At the age of 15, Elina Mariutsa bought a one-way ticket out of Moscow and never looked back, leaving behind her home, her parents, and Paris, her Yorkshire terrier. It was 2013 and Greece was crumbling under the pressure of the refugee crisis. Mariutsa couldn’t bear to continue to sit back and watch it unfold on television. She spent six months in Chalkidiki, a processing site for refugees and migrants, volunteering for various nonprofit organizations.
With her parents’ support, Mariutsa spent the next three-and-a-half years after Greece attending an American school in the Czech Republic. Three years later, she moved to Boston to study international affairs and political science at Northeastern University.
“As an international student there’s literally not a single place in this country where you can go to school and also get an internship, because you’re not allowed to work outside of campus,” she says.
“All of this experience is because of co-op and because of Northeastern’s programs to work outside. I’m really lucky.”
From Moscow to Boston, over the course of six years, Mariutsa has found a home in many different cities in between. But while the people of every one of those places were welcoming to her, she has found that the governments have been generally hostile toward each other. This discord is what ultimately propelled her passion for diplomacy, she says.
As a middle school student in Russia, she helped political prisoners who believed they were falsely accused defend themselves in court. Now as a student at Northeastern, she spends much of her time developing solutions for disaster-stricken areas and supporting efforts to prevent and end gun violence. In the fall, she will be returning to work in Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, to conduct research and advise the office on gun violence prevention policy.