Washington, DC – The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) College Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus begins its 14th year as students from across the United States gathered for briefings in Washington, DC., from June 14 to 16, 2022, before departing for Cyprus. The 17-day program concludes July 1, 2022, when the students return from Athens.

“Through our AHI Foundation, we are pleased and proud to welcome the community’s next generation of leaders on our fourteenth annual college student foreign policy trip,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “This is an invaluable opportunity for these exceptional students 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 hit the ground running with briefings in Washington, then on to high-level meetings with government officials and community leaders abroad, all as developments in the region occur at a rapid pace.

On June 14, the students visited the Embassy of Greece to receive a briefing from Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou, before enjoying an evening reception at Hellenic House.

On June 15, the students visited Capitol Hill for a meeting with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who is the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance. They gained further insight on foreign policy trends and the innerworkings of policy formulation from Washington Insider, John Sitilides, principal, Trilogy Advisors; Doug Bandow, senor fellow, Cato Institute; and Gregory Graves, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at The George Washington University.

On their last full day in Washington, June 16, the students visited the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus to receive a briefing from Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Marios Lysiotis. Afterward, they visited the U.S. Department of State and received briefings from foreign service officials at the agency’s Office of Southern European Affairs, including: Greek Desk Officers Dave Mendez and Shawn O’Donnell, Sophia Berhie, Cyprus Desk officer; and Alice Shukla, Hellenic and Regional Affairs Desk officer. Prior to lunch, the students also received a presentation from Andrew R. Novo, associate professor of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

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 of each country, including Foreign Affairs and Defense; military officers and parliament members, religious leaders, think-tank organizations, and members of academia and the private sector. 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 NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC), as well as Salamis Naval Base, and receive briefings.

Participant Bios

Melina Christodoulou is a rising junior and a Dean’s List student at Drew University pursuing a BA in political science and a minor in communications. She earned acceptance into the prestigious Actions Scholar Honors Program and is a representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for tennis and volleyball. Recently, Melina was named Drew University’s Female Athlete of The Year as she led Drew’s tennis team to its second conference championship in school history.

Maria Fusca is a rising senior at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, where she is pursuing a BA in International Affairs and two minors in Sociocultural Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Communication. A Presidential Academic Scholarship recipient who regularly gets on her school’s Dean’s List, Maria has interned for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State, as well as for the House Democracy Partnership subcommittee within the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Morgan Lilly is a Junior and Dean’s list student at the University of Georgia where he is pursuing a double major in Political Science and International Affairs. Morgan was elected to serve on the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association Senate as a representative for the student body at-large while being elected by over 3,000 of his peers. Last summer Morgan interned for the NGO The Borgen Project which mobilizes voters and citizens as well as advocating directly to Congress for increased United States involvement in International Affairs including women’s empowerment and aiding in global poverty.

Zoe Logas is a rising junior in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, majoring in Public Policy with a concentration in defense policy and foreign policy, and minoring in History. On campus, Zoe is the Vice President of Operations and Communications and a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at the Alpha Mu Chapter of Sigma Kappa. In 2020, Zoe worked as a research intern, studying the perceived death of Vaudeville and its impact on American society.

Brendan C. O’Connor is a rising junior and Dean’s List student at American University majoring in International Studies with a minor in the Russian language. He is proficient in Spanish, Greek, and Russian and passionate about diplomacy and conflict resolution. He is currently conducting a research project on factors of ongoing conflict in regard to the Greco-Turkish conflict that has lasted for centuries.

Eleni Piliotis recently graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations. This fall, she will be starting her Master’s for Security Policy Studies at George Washington University. Currently, she works full-time as a Public Affairs Specialist for a public agency. During her undergraduate career, she interned with UC Davis Global Affairs where she contributed to research on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Andreas Poulis is a rising junior at the American University studying International Relations with a regional focus on Europe and a thematic focus on Peace, Global Security, & Conflict Resolution. He serves as American University & World Politics club President, which focuses on raising awareness and knowledge on lesser recognized conflicts and geopolitical issues.

Natasia Mariah Raphtis is a rising junior at the University of Michigan. Pursuing a dual degree in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in Modern Greek, Natasia focuses on Hellenic foreign policy. She plans to write a political science honors thesis about the effect of cultural relations on international relations, through the lens of formal bilateral agreements between the unique duo of Greece and Turkey. Natasia has achieved multiple accolades at the University of Michigan, awarded the William J. Branstrom Freshman Prize and the James B. Angell Scholar Award.

Anastasia Staurulakis is a rising senior at Tulane University of Louisiana pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and a Master’s Degree in Accounting. She is a recipient of Tulane’s Merit Award, receiving an academic scholarship. She is a captain for the Tulane club tennis team, helping to lead and organize club tennis tournaments. Anastasia is also a member of the Chi Omega sorority, organizing and participating in philanthropic events involving the Make a Wish Foundation.

Christopher Zrazik, a Dean’s List student and Presidential Academic Scholarship recipient, is a rising sophomore at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University majoring in International Affairs, concentrating in Security Policy, and minoring in Public Policy. He has a strong interest in government, law, and current events and has proudly grown up in Chicago’s Greek community. In college, Christopher is active in the Hellenic Student Association as Secretary and the Onero Institute, a student-run foreign policy think tank.