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Arsen Petrosyan

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My Experience with Birthright Armenia

by Arsen Petrosyan (Russia)

I learned about Birthright Armenia as my holidays in Yerevan were coming to an end in August 2011. I didn't want to go back home because I wasn't getting the feeling that you do when you are ready to go back home from an extended holiday. I had always wished to live in Armenia - to see the fall and winter and the snow-capped mountains. My family moved to Moscow in the 90's, when I was four years old, and since then I had only returned once, in 2006.

It was a hot August day when I learned about the Birthright Armenia program from a friend of mine. After a week of contemplation, I applied. The problem was that in the middle of September 2011, I had an appointment for a final interview with a big company in Moscow (with which I had already had several interviews and tests). So I did end up going to Moscow for the interview, because it made sense to me at the time. When it came time to leave and I bid my relatives a farewell, I packed my things into a suitcase, and just three hours before the flight I decided to return the tickets and turn down the interview in Moscow. Looking back now, I realize that, yes, it was crazy decision, but I don't regret it for one second.

Volunteering in Armenia gave me a unique experience and allowed me to meet many interesting people that were from different parts of the world. There was the Birthright Armenia staff, my colleagues, volunteers from USA, Canada, France, Germany, Argentina etc. - and everyone with their own special personality and experiences. Together, we witnessed, experienced, and understood how Armenia really is different, special, and most of all, ours.

One thing that I really appreciated and wanted to do the most was spend time with my relatives. I wanted to make up for lost time and share every moment with them.

I was lucky to get an internship in a young, dynamic company, where I participated and helped organize the IT-Internet conference and startup competition. Even though it took a lot of dedication and time, it gave me the opportunity to experience this industry in Armenia and everything that encompasses it.

I also fell in love with Armenian dancing. Since the first time I saw it, I loved it. In Armenia I finally began to take dance classes. I practiced at home, even at bus stations, waiting for marshrutkas. I studied Armenian dances for two months, and succeeded in some of them. During the classes I felt a strong emotional rise, when we were standing in a line, dancing Kochari, or when my classmates taught me Yarkhushta dance during the breaks. Armenian dances became more than a hobby for me, but a philosophy.

During my stay in Armenia I also liked the Eastern Armenian language and literature classes very much. Before coming, I could speak, write, and read a little. It was both difficult and inspiring to read long texts, write essays in Armenian, and finally discuss them. I have great memories, such as when my classmates and I performed "The Little Prince" and I played the main character.

Excursions with the Birthright Armenia were incredible. Artsakh was one of the most beautiful places I have seen, with amazing people, where I had a chance to speak with heroes and liberators and feel the spirit of the free land of Arstakh. It's also worth mentioning the trip to Gyumri and its neighborhood, which is where my father came from.

And of course, I must write about Yerevan, which became so close to my heart, always full of surprises - in summer, fall, or winter. At first its constant sun and heat everywhere, which made me so happy, especially during the November mornings on my way to work in the center from Zeytun, when I could see the mountains. Second were the people of Yerevan: students--hurrying and stylish, mashutka drivers--multi-tasking supermen, beautiful girls, and of course, many, many children.

Because of Birthright Armenia I have now reconnected with Armenia. I have come to love the people living there, the land, and the beautiful nature of this small country, which in all, is the most important for me.

(Translated from Russian)