Portes Magazine | V 2014

Page 23

GOING BEYOND AWARENESS Since 2009, AHIF has sponsored the Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus providing students of Hellenic descent from across the U.S. with first-hand exposure to foreign policy issues affecting Greece and Cyprus, their relations with the U.S., and the interests of the U.S. in the region. During the two-week trip, students meet with various Greek and Cypriot government representatives, as well as with experts in the field of international relations, for briefings, discussions, and educational tours. Among dignitaries met are the President of the Hellenic Republic, U.S. Ambassadors to Greece and Cyprus, Greek military officials, and numerous political advisors. Students also experience Cyprus’ current political

More than a division of land and sea, it was a demarcation of freedom and occupation, and a paradox of beauty and beast.


climate on a special visit to the abandoned Nicosia airport and the island’s UN Buffer Zone. The most eye-opening and bone-chilling experience, however, is the visit to the once glamorous resort destination of the 70s, the seaside village of Famagusta, which has become an eerily untouched modern-day ghost town. “Having the opportunity to travel to the occupied side of Cyprus gave me a very unusual feeling,” says 2014 participant Alexandra Veletsis. “Never in my life and through all my travels in Europe and Asia have I ever felt so uncomfortable. Walking on the beach in front of the dead city of Famagusta and having the watch tower look over us made me feel like we were constantly being observed… it materialized all of the issues we had been talking about.” Leah Barkoukis, 2010 participant, also recalls how the visit to the Famagusta shoreline left her with a striking impression. “More than a division of land and sea, it was a demarcation of freedom and occupation, and a paradox of beauty and beast,” she says. The Foreign Policy Trip overall aims to unite students in their beliefs and passions, recognizing that the problems with Cyprus and Turkey - a politically significant topic to this day - are far greater than one could ever understand by simply reading historical passages from a textbook. “This trip has helped me combine my love

between the government-controlled and illegally occupied areas. Monitored by the United Nations (UN), the buffer zone is open only at certain times of the day. Among the visitors to the damaged and abandoned areas in Cyprus is a group of U.S. students who participate on an annual Student Foreign Policy Trip to Greece and Cyprus, run by the Washington D.C.-based American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF). Portes Magazine explores the contemporary political significance of the invasion of Cyprus through the reflections of these university students.

- Leah Barkoukis

for Greece with my passion for politics and education, and has left me with a deep desire to educate those in the U.S. on the importance of U.S.-Greek relations and CypriotGreek relations,” says 2014 participant Peter Mills. “Greece and Cyprus serve as stable democratic allies to the U.S. with a geostrategic importance that is unmatched by any other nation in the region.” During the Foreign Policy Trip, AHIF prioritizes educating the youth on the future relationships between the U.S., Greece, and Cyprus. “It is important to see how modern Greece is a valuable ally and asset to the United States,” says AHI Legislative Director and 2010 participant Georgea Polizos. Once buzzing with life, students visit the now desolate Nicosia airport whose terminal & runways still host abandoned aircraft laying to waste for decades.

portes magazine | fall 2014


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