Unleashing Your ‘Inner Hai Tahd’
Four Reasons Why You Should Participate in the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship
BY GAREN BOSTANIAN
College of the Canyons, Class of 2013
Leo Sarkisian Intern, Class of 2012
For the record, I am not writing this article on behalf of the ANCA. I am writing this as an individual who has a passion for the Armenian Cause, is eager to become more active in American politics, and wants to reach out to others who share the same interest.
Though only two weeks of the program have been completed, I know I made the right choice of coming to Washington DC for the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship (LSI) Program. Here are four reasons why this program could be worthwhile for you as well:
1. The Living Experience
I have never had the opportunity to live on my own. School and work have always been within a reasonable distance, so it would be senseless not to commute. The LSI program was an opportunity to travel cross-country to the nation’s capital and spend eight weeks in a group living situation with 6 of my peers. This is definitely a new experience for me – and for most of the interns. Although I was a bit nervous upon arrival, it didn’t take me long to become familiar with my surroundings, and by now I can maneuver around to any part of the city. I must give credit to my peers and Capital Gateway fellows though; they were extremely friendly and helped me familiarize myself with both the house and our neighborhood.
This was a test-run, of sorts, for future undergraduate and graduate studies away from home. If I was nervous about it before, I feel more confident now that distance should not dictate which school or program I choose.
2. The People You Meet
One of the most unique aspects of this internship is its location in Washington D.C. Being down the street from the White House and the Capitol Hill allows us to meet with legislators we’ve only read about – and not just meet them but have the opportunity to advocate for the Armenian Cause. I have interned with local, state, and federal officials in the Southern California area – and each was an experience that I would not trade. But DC is different – from Congress to the White House to the think tanks – it is a unique opportunity to affect policy.
Within these two weeks, I was fortunate enough to speak with the former US ambassador to Armenia, Mr. John Evans, the Nagorno Karabagh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, and Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Joe Baca (D-CA), and Mike Doyle (D-PA). I have gone to the U.S. Capitol on several occasions, visiting various Senate and House members’ offices, providing them with press clippings from Armenian American newspapers, and thanking them for fighting in support of our just cause. It is a great way to learn who is who and get a better grip of the legislators who support our issues. You really cannot do that anywhere other than DC.
3. The Knowledge You Gain
I am, by no means, an expert in Armenian History; but even my fellow interns who were heavily educated about our past, found themselves learning new information. In all honesty, every day we come across a subject that we discuss heavily while completing our work, and I find that to be both informative and entertaining. If you are an individual like me, who enjoys reading and expanding his or her educational horizon, this city is meant for you – and this program is meant for you. Every day, “think tanks” host events on a myriad of topics, in which they debate current controversial issues, lead by individuals who are experts in the subject matter. Some of these discussions focus on Armenia and the Caucasus – many do not – but all provide interesting perspectives and an opportunity to be part of the dialogue and not simply an onlooker from afar.
However, it is not just the interesting people you meet or the events you attend. I was looking for a summer experience where the projects I take on are not just simple office tasks. From the first day, I tackled new and interesting projects, and as soon as I completed them, I had another one waiting for me. In this office, I feel useful, I feel productive, and most importantly, I feel like my work is helpful for the Armenian community.
4. Unleashing Your “Inner Hai Tahd”
From the very first Armenian event we attended (it was a picnic at the local Soorp Khatch Armenian Church), I felt my passion towards my culture and community significantly grow. I met Armenians who hardly spoke our language, yet they were tremendously active and interested in the Armenian Cause – and that was inspiring to me. Since that day, I have been thinking about ways to develop my involvement, my education, and my passion for the Armenian community when I get back home. How can I get more active in our Cause?
I owe it all to my fellow interns and most importantly, the team here at the ANCA National Headquarters – who want the interns to have the best experience possible and set the foundation for ongoing Hai Tahd activism.
These are my points that I’ve compiled only from the first two weeks of being in Washington DC. I am positive that this list will only continue to grow longer, but until then, I only have one concluding thought – not only about this internship, but life in its entirety. Regardless of what you are given, the real value of an experience depends entirely on how much passion, interest, and effort you put into it. The LSI program gives you the opportunity to really experience DC and its intersection with Hai Tahd. It’s up to you to take full advantage of the program and make it a summer you will remember for a lifetime.