‘Pathway to Armenia’ Program Impacts Future Course of Birthright Alumni

Birthright Armenia alum Marisol Khadeyan from Argentina, 20th participant in the Pathway to Armenia program, at work preparing her job applications.
Birthright Armenia alum Marisol Khadeyan from Argentina, 20th participant in the Pathway to Armenia program, at work preparing her job applications.

Birthright Armenia alum Marisol Khadeyan from Argentina, 20th participant in the Pathway to Armenia program, at work preparing her job applications.

Marisol Khadeyan, 28, the most recent participant in the Pathway to Armenia program, is a young woman on a mission.  Like the 19 applicants to the program before her, she is hoping to find a paying job in her field of interest in Armenia, one that will afford her the opportunity to stay long-term.  The Pathway to Armenia program was created in early 2013 specifically to support the growing number of Birthright Armenia alumni around the world interested in returning to Armenia for work purposes.  Accepted applicants receive three months of subsidized housing at the Birthright House and technical assistance from staff members, in an effort to ease the financial and logistical burdens associated with job hunting in Armenia.

After serving as a Birthright Armenia volunteer for eight months in 2013-2014 in Gyumri, Artsakh and Yerevan, Marisol left her Argentinian hometown of Cordoba behind for an August 2015 return to the homeland.  Marisol is the 20th Birthright Armenia alum to return to Armenia post volunteerism via the Pathway to Armenia program.  More impressively, she represents the 76th alum to move to Armenia.  “I enjoy politics and working toward social change, and feel there is ample opportunity to engage in such activities here in Armenia and help bring about change,” shares Marisol.

There have been numerous success stories, with 17 of the 19 Birthright Armenia alums before her finding salaried jobs in their fields that compensate enough to sustain their desired lifestyles in Armenia and sometimes a bit extra to help pay off their student loans.  Among them are Arpa Vartanian, Arthur Dolmajian, and Gayane Baghramyan.

Arpa, 23, a recent graduate from George Mason University, born and raised in Annandale, VA, currently works at VGM Partners, a small consulting firm that provides management services for international development projects across the globe. He is a Project Acquisition Specialist, drafting proposals, formulating budgets and forming teams of experts for large-scale USAID, World Bank, and European Commission projects across Armenia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It took Arpa only two months of aggressive job hunting in Yerevan, utilizing the various connections he had at his disposal, to land what he refers to as a “dream job.”  Arpa says, “I came to Armenia seeking experience in both my career and personal life, and despite all the criticism I faced regarding my decision to make the big move, it was the best damn decision I’ve ever made, and I will never regret it.”

As a Birthright Armenia volunteer in 2009, Arthur Dolmajian was placed at Dorozhnik LLC to work on the drinking water and waste water systems rehabilitation project in Gyumri and its neighboring villages. He did land surveying with a local civil engineer and accompanied the superintendent during construction site visits, as well as helped with translations as needed.  This peeked Arthur’s interest in establishing a life in Armenia, so when he was weighing out his options for his return to Armenia five years later, he quit his job and made the move in the fall of 2014.

Dolmajian, 28, a native of Montreal, doesn’t look back at his comfortable life in Canada. He’s leading a comfortable life in Armenia, and currently carving a clear path for himself in the fields of transportation planning, geographic information systems, and big data with his Google Transit for Yerevan Project and personal data visualization projects of his. He launched a website for himself (arthurdolmajian.com) and he is now a lecturer at the American University in Armenia teaching Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. “Often times in life, opportunities are there but you need to find them or learn to recognize them. Other times, with a little creative thinking and innovative spirit, you can create your own opportunities,” shares Arthur.

Gayane Baghramyan, 32, from St. Petersburg, also returned to Armenia with the goal of finding a paid job to sustain her long-term stay in Yerevan.  Her father, not entirely sold on the idea of her moving to Yerevan indefinitely, gave her three months to make it work.  Entering the Pathway to Armenia program in May, Gayane immediately began interviewing and taking on temporary part-time jobs to stay afloat.  She talked up her job seeking status to everyone she encountered, until one day in July, it totally paid off.

“I visited the National Gallery of Art to ask the director if she had a paying job of any kind for me there, tour guide, translator, graphic design, anything. She told me she didn’t have work, and whatever she did have didn’t pay much, but I left her with my business card regardless.  Within 24 hours, my cell phone rang not just once but twice, from graphic design firms which she had contacted on my behalf, and both of them were calling me in for job interviews.  The rest is history, I’m gainfully employed in a wonderful firm, Aurora Baréalisse, as a graphic designer, working with a great team of creative people, and am making my dream come true in Armenia,” explains Gayane.

Birthright Armenia’s mission is to strengthen ties between the homeland and diasporan youth by affording them an opportunity to be a part of Armenia’s daily life and to contribute to Armenia’s development through work, study and volunteer experiences, while developing a renewed sense of Armenian identity. For more information, please visit our website at www.birthrightarmenia.org.


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