Born in Bulgaria to an Armenian-Bulgarian family, I moved to Sweden at age 18 where I attended Jonkoping's International Business School, with a focus in Economics and Finance. Jonkoping's International Business School is known for its diversity, and it gave me the wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and even live with people from all across the world. This opportunity really influenced me in many ways and even motivated me to keep traveling so that I can meet more people with different cultures and backgrounds. Soon after, I made the decision to embark on a trip around the world as a way to discover myself as well as my surroundings.
Before my volunteerism in Armenia, I had already been traveling for three months. I was backpacking in all the Baltic countries and I even lived in Russia for a while. I remember surfing on the web when I came across the program for Diaspora Armenians (Birthright Armenia), which offers cultural exchange opportunities. My interests towards the program flourished when I read the possibilities of living with an Armenian host family, volunteering in the field that I was interested in, having the opportunity to read and write in Armenian, as well as go to weekly excursions to further explore the country.
One of the main prerequisites for the Birthright Armenia program was that the participant must have Armenian roots and be born outside of Armenia. In my case, because everyone on my father's side has Armenian origin, I did not hesitate at all to apply for the program. Soon enough, I had my Skype interview with the program leader, and I made the decision to go to Armenia.
Although this was a swift change in my travel plans, I was still very excited for the opportunity and ready to embrace this chapter of my life. Because I had never been to Armenia and it had always been a dream of mine to visit, I immediately started looking for tickets to get to Yerevan from Moscow.
Birthright Armenia gave me the chance to explore Armenia like never before. Aside from living with a host family for three months, I got to meet other Diaspora Armenians from all over the world - the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Australia, etc. Thanks to the Birthright staff, we always had activities and excursions so that I can be actively involved in different things.
Needless to say that the nature in Armenia is marvelous and picturesque, the locals here are also very hospitable, which made me feel like I was at home everywhere I went. I remember how I was traveling by myself around Armenia a couple of times and all the people I met on the road offered to accommodate me and would even give me food. What I like most about Armenia is how the people here are genuinely kind, generous, and are always ready to help.
These three months have been a wonderful experience and I'm forever grateful to Birthright for giving me the opportunity to come and volunteer in Armenia. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to meet and make lifelong friends. I wouldn't have had the chance to really understand what it means to be Armenian. Not only have I gained a better understanding about my heritage and history, I also gained professional experience from the volunteering site where I worked at. All in all, it has been a great journey for me to come here. I encourage everyone to apply and volunteer without hesitation. It will be, without a doubt, one of your best life experiences and you will not only learn more about Armenia but you'll also learn more about yourself.
Aleks Robert Boyadzhiyan (Bulgaria)