Ileana Cortessi, ’19
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My Story

Ileana came to Northeastern from Athens, Greece.  During her last two years of high school, she completed the International Baccalaureate program at Athens College, with a focus on Economics, Psychology and English Literature.  Ileana also studied opera at the Greek National Conservatory and was looking for a university that could offer an international affairs program as well as exposure to a music department.  Because Northeastern closely works with the New England Conservatory, it was a perfect choice.

Ileana majored in International Affairs with minors in Political Science, French Language and Law and Public Policy.  She also pursued a joint certificate in opera with the New England Conservatory.

Here is Ileana’s story…

My Path
My Path

Why International Affairs?

Ileana knew she wanted to focus on studying economics, culture and diplomacy.  After reading the curriculum for International Affairs, she said she “fell in love with the major” and decided to pursue it.  Ileana chose Northeastern because of the Dialogue of Civilization program, the faculty, and co-op.

Within the International Affairs major, Ileana was most interested in conflict and negotiation, human rights, and sustainable development.  She was looking for a program with highly educated faculty and endless opportunities.  In Ileana’s words, “Northeastern gave me more than I could ever imagine, it is a University full of opportunities and it has taught me to follow my dreams.”

Transformative Coursework

INTL 3400 International Conflict and Negotiation with Professor Kimberly Jones was Ileana’s favorite course. This is “an outstanding professor, she is a real treasure who impacted me as a student, researcher and future law student.” She learned about the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Rwandan Genocide, the relations between Israel and Palestine, and the conflict in Chechnya.

The Balkans Dialogue with Professor Denis Sullivan was quite transformative. Ileana traveled to Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia and found the Dialogue to be an extremely organized program, with endless activities, including meetings with US embassies, politicians, and war survivors.  It is perfect for students interested in genocide, its post-war effect, conflict and negotiation.

And finally, Ileana was inspired by the Society and Culture in Russia with Professor Tony Jones.  He is a valuable expert on the Soviet Union and Russia and taking his class inspired her to do one of her big research projects on Russia.


Research Opportunities and Internship

Ileana completed one internship and three major research projects.  Her internship was at the United Nations in Geneva at the International Telecommunications Union. She worked for a UN NGO and researched regulatory and market developments in Europe.  Research projects included the Syrian refugee crisis which she conducted while on her Dialogue in Spain. She investigated Spain’s policy regarding the refugees.  When she returned to campus, she was inspired to continue researching the topic focusing on other European countries.

Ileana researched with Professor Anthony Jones on the Greek Economic Crisis to find out why Greece is still struggling economically and politically.  She also researched with Professor Kimberly Jones on Russia and human trafficking.  She focused on Russia’s current legal system and the legal gaps that allow human trafficking to thrive there.

Experiences Abroad

Ileana participated in three Dialogues of Civilization and one international internship.  After her freshman year, she spent the summer in Italy on her first Dialogue: Family Business Studies.  She went to Verona and Sicily and visited several companies that have been family businesses for up to four generations.

Her second Dialogue, Spain: Art and Architecture, brought her to Barcelona and Madrid. While in Spain, she saw the architectural masterpieces by Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona, and visited the Royal Palace, and the National Museum in Madrid.

Her third Dialogue was in the Balkans where she traveled to Sarajevo Bosnia, Prizren Kosovo, and Belgrade Serbia.  There she studied the conflict and genocide in Srebrenica, the 1999 NATO bombing in Belgrade, and the 1992-95 war in Bosnia. She learned about the internal conflicts and the influence of the US, EU, Russia and China in the region.

Civic Engagement

Ileana had several civic engagement experiences on campus.  She was a CSSH Ambassador, where she assisted in recruitment programming and events held in conjunction with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.  She was a Teaching Assistant for the CSSH Co-op class as well as a Peer Mentor to all incoming students enrolled in the Introduction to International Affairs class.  There she mentored a small group of students, helped them navigate through the course as well as the major, advised them about their academic plans and shared her experiences to help them with their future plans.

To integrate her passion for writing, she joined the Global Journal as a Writer and was able to write about her international experiences on Dialogues and her internships abroad.  Also, she was a Co-op Connector where she was responsible for organizing events for students on co-op. She found the events a great way for students to stay connected to life on campus.

Next Steps

Ileana states that her experiential learning at Northeastern has helped figure out what she would like to do in the future.

This program has prepared her as much as possible, from the Dialogues to faculty who have inspired her to pursue a legal career.  In Ileana’s words, “coming from a small country like Greece and being a girl, I never thought that I would be able to do all the things that I did when I came to the U.S. Northeastern faculty continues to encourage me to reach my full potential.”  Her advice to all students is to go on a Dialogue. Because of her deep interest in conflict and negotiation, the Balkan Dialogue has “changed my life.”