San Francisco, CA, United States
Before starting my trip, I was given the opportunity to spend a portion of my Birthright program volunteering in Gyumri. I agreed to start my trip in Gyumri with the thought that, having never lived in the snow before, the winter would be incredibly harsh and I would not want to stay longer than one month. I could not have been more wrong. I never expected to love Gyumri nearly as much as I do now. I will admit, it was difficult to adjust to the lifestyle, and the snow, when I first arrived. But, being a fluent western Armenian speaker, starting my program in Gyumri was the best decision for me. The dialect spoken in Gyumri is very similar to the Western Armenian dialect, making it easier for me to adjust straight away.
One of the reasons I loved Gyumri so much was the people. My homestay consisted of simply me and my host mom. It was clear to me that she wanted to help enhance my experience. During dinner, she would regularly teach me about Armenian history and culture. I loved hearing about those topics from her perspective. Gyumri is famous for its arts and humor. My host mom even took me and a friend to the theater one night. We went to the Gyumri State Symphony Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary Concert. It was remarkable to watch the orchestra perform live and really captured what Gyumri is famous for. I was very fortunate to grow so close to my host mom. The hospitality and love felt among the locals in Gyumri are truly unmatchable.
I also spent loved getting to know the locals who worked at my job sites. At Armenian Caritas, I created and executed a marketing campaign revolving around simple success stories. Caritas is a nonprofit program that aids atrisk groups such as youth, elderly, and disabled. It was fascinating to sit down with locals to hear their story and how Caritas has helped them over the years. I also taught English lessons at Shirvanian Youth Center. It was fun to connect with the girls in my class. I explained to them how I came from San Francisco to volunteer in Armenia. It was clear that having that conversation with them really opened their eyes to the possibilities their futures hold. My third job placement was at Dogs of Gyumri. I was nervous to start this internship because I was not sure what to expect. I quickly fell in love with the organization. Interacting with the dogs, foster families and veterinarian were experiences I never thought I would have. I feel very grateful for all the locals I met in Gyumri.
It was insanely difficult when the time came to part ways with Gyumri. I left knowing that no matter where I am in the world Gyumri will always be considered home to me. I am already planning my next visit to the city that has my heart.
I was eager about having three job sites because I am someone who likes to stay as busy as possible.
It was fun to teach youth English lessons. The girls were very excited to hear how I came all the way from San Francisco to work in Gyumri. Lastly, Dogs of Gyumri was an extremely fun experience.
Essentially, I have nothing but good things to say about Gyumri.
I had an amazing experience in Gyumri. Admittedly, it was difficult to adjust to the lifestyle here when I first arrived. But, after getting used to the rhythm here, I began to love this city. All three of my job sites were very interesting and fun to volunteer. I liked having a variety of focuses on the work I was doing. I also loved my host mom. Coming to Gyumri, I had heard the people who lived here were extremely loving and hospitable. Yet, I still remain amazed at just how loving they are. I was very fortunate to become close with my host mom. She was proud to call me a daughter of her own, which made me feel very loved. While I do wish there was a bigger group of volunteers in Gyumri during my time here, I was able to bond with the small group that was here. Having more volunteers would have made for a more adventurous experience in this city. Overall, I truly loved the time I had in Gyumri.