Tell us a bit about your time at university and how you became a Fulbright Foundation scholar?
After graduating from high school, I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue, so I studied Journalism and Mass Media at Aristotle University because it offered a variety of classes from across disciplines including psychology, communication, history, languages, and law. I thought that exposing myself to all of this might help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
During that time, I also traveled around Europe participating in European Youth Parliament (EYP) sessions, which offered youngsters the opportunity to simulate the workings of the European Parliament Committees. In these sessions, each committee had to focus on a pressing societal challenge and come up with a solution to overcome it. In all the sessions I attended, there would always be a clause in the resolution about the need to educate people and raise awareness about the problem at hand. It became clear to me that education is always part of the answer no matter the question, so I decided to devote my next academic step to this cause. I applied and was admitted to Teachers’ College at Columbia and the Harvard Graduate School of Education and chose to attend the latter because they offered financial aid to help cover part of the sky-high tuition fees. In my effort to fund my studies, I also applied to the Fulbright scholarship program, and I was honored to be chosen as part of the Greek cohort of Fulbrighters for 2009-2010.
What was your Fulbright experience in the US like? What are the main takeaways from your time there?
Traveling to the US by myself to study at the age of 23 was an eye-opening experience. Having classmates from all over the world expanded my worldview dramatically, and the plethora of on-campus events, talks, workshops gave us the opportunity to come in close contact with bright minds: I met Noam Chomsky, attended a speech by Jane Goodall, listened to an Obama speechwriter, and so much more. That level of intellectual stimulation was addictive and motivates me still to this day to keep finding ways to develop as a person. I was also pleasantly surprised by our professors’ approach toward us. Despite being internationally renowned in their fields, they were approachable and accessible to their students in a casual way, which was a far cry from what I had experienced at university in Greece.
Education is always part of the answer no matter the question
Thanks to the Fulbright scholarship, I was able to not only cover part of my tuition fees but also meet other Fulbrighters who became my reference persons across the globe. I also had the chance to attend a Fulbright conference in Denver, Colorado, which gave me the opportunity to discover the American heartland. During the conference, I was invited, along with other Fulbrighters, to dine at an artist’s home, where I had the opportunity to meet an Iraqi Fulbrighter and learn about what life looked like in his war-ridden country.
Thanks to my US and Fulbright experience I now have friends around the world, in Pakistan, Nigeria, Poland, the United States, Thailand, Canada, and Korea. The Other is no longer a stranger but rather someone I know and care about and who acts as an ambassador of their reality in my part of the world. It’s a bit like participating in a global village, something which makes the world feel a little smaller.
After spending most of the past decade living and working abroad, you recently returned to Thessaloniki. Talk to us about your decision to return and your new role with NET2GRID.
I spent the last seven years in Brussels working for the European Parliament and the European Consumer Movement—an experience that shaped me professionally, exposed me to the many European realities, educated me about EU policymaking, blessed me with lifelong friendships, and gave me the opportunity to travel across Europe and visit countries in Asia and Latin America.
I feel grateful and privileged to be part of this prestigious program
When our son was born, however, I wanted to offer him a childhood rich in family memories and so the desire to find ourselves closer to our families and spend quality time with loved ones intensified. Soon after returning to Greece, I started working as the Senior Business Development Manager for NET2GRID, a Dutch startup. NET2GRID is an AI-enabled technology company that translates energy consumption data into personalized and actionable insights, helping consumers to reduce their energy consumption. Our clients are big energy retailers around the world but we also increasingly see players like banks and social housing providers interested in including sustainable solutions in their offerings. It’s an exciting time to be working in the energy sector as it is slowly transitioning to a greener, more sustainable future.
Each stage of your academic and professional career so far seems to have one thing in common: a contribution, in various and diverse ways, to positive change in the community and society in general. What inspired you to take this path and what motivates you to keep giving back?
Even though I had never had a clear idea about which profession I wanted to pursue, it was clear to me from a young age that I wanted to do something meaningful that would have a positive impact on society. That’s why, to the extent possible, I choose to be part of organizations, companies and endeavors that strive to be part of the solution and not of the problem. Knowing that I spend my working hours towards something useful and positive for society is a big motivation for me to get out of bed in the morning.
What role do you think the Fulbright program has in all this? What is its contribution in inspiring this kind of attitude?
The Fulbright program was an experience catalyst for me on many levels. I feel grateful and privileged to have been selected as part of this prestigious program, especially because I have come to appreciate the transformative power it can have on people to give them a vote of confidence when they’re fighting to make their dreams come true. I consider my duty but also my pleasure to function as a multiplier of this philosophy and pay it forward whenever I can.