Youth Corps Volunteers Look Forward to Armenia

A monestary in Armenia


I am less than three weeks away from my departure and currently mixed with many emotions. Last time I was in Armenia, I had a different agenda. I was on a class trip, I was in fifth grade, and I had just an idea of my capabilities in this country. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about returning and getting a taste of what it’s really like to be living in Armenia, but it’s a different kind of nervousness. Of course, I get emotional every time I think about leaving my friends and family, people who I have spent the past eighteen summers with, but I also get the same sentiment every time I think about going home again, seeing Ararat again, walking on the streets of Yerevan again. I am impatiently waiting for AYF Youth Corps to start, I am excited to meet my family for the next six weeks, and I can’t wait to create memories and give back to a country that has given me so much.

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Youth Corps volunteer Melanie Searles


I’ve never been out of the country. I’ve been wanting to travel for so long, and I figured Armenia should be where I start — especially going with the youth corps. I’m so excited to tour the country and learn more in depth about the history of Armenia. I want to see all the beautiful, historic churches and buildings that are there. But I’m really looking forward to working with the children at the camps. I truly hope that I can positively affect them and much as they will affect me. I know that this will be a life changing experience and I’m so ready to get there!

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This is the moment I have waited for for a long time. Years have turned into months, months have turned into weeks, and soon, weeks will turn into days. As I continue my countdown to one of the biggest adventures of my life with AYF Youth Corps, I find it hard to describe exactly what I am feeling, since there are so many thoughts and emotions going through my mind. Beneath all of my enthusiasm and impatience for our trip to begin, I can’t help but feel a bit nervous. Nervous because I’ve never been so far away from home for so long. Nervous because although I have been to Armenia twice before, I have never been without the comfort of having my family and close friends nearby. Nervous because I’m not yet sure exactly what to expect. Nervous because no matter how excited I am, the butterflies can’t seem to leave my stomach.
Everyone I have talked to who has participated in this program has said the same thing: that Youth Corps will be the best experience of my life, that when I come home, not a day will go by that I don’t wish I was back in Armenia. I’ve looked at pictures from past years, read blogs, and gotten advice from other participants. Hearing stories from friends who have participated and seeing the contributions that have been left by others have helped me mask my nervousness and overpower it with excitement. I’m excited to see my homeland for the third time, but in a completely different way than I did the first two times. Excited to witness the beauty of Armenia with such an amazing group of people. Excited to bond with the children of the camps we will be working at, as well as fellow participants and our host families. Excited to become a temporary resident of the country my great grandparents were forced to leave a hundred years ago. And finally, I’m excited to create my own experiences, while at the same time helping to continue the legacy that AYF Youth Corps leaves behind each summer. The countdown continues until our departure date, and I can’t wait for the adventures to begin.

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Youth Corps Volunteer Carla Kekejian


Participating in AYF Youth Corps has always been on my To-Do List. I’ve wanted to participate in this program ever since I was introduced to it as a Badanee. Following Youth Corps, I’ll be staying in Armenia for an additional five weeks to become a Birthright Armenia participant, as well.

Thus, in less than two weeks, I’ll be embarking on the journey of a lifetime. While I’ve been to Armenia once before, I know that this trip will be entirely different. For starters, I’ll be there for longer than two weeks, doing so much more than sightseeing and touring. I have so much to look forward to and I can’t help but be overtaken with excitement. There’s so much I want to do and experience while living and working in Armenia, and what better way to organize those aspirations than with an Armenia To-Do list as my first Youth Corps blog. Of course, I know that the adventures that wait in Armenia are going to exceed this list, greatly.

Here we go:

1. Learn to make Sarma (called Dolma in Armenia). Maybe I’ll even be able to pick the grape leaves myself!

2. Have the kids I work with in Armenia and Artsakh teach me how to juggle a soccer ball.

3. Sing a couple of lines from my favorite Sayat Nova song on Sayat Nova St.

4. Make Ճինկալով Հաց in Artsakh.

5. Շուրջպար with my group around the «Ազատ Արցախը Ողջունում է Ձեզ» sign at the entrance of Karabakh.

6. Coordinate an Armenian dance with a group of ճահել kids.

7. Ամէն առիթ օգտագոծել Հայերէն երգելու:

8. Have a memorable experience celebrating Armenia’s second independence on September 21.

9. Dance to a live Dhol and Zurna entourage.

10. Become a family with the other Youth Corps participants.

11. Write a Youth Corps blog entirely in Armenian.

12. Make very second in Armenia matter; the smallest effort and contribution is going to make a huge impact.

13. Visit Areni winery.

14. Witness a wedding.

15. Discover, and fall in love with hidden gems of Armenia and Artsakh that often go unnoticed or unappreciated.

16. To not be a tourist.

17. Learn Artsakh’s national anthem.

18. Have an incredible experience watching the World Cup championship match.

19. Climb a tree. (I’ve never climbed a tree before.)

20. Go hiking in Artsakh.

21. Learn to skip rocks at Parvana Lij in Javakhk.

22. Contribute to Armenia’s development and prosperity through my volunteer work with AYF Youth Corps and the internship I take part in with Birthright Armenia.

23. Survive Vartivar.

24. Try to buy a jazve from Jazve Cafe.

25. Return with stories about life in Armenia and inspire more diasporans to live and experience Armenia the following summer.

26. Lorke wherever, whenever possible.

27. Be fearless, be independent, open-hearted, and open-minded.

28. See Henrikh Mkhitaryan

29. Ամէն առիթ օգտագոծել Հայերէն խօսելու:

30. Have the most remarkable, adventurous, inspirational, educational, and unforgettable, summer

Throughout my time in Armenia, I’ll be consistently writing blogs and I hope that in each one of those blogs I’ll be able to tell an incredible story about an extraordinary experience I had, on my own and with the group. In time, I’ll be gladly crossing off things from my Armenia To-Do List.


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