In a world where our cultural identities are constantly evolving, there are individuals like Eric Babajanian who seek to strengthen their connection with their ancestral homeland. Eric, a talented 3D animator and native of Los Angeles, embarked on a life-changing adventure by joining Birthright Armenia — an organization that provides young Diasporan Armenians with the opportunity to reconnect with their roots. Through his volunteering journey and immersion in Armenian culture, Eric has discovered a profound sense of purpose and personal growth.
Hailing from a Persian-Armenian family in Los Angeles, Eric's passion for computer graphics and animation led him to study Computer Graphics/Animation at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. With a thirst for cultural exploration and a desire to contribute to his people's welfare, Eric felt compelled to apply to Birthright Armenia. Inspired by the ongoing crises faced by Armenians, Eric wasted no time in purchasing a plane ticket to begin his volunteering adventure after completing trade school. “With everything that has happened these past few years, I felt an increasing need to reconnect with my cultural roots. After hearing about the ongoing crisis in Artsakh, I wanted to help my people in any way that I could,” he explains.
Eric is making a significant impact as an animator at ON/OFF Studio. His multifaceted role involves 3D modeling, texturing, and even Python scripting. Though Eric had previous experience in animation studios, this artistic-oriented position has provided him with a unique and fulfilling experience. What sets ON/OFF Studio apart is its close-knit, familial atmosphere. The team shares a strong bond, evident from their weekly lunches, where team members take turns preparing meals for everyone. This camaraderie fosters an environment of creativity and collaboration, allowing Eric to thrive in his role.
Venturing to Gyumri: A Change of Pace
To further diversify his experience, Eric recently made the decision to move to Gyumri, embracing a different rhythm of life. While living in the vibrant capital city of Yerevan had its allure, Eric sought to explore the beauty and warmth of Armenia beyond its capital. The people of Gyumri have warmly embraced Eric, and he eagerly looks forward to immersing himself in the local culture. During his time in Gyumri, Eric is learning the ancient art of khachkar (cross-stone)-making while continuing to contribute remotely to ON/OFF Studio—a testament to his dedication and adaptability.
“Each obstacle that pushes me outside of my comfort zone is an opportunity to learn something new and grow as an individual.”
One of the highlights of Eric's journey has been the Armenian language classes provided by Birthright Armenia. Growing up, Eric spoke a Persian-Armenian dialect with his family and friends, but over the years, his Armenian had become admittedly rusty. The classes have not only helped refresh his memory but have also exposed him to the differences between the dialect he grew up speaking and the one spoken in Armenia. He playfully admits to adapting to some local terminology, even though his heart will forever refer to eggplant (“smbook”) as "badenjan."
Eric's journey with Birthright Armenia has been transformative, both personally and professionally. Embracing his experiences, he says that though living in Armenia has come with its blessings, it is full of challenges as well. “But even those challenges have blessings within them,” he explains. “Each obstacle that pushes me outside of my comfort zone is an opportunity to learn something new and grow as an individual.”
Through his dedication to reconnecting with his Armenian heritage, Eric has not only enriched his own life but has become an inspiration to others seeking their own paths of cultural rediscovery. His journey has been marked by incredible experiences, cultural immersion, and personal growth. As he continues to contribute his skills to the animation field while exploring new territories, Eric has not only found his purpose but has become a beacon of inspiration for others on similar journeys of self-discovery and cultural reconnection.