Nettie Stein-Miller interviewed Emily Pandis, a Greek-American raised in Kerkyra, Greece and currently living in Columbus, Ohio. Emily is a double major in International Relations and Diplomacy and Islamic Studies with a minor in Arabic at the Ohio State University. Having interned for EIMAI, an NGO based in Athens, Greece that aims to empower youth and cultivate leadership potential, and gaining exposure to the refugee crisis currently occurring on Greek islands, she was introduced to the need for a better understanding of human rights and education on how to apply them. She is the co-founder of the Middle Eastern Politics Club at Ohio State, participates in Model Arab League conferences across the country, and enjoys rowing in her spare time.
What kinds of "extracurriculars" (jobs, leadership roles, volunteer positions) are you or have you been involved in? How do they relate to your interests?
I am double majoring in International Relations and Diplomacy and Middle Eastern studies, with a minor in Arabic. Some clubs that I have been involved in during my time as a student at Ohio State have been the French Club and the Arabic club, and seeing as my minor is Arabic this has greatly helped me improve my speaking skills and also my cultural understanding. I am also co-founder and VP of the Model Arab League and Middle Eastern Politics club at Ohio State, that I started with a couple of other students. I also volunteer at CRIS, which is the Community, Refugee, and Immigration Services here in Columbus, where I am part of a mentorship program, being paired up with a middle or high school student helping them learn a new life here in Ohio, and assist them with language skills and anything else they might need until they get more comfortable living here.
How has your experience growing up in Greece shaped you and influenced your hopes for the future?
Having attended high school both in Greece and the US, I’ve been able to experience the great differences between the two, and it’s made me realize how many opportunities there are in the U.S. In Greece it’s much harder to find those available opportunities because they aren't given to you. School, for example, and education in general, is a very large problem in the way that it is structured; and in the way that it provides limited resources to students. So I hope that the start of change can begin in the education system, in order to encourage students to be good students and see that there are opportunities within their own country, so they don't feel the need of having to go abroad to find those opportunities.
Would you shed some light on the current temperature of your country in the context of conflict and peacebuilding?
Unfortunately in the past years there have been large socioeconomic and political problems in Greece, and a lot of it stems from the corruption within the government, so I think that youth can play a very large role in shaping this and making positive changes in the future. This can start with peacebuilding in the sense that acknowledging ethical behavior and an ethical way of achieving goals and making changes step-by-step and relying on the sources within the country instead of having to spread out into other countries to find the proper resources. As mentioned earlier, I think the youth will have a large role in shaping the future of the political scene in Greece; this has to start from education and reforms within the education system.
What do you think the challenges and limitations are on youth activism in Greece, (e.g., economic, social, political) and how can they be removed?
Unfortunately in the past few years there have been many limitations on youth activism, and this does stem from the economic problems that have been occurring in the country. There are very limited resources because of economic constraints, so there are not many programs that encourage students to get involved within the government, or get involved outside of school in their areas of interest, such as programs or clubs that may relate to their area of study or the field that they are interested in. In addition, professors do not encourage students - as much as they do in the US - to get involved because activism, especially on the political spectrum, is not very prominent, so their voices are not heard on a larger scale, whereas in the US, students that are involved in interest clubs may have a voice that can be heard if they persist and work hard towards their goals.
How do you see youth shaping the future in this context?
I think these challenges can be removed if people in higher-up positions in the education system (professors, and those encouraging higher education) promote the ideas of the students and realize that they are the ones that will be running this country [Greece] and help to solve the problems. Their voices, and their opinions are important.
If you could give international leaders and policy makers one message about youth participation and empowerment what would it be?
A message that I would give international leaders and policymakers would be that youth participation is essential, and allowing the youth to make their voices heard encourages them and gives them a reason to participate and get involved, come up with new ideas and strategies and be part of global change.
A born-and-bred New Yorker, Nettie Stein-Miller is thrilled to be back in the City working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, after a three-year stint in Los Angeles. Nettie studies Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, and minors in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies - a minor she and a professor urged the administration to create. Nettie studied abroad at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa during her junior year of college, and hopes to return there one day. Previous to interning for UNHCR, Nettie worked for the U.S. Department of State at the United States Embassy in Valletta, Malta; Futurefill, an eco-startup that seeks to disrupt the norm of throwaway packaging; and the Voss Foundation, a clean-water NGO. In her spare time, Nettie enjoys international travel, and loves to explore the culinary intricacies of each region she visits. She considers herself a “beach person”, and in the future hopes to become a certified yoga instructor.