Five months have gone by and yet it only seems like yesterday that I was watching five young, talented Armenian diasporans discovering Armenia and themselves. Each intern had traveled over 3,000 miles with individual goals that they hoped to accomplish in the short period of eight weeks. Over the summer, readers of the Armenian Weekly were able to follow each intern’s progress as they updated you on their journeys and accomplishmen’s. As the Coordinator, five months later, I thought to myself, what are those interns doing with the experience they have gained from this summer in Armenia? I collected their thoughts to share with you their most recent accomplishmen’s and ambitious plans for the future.
Taleen Mekhdjavakian has been recruiting friends to participate in the internship program. She says she has been really busy this semester at University of Central Florida. Just recently, she became certified in first aid and CPR and works the medical station at home college football games. Although Taleen would really like to go back to Armenia this summer, she is planning on applying to the ANCA Leo Sarkissian Internship program in Washington, DC.
Shogher Baronian has also been studious this past semester at Manhattanville College. When she is not in class studying, she is tutoring other students and working on various activities in her community. Shogher has joined her college track team and says they’ve only had one meet so far since the season has just begun. As for plans for the summer, the friendship that resulted in the 8 weeks in Armenia has continued to stay strong. Shogher has been planning with Taleen to apply to the Leo Sarkissian internship program too.
Lilit Minasyan is currently in the middle of her third year at UC Davis. She is incredibly busy with classes, fencing and work (not to mention several clubs on campus that she participates in). Lilit is very excited that she is collaborating with other Armenian girls to open a new chapter of Alpha Gamma Alpha on the UC Davis campus. This summer she is planning to visit to France.
Jocelyn Bissonnette says that, “Although it’s been three months, it feels like only yesterday that I was in Armenia. The memories and friendships remain strong, and my sense of pride grows stronger every day. My senior year at the University of New Hampshire just started and I am in the process of making plans for after graduation. My tentative goal includes a year of national service with a program that places volunteers into under-performing, inner-city schools. This opportunity will allow me to continue to work for education reform just as I did during my time in Armenia. The experiences gained have guided me through this year and will serve me well in those yet to come. I am grateful to have had the experience of traveling to the homeland and hope to return in the near future.”
Simon Sarkissian went back to Providence College and is finishing his premedical studies. This spring Simon is busy applying for medical school. In his busy schedule, he finds time to work with the Providence “Varantian” Juniors and is also active in the Providence “Varantian” Senior chapter. Simon says, “I truly value the time I spent this past summer in Armenia working with the doctors.”
While each intern returned to their routines, each one came back with stories of their experiences that they shared with their family and friends. Ten years later, these interns were truly able to internalize Unger Hrayr Manoukian’s legacy of the “Tebi Yergeer” idea within the period of eight weeks. Although these interns have returned to their normal routine, I am confident that they will return to Armenia again.
Established in 1992, the AYF Internship Program encourages Armenia’s in the Diaspora to visit and volunteer in Armenia to not only assist local businesses, agencies, and organizations, but also to provide an enriching experience for the people who volunteer. Prior to 1991, the idea of an independent state for the people of Armenia was inconceivable. Armenia’s today are fortunate to have a homeland; however, until an Armenian sets foot in Armenia, Armenia will remain an idea. An internship in Armenia makes the homeland a reality through experiencing first-hand the people and culture of present day Armenia.
Editor’s Note: Garine Palandjian was the Director of the 2008 AYF Summer Internship Program in Armenia. The application for this summer’s program, June 14-August 2nd, 2009 is available online at www.ayf.org. Click on the summer opportunities and download the application today. Deadline for summer 2009 is March 2, 2009.