When did I decide that it was the right moment to come to Armenia for the first time?
I made this decision at the end of 2017. I had just completed my bachelor’s degree, and I realized that I wanted to work for some time before pursuing my studies. This is why I applied to Birthright Armenia.
I wanted this first time in Armenia to be special. I didn’t want to come here and visit the country as a simple tourist. I wanted to work and try to bring my contribution to the economy during my stay. During my youth, I wasn’t really involved in the Armenian community. I knew some words and expressions in (Western) Armenian, typical Armenian dishes and of course the key moments of our great history, but that was pretty much it. However, I have always been very proud of my Armenian heritage even though it has been four generations that my family and I live in the diaspora. And this pride to be Armenian was the determinant factor that encouraged me to come to Armenia.
I arrived in Armenia on the 2nd of June. It was right after the end of the Velvet Revolution! I instantly felt that there was a dynamic of change in Armenia. During my first week, I attended the intensive (Eastern) Armenian language classes with four other volunteers. It made me improve my Armenian a lot, and this is where the now famous “Shad Ayo” (i.e. “Very yes”) expression was invented. After this week, I started to volunteer full time for a fintech start-up. The technology sector in Armenia is booming, and I wanted to work in this very challenging environment, full of opportunities. It was a very enriching experience, which also allowed me to learn more about the Armenian start-up ecosystem.
I didn’t come with any expectation. I went with an open mind. And I wasn’t disappointed! Those moments spent with my incredible host family, the Armenian classes (twice a week, with a great teacher), the forums organized around topics linked to the economy and the politics of modern Armenia or the excursions organized to discover the country will become wonderful memories. Of course, I can’t forget to mention those moments spent with other volunteers, enjoying the great nightlife that Yerevan has to offer.
We all live in different countries, different continents, but our common heritage unites us. Birthright Armenia also allowed me to realize the extent and the potential of our diaspora fully. I was also amazed by the increasing number of non-Armenians that fell in love with the country, the culture and its people. This experience comforted me in my choices, especially the fact that I want to become more involved for Armenia.
Still wondering if you should apply? Don’t hesitate anymore! Will this experience be a real journey of self-discovery? I am afraid I have to answer SHAD AYO!