This year Setrag Hovsepian (AVC '12), from Damascus, Syria, graduated from the American University of Armenia with a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Setrag was selected to be the Valedictorian speaker this year and made it a very meaningful and memorable ceremony for everyone who attended.
We have provided the English translation below since the speech is in Armenian.
Congratulations on your accomplishments Seto! Birthright Armenia wishes you many more happy and successful years ahead!
Setrag Hovsepian's AUA Commencement Speech (English Translation):
Good evening class of 2016, congratulations to all of us!
I am Setrag Hovsepian, a diasporan Armenian from Damascus.
I am speaking today for all of us, all 287 graduates, and to begin by thanking our families and our instructors, without any of you we wouldn’t be here on this stage.
Today is the day that I’ve waited for, for so long. It is the very first time I am actually celebrating a graduation.
I`m going to tell two stories about myself...
You see, back in 2000, I finished elementary school, but the former Syrian president died and the graduation ceremony was canceled. In 2003, I finished secondary school and it was the Iraqi war and we couldn’t celebrate our graduation. In 2006, I finished high school and there was war in Lebanon and unfortunately again, all celebrations were canceled. In 2013, I got my BA from Damascus University and this time, the war was at its peak in Syria and we couldn’t celebrate.
So, today is a special celebration for me, because I am actually celebrating my graduation in the presence of my parents and in my Motherland.
The second story is about AUA and me. AUA saved me twice, first in the summer of 2014 when I received an email saying that I was accepted in the MA TEFL program and I ran into another room to tell my mother about it when a mortar fell in the room where I had been, so AUA literally saved my life.
The second time is today, when I will finally receive a master’s degree, that will open doors wider than I ever imagined and will allow me to build a life here in Armenia. What we Syrians have been and are going through is not easy, yet every night when I turn the lights off in my bedroom, I say at least I am doing something good, AUA. AUA is not just a university which imparts information and teaches courses, it enriches us as humans, it shows us what transparency means, why respect matters, and how people should treat each other.
Sharing knowledge is the first thing that I learned in our first day of class. I am a teacher now, and it is the first thing I teach my students on their first day of class.
I received an Akian scholarship during my 2-year studies, with that I feel an obligation to praise and give back to AUA. I want to encourage all graduates to try to give back. AUA is one of the best educational institutions in the region and it is an honor to have a degree from here. We want it to grow and thrive. Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given.
Today, I am better able to trust myself and my abilities, because I found my passion and followed it. Thank you, AUA for this greatest gift.
In the end,
For all the graduates, I wish a bright future.
For faculty and staff of AUA, I wish continued growth and success.
For Armenia and the world, I wish peace and love.
Congratulations one more time, and thank you.