Maria Solomidou ’18: International Human Rights Work in the European Union

My family history and experiences overseas have cultivated my career interest in International and Human Rights Law.  As an American born to Greek Cypriot parents, I have been exposed to the devastation arising from international conflicts, particularly the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus and the resulting occupation and displacement of civilians.

Due to this personal connection with the island, I decided to volunteer my summers by working at the International Red Cross in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The island of Cyprus is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.  As such, it is one of the most common points of entry for migrants.  While working with the International Red Cross, I had the opportunity to assist refugee families fleeing from places such as Lebanon and the Darfur region of Sudan.

As a law student, I continued my summer work in Cyprus and the European Union by completing an internship with a private law firm that specialized in European Union law, social and employment law and policy, discrimination, asylum, migration, and human rights.  There, I researched the laws and regulations of the European Union and the Republic of Cyprus to prepare legal memoranda relating to asylum, human trafficking, and discrimination in both Greek and English.  I also had the privilege of working on asylum cases on appeal in the European Court of Human Rights and assisting with immigration cases in the Supreme Court of Cyprus.  Reviewing and applying international treaties such as the Geneva Convention, the Refugee Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, took on a new meaning when the direct implementation of these texts became tangible.  The migrant crisis in Europe is a profound problem for most EU member states.  Indeed, the EU must deal with one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time: namely, how to resettle the massive number of forcibly displaced people who are in search of a sanctuary from violence in the Middle East and Africa.  My work at my law firm contributed to this effort by providing legal means for migrants to successfully assimilate and prosper in Europe.

Incorporating my international experiences into my academic aspirations, I became a Temple Law Global Scholar, studying international and comparative law in Rome, Italy.  Through this program, I had the opportunity to broaden my understanding of European legal history and culture.  I also studied the law of the European Union, focusing on jurisdictional issues and how EU laws are enforced in the various member states.  A course in International Business Law developed and cultivated my transactional skills for a global market.  Further, my Global Legal Perspectives class highlighted the perceptions of law held by various countries and communities.

My time abroad provided me with empowering first-hand knowledge of yet another legal system and helped me develop an extensive network of contacts around the world.  My experiences have granted me the opportunity to work with and familiarize myself with private law firms, international mediation and arbitration practices, and intergovernmental organizations such as the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), which is dedicated to the promotion of the rule of law and is affiliated with the United Nations (UN).