience of the complex dynamics in Cyprus and Greece. By engaging in-depth with senior officials and policy leaders, she hopes to help raise awareness, open lines of communication and to help to carry the message on foreign policy resolutions in the region. She also hopes to learn more about both public and private foreign policy roles in the United States, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as experience the actual day-to-day work that is done to affect policy change.

Angeline ApostolouAngeline Apostolou is a rising junior at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., studying International Studies with a focus on Security Studies. She is minoring in French and is also studying Arabic. At Dickinson, Angeline works for the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues which is an institution that brings lecturers to campus to speak about society’s most pressing issues. Next spring, Angeline plans to study abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where she will study the French language, Cameroonian culture, and international relations in Africa. Angeline is very grateful for the opportunity to go on the AHIF trip because of the opportunity to gain a more multidimensional understanding of Greek-Cypriot-American foreign policy issues and the opportunity to experience firsthand the diplomatic and international political processes involved in the career field she wants to enter.

Despina VastakisDespina Vastakis completed her first year of graduate school at Georgia Institute of Technology(Georgia Tech), where she is majoring in International Affairs. She also completed her undergraduate degree in International Affairs and German at Georgia Tech in 2011. Despina currently works as an Immigration Paralegal at Littler Mendelson, P.C. She hopes to pursue a career where she can focus on Greek and European relations, as well as European issues, and utilize her language skills. She is very excited to be going on the AHI Foreign Policy Trip and knows it will be very beneficial to her future studies and career goals.

Elissa BowlingElissa Bowling is a rising junior at Tufts University, Medford, Mass., majoring in International Relations and History. At Tufts she serves as a senior student board member and research/program assistant for the university’s new Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, designed to facilitate research and discussion on the interactions of race and democracy on local, national, and international levels. “The AHIF Foreign Policy Trip offers incredible opportunities to meet and discuss important political issues with students and officials in Washington, Greece and Cyprus and to learn about the relationships among the countries. As a Greek-American studying international relations, I hope my future career will allow me to positively impact the relations and people of these important nations,” Bowling said.

George GabrielGeorge Gabriel is a Greek American graduate student at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. He is currently a candidate for a Master of Public Policy degree specializing in international relations. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, with a major in Political Science and minor in History. At Pepperdine, he presented on how Greece can recover from the economic crisis and examined how Greece conducts public diplomacy globally. In the summer of 2011, he interned at the American Hellenic Council of California researching issues related to Greece and Cyprus. “Traveling to Greece and Cyprus on a foreign policy trip will offer me a tremendous opportunity to expand my knowledge on Greek American issues. I look forward to obtaining an up close and personal understanding of how Cypriots and Greeks are faring in tough circumstances today,” Gabriel said.

Panayiota LarigakisPanayiota Larigakis is a rising junior at American University in Washington, DC, majoring in Psychology. She is fluent in Greek and passionate about her Greek heritage and the Greek Orthodox religion. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, she loves sports and has participated in a variety of sports, including: soccer, cheerleading, swimming, softball and basketball. For four years, she played on the GOYA basketball team at Saint Katherine's Greek Orthodox Church. Her future plans include a master’s degree in Psychology and a career in helping individuals with mental illnesses. “I feel blessed to have the best of two worlds…Greece and the United States. I am deeply moved to have the opportunity to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime trip and to experience firsthand the issues that my father, Nick Larigakis, has been working on for over 25 years at the American Hellenic Institute. The AHIF Foreign Policy Trip will provide great insight on the issues that affect Greece, the country that has influenced and shaped me into the person I am today. Being more informed about these issues will enable me to add my voice to the cause and to help strengthen U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus,” Panayiota said.

William FassuliotisWilliam Fassuliotis is a rising junior at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He is a life-long resident of Woodcliff Lake, N.J. where he received his Eagle Scout award.  He has worked as a lifeguard at the town pool for the last three years. William is studying Government with a minor in Biology. He has always been interested in foreign policy and is looking forward to learning more about the issues involving Cyprus and Greece. "By immersing myself in this program, I hope to gain knowledge and insight from those who work to further the cause of Greece and Cyprus. It will be exciting to meet and work with other students to see how we can make a difference in the future," Fassuliotis said.

Yianni Constantine KarangelenYianni Constantine Karangelen is a rising sophomore at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) studying Business Information Technology at the Pamplin College of Business. “The experience that I will gain from this trip will be immensely informative and very educational. I hope to share this knowledge with my peers at Virginia Tech and be a great influence on multi-cultural groups as well as the Hellenic Association Group of Virginia Tech, of which I am a member. Additionally, I will strive to make a great impact with this knowledge throughout my career. The trip to Greece and Cyprus will be an enlightening experience that I will carry with me for life,” Karangelen said.

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.



For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at