My name is Raphaël Guzélian, I am 22 years old and I come from the city of Lyon in France. I started my volunteering with Birthright Armenia in mid-June 2023, to continue until mid-September. I decided to do this experience in order to get to know Armenia better, meet people, and possibly help. And enrich my Armenian culture.
I come from an Armenian family that speaks only Armenian at home. My parents were born in Lebanon. My ancestors on the paternal side are from the region of Alexandretta (currently called Iskenderun in the department of Hatay in Turkey). Historically Alexandretta is on the border between Armenian Cilicia and Syria. My maternal ancestors are from the region of Adana, which was the largest city in Armenian Cilicia.
Until the age of 11, I went to the Markarian-Papazian Armenian school. This school allowed me to learn the Armenian language, and to know the history of my country. So I became aware of my origins, and the richness of Armenian culture. This brought out my patriotic fiber.
I also learned many traditional songs that I remember so far. We also learned the basics of Armenian dance for school parties at the end of the school year. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to this school and its teachers, for all the values it has instilled in me.
As part of my computer engineering studies, I had to do between June 15 and September 15, 2023, a mandatory internship, outside France. I realized how difficult it is to find a short-term internship, internationally, and in the middle of summer. This is where a friend advised me to contact Birthright Armenia. And here I am doing my internship, and discovering Armenia.
In 2020, my family and I bought plane tickets to spend the summer holidays in Armenia. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of this trip. My desire to see Armenia is therefore coming true and over a much longer period than a classic summer trip of 1 to 4 weeks.
I am doing my volunteering at the rBlox company. This company develops software to optimize the computer network. The software makes it possible to exchange computer data 30% faster, reduce processor consumption by 45%, and save 10% energy. I am very happy to be able to contribute to the development of software that could allow Armenia to have more visibility in the world. I would also like to thank the entire rBlox team for the team spirit, the good collegial atmosphere, and the scientific knowledge that they pass on to me every day.
Birthright Armenia: the opportunity to discover
This experience also gives us the opportunity to discover Armenia. Every week we are taken on excursions to different sites, towns and villages of Armenia. Birthright thus saves the time of preparation for tourist visits, to have peace of mind on the means of transport, and to visit places which we did not know existed. These excursions allow us to visit churches, monasteries, monuments, and natural sites of remarkable beauty.
Being a volunteer also means meeting people from all over the world. Thanks to Birthright Armenia, I met Armenians and non-Armenians coming: from the United States of America, France, Syria… Moreover, the excursions allow me to meet volunteers coming from other cities of Armenia like Gyumri and Vanadzor.
During the week, we also have “Havak”; which means assembly in Armenian, and forums. It gives me the opportunity to learn more about Armenian history and culture. We also visit different organizations, museums, and we carry out activities that I find interesting.
To have a more immersive experience, Birthright Armenia offers us to stay with a host family. I highly recommend taking this option. Indeed, it allows you to discover the daily life of an Armenian family and to learn their history. I love sitting with them and listening to them. I also ask them for some advice for my daily life and my trips to town. In my host family, I have a large, well-equipped room with wifi. I also took the breakfast, dinner, and laundry options. The service of my host family is irreproachable.
Finally, I would like to thank the entire Birthright Armenia team for this wonderful experience they offer us. Thus, I advise all those who hesitate, to come without further delay in order to live a useful, formative experience, which leaves good memories. This type of stay can open vocations or opportunities to return to Armenia for personal initiatives and various investments.