I am a first-generation Armenian who grew up in the United States. Both my parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early ’80s. Throughout my life, my siblings and I have always had a strong connection to our Armenian heritage. I have never considered myself an American, but an Armenian living in America. In 2017 I traveled to Armenia for the first time with my family. The first step I took off the plane and the first breath of air I took from my homeland pulled me in like a magnet; I immediately felt attached to Armenia.
All my life, my mind was filled with thoughts of Armenia and stories from my family, but when seeing it in front of me for the first time, I had the intense curiosity of a child; I wanted to use all my senses to engross every bit of my experience and not neglect any detail. That brief ten-day trip was the reason we decided to move back home. It took five years for us to plan, prepare and accomplish our move.
IMMERSING MYSELF IN ARMENIA THROUGH BIRTHRIGHT
While in college, I researched and found Birthright Armenia. Although I wasn’t able to volunteer with Birthright during my time in the U.S., I took the chance a couple of months after I moved in 2022. I have wanted to take part in this program because, regardless of what you desire to do, having first-hand experiences provide the foundation to understand a society, its culture, and how to help it flourish. You’re not skimming through the country, but immersing in it. I have met individuals of many backgrounds and we all instantly have a connection because we are Armenian. Birthright gives a chance to come to Armenia, not as a tourist, but as an individual who is part of this country. I have always said that I am not a tourist in my homeland. We can understand and learn the framework of this nation, the great and beautiful aspects, and not neglect the issues that need to be discussed and resolved. This program gives that opportunity and allows you to evolve during the process. I am so moved when I hear some volunteers thinking of wanting to stay and live in Armenia.
While living in the U.S., I always felt that something
was not complete. We would celebrate Armenian holidays and attend Armenian
church and events, but when those gatherings were over, I didn’t want the
feeling of being surrounded by our culture and our people to end. When
incidents like the war in Artsakh took place, and I'm on the other side of the
world trying to understand what is going on, I felt so limited as to what I
could do. We have done protests, marches, etc. but I have questioned their
impact and have asked myself how much they truly help towards fixing the root
of the problem. I don’t believe that just sending money, going on vacation to
Armenia from time to time, or buying a summer house is enough to help our
homeland. I wanted to be physically
there, with the people, going through the events that occur, giving my time and
knowledge, and engaging in life. I have lived in Armenia now for six months. I have gained an understanding of the fabric of this country, and day
by day, I am learning the steps that we as a people could take for its
development and being aware concurrently, we have many accomplishments to be