Armenian Assembly's Yerevan summer internship program

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PRESS RELEASE August 28, 2006 CONTACT: Karoon Panosyan E-mail: kpanosyan@aaainc.org


STUDENTS EXPERIENCE LIFE IN ARMENIA THROUGH ARMENIAN ASSEMBLY SUMMER INTERNSHIP

Yerevan, Armenia - Fourteen Armenian-American college students from across the U.S. traveled to Yerevan to take part in the Assembly's largest summer internship class in the program's history. College students from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Texas participated in the eight-week program to gain a better understanding of living and working in Armenia - one of the most culturally rich countries in the world.

The Yerevan internship program was established in 1999, following the popularity and success of the Assembly's Washington program, known as the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program. In fact, four of this year's Armenia interns are alumni of the Washington program.

While in Armenia, students said they gained a better understanding of the lifestyle, work ethic and culture in Armenia and felt a deeper connection with their Armenian heritage.

"I have learned so much about being Armenian that it's hard to put into words," said Foreign Ministry intern Justin Kalemkiarian who is an alumnus of the 2005 Washington program. "I knew hard facts about the country but it's completely different when you actually experience what those facts can't explain. After seeing the creativity, intelligence and work ethic of the Armenian people I am more optimistic about this country's future than when I left home."

While some of the Assembly interns spent their summer working in Government offices including the Constitutional Court, Ombudsman's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Urban Development, and the NKR Representation Office in Armenia, others worked at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), medical centers and media outlets.

WORKING IN ARMENIA

This year's intern group found their internships very rewarding and were placed in some of the most exciting and interesting fields. Three of the students spent their summer working in medical centers including the Armenian-American Wellness Center, the Nork Marash Medical Center, the Markaryan Medical Center and the Van Dental Clinic.

"The most important thing I gained from this internship is the ability to express myself in Armenian within the medical field," said intern Ani Sinanyan who spent her summer interning at the Armenian-American Wellness Center and the Markaryan Medical Center. "Hearing medical professionals speak helped advance my language skills which will be useful with Armenian patients I may have in the future."

Other students interned at organizations such as the Armenia Tree Project, the Armenian International Policy Research Group (AIPRG), International Center for Human Development, Habitat for Humanity-Armenia, Orran Chlidrens Center, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as at media outlets including Armenia TV and Bars Media.

Cate Norian interned at Bars Media working on a USAID project and had the opportunity to travel throughout Armenia, visiting towns, villages and meeting with people from all walks of life. "I'm seeing the future of Armenia," Norian said. "I'm seeing the ingenuity, know-how, and drive needed to push Armenia past the status quo."

MEETINGS WITH ARMENIAN OFFICIALS

During their time in Yerevan, the interns met with several government officials including Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Justice Minister Davit Haroutiunian, Ombudsman Armen Haroutunian and Deputy Mayor of Yerevan Vano Vardanian. During these meetings, interns learned more about the inner workings of the Armenian Government as well as the important role of the Diaspora in the homeland. They also met with U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans.

Some of the major highlights of the internship program were the cultural activities the students attended including a performance of the Anoush Opera. They also participated in the annual "One Nation, One Culture" festival and enjoyed the Armenian holidays of Vardavar and Constitution Day.

Interns familiarized themselves with Armenia's business sector and toured the Grand Candy, Tamara Ice Cream Factory and Yerevan Brandy Factory.

TRAVELING AROUND ARMENIA AND NAGORNO KARABAKH

In addition to gaining a better understanding of life in Yerevan, the interns traveled outside of the city, visiting historic sites such as the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, the Garni Temple, the Geghard Monastery, Khor Virab, and Zvartnots Church. Interns also toured the city of Gyumri with Aram Khachadurian formerly of New York. Afterwards, they traveled to Ashotsk Village where Khachadurian gave them a tour of Voske Ser, Khachadurian's dairy farm and cheese factory. During a two-day visit to Lake Sevan, the interns spent some time enjoying the beautiful weather.

Interns took a three-day trip to Nagorno Karabakh. On the way, they visited the Noravank, Tatev and Gandzasar Monasteries and the city of Goris. In Karabakh, the interns toured the capital city of Stepanakert where they met with President Arkady Ghoukassian and Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulian. They also visited the HALO Trust De-Mining Center where they learned about the deadly landmines that continue to threaten the people of Nagorno Karabakh. The students traveled to the town of Shushi and visited the 19th century Ghazanchetsots Amenaprkich Church and a newly-opened lavash factory.

"The Armenian Assembly internship program not only helped me understand the way of life in Armenia, but also opened my eyes to the endless opportunities awaiting my homeland" said Ministry of Finance intern Gregory Bandikian.

Intern Raffi Haroutunian of Demarest, NJ has chronicled his experiences and those of his fellow interns on an online blog. To access this blog go to: http://www.sip2006.blogspot.com/

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. It is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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Photographs available on the Assembly Web site at the following links:

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Caption: Interns met with Ambassador John M. Evans (center) at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.

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Caption: Interns met with NKR Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulian to discuss the government, education system and economy of Karabakh.

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Caption: Board of Trustees Treasurer and Birthright Armenia Founder Edele Hovnanian (far left) along with Assembly interns and Birthright participants met with Armenia's Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian (center).

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Caption: (L to R) Interns Anoush Dekmezian, Justin Kalemkiarian and Arman Avedisian spent the summer interning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Caption: Assembly interns at the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi.

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Caption: (L to R) Interns Armine Bazikyan and Ani Sinanyan at the Tamara Ice Cream Factory.