From Egypt to Texas to Law School, With a Little Help

Photo of Schar School Professor, Phillip  Mink and George Mason University student, John Marin Elias
Phillip Mink, director of the Patriot Pre-Law program, and John Marin Elias.

Arriving at George Mason University in fall 2018 as a freshman, John Marin Elias had already faced—and overcome—a myriad of challenges for one so young.

His family emigrated from Egypt to the U.S. in 2013 in order for his older brother to receive medical treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Eliases were uprooted from their new home in Houston in August 2017 after Hurricane Harvey decimated the southeast region of the Lone Star State.

Once the family resettled in Virginia, Elias worked furiously to make up more than a month of schoolwork, reschedule his crucial scholastic aptitude test, and apply to several colleges, including Mason and the University of Virginia.

“That was a very tough transition,” he said. “Thankfully, things worked out.”

While Elias was accepted to every school to which he applied another obstacle arose. Language barriers at his mother’s job proved too great to overcome, forcing a relocation back to Texas.

Rather than return with the family and perhaps be a burden on finances, Elias chose to enroll at Mason, which, as it happened, offered him a full scholarship.

“I’m very thankful I did” enroll at Mason, he said. “It alleviated a lot of financial strain on my family. It was a great opportunity and from there I became a part of the Patriot community.”

Once at Mason, Elias, an economics major, immersed himself in his studies and thrived. He joined Phi Alpha Delta, the professional pre-law fraternity, and met Phillip Mink, an assistant professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government and the School of Business, who also serves as director of the Patriot Pre-Law program.

“Professor Mink showed me a glimpse about law school,” Elias said. “He gave me an idea about expectations and how all my metrics needed to rise to the level of my ambitions. He was there for me all along the way.”

More than a mentor, Elias calls Mink his “American father.”

“He was the guiding light to help me maneuver through this foreign country,” Elias said. “A lot of people learn things from their parents and their connections and their networks and I just didn’t have any of that here. So thankfully, Professor Mink was there to guide me along this path.”

While Mink is flattered by Elias’s compliment, he feels certain the senior would have excelled with or without his assistance.

“John is one of the most focused students I have seen in my 15 years in higher education,” he said. “He would have done well in whatever he chose to do. I’m just glad that I could be of some help to him.”

To assist with the LSAT, the often-burdensome test required for most law school admissions, Elias earned one of eight $500 awards from the Schar School Pre-Law LSAT Scholarship Fund. He used the money to purchase books and subscription-based courses to help prepare for the exam.

It paid off. Elias is now weighing law school acceptances from the University of Virginia, Georgetown, George Washington University, and the University of Texas, all high-profile universities with renowned law schools.

As a future lawyer, Elias hopes to use his personal experience to provide guidance to immigrants entering the U.S.

“Hopefully, through a successful legal career I’ll be able to alleviate some of the pain and unfortunate circumstances that minorities and disenfranchised people around the world have to go through.”

For his part, Mink looks forward to following Elias and watch where his career takes him.

“Coming from a country where the rule of law is tenuous at best, John has a deep understanding of how important it is to have a functioning legal system,” he said. “He is going to be extraordinarily sensitive to individuals who might be outcasts in society. It will be a real pleasure to see his career unfold.”