Throughout my last years at University, it felt like the right choice - to take 3 months off after graduation, to finally find my myself and realise my true calling in another country. As cliché as that sounded, my goal was to hopefully, one day, make my mark somewhere and offer my skills, knowledge and resources to help a cause greater than myself. I wanted to contribute some part of me to a society that truly needed saving. So as an Armenian girl born and raised in Sydney Australia, I would not have imagined the dire state of the legal system in Armenia or the urgent need for law reform, until I stepped foot into Armenia 3 months ago, started my Birthright journey and began my placement at the Helsinki Association for Human Rights (NGO).
My jobsite became much like a second family for me, after they welcomed me in with their warmth, kindness and love. Many celebrations, victories and laughter were shared in that office throughout my time there, and I’ve grown so attached to every single amazing and inspirational employee, that saying goodbye will be the hardest thing I’d ever have to do. There was never a dull moment during my placement as a volunteer, and every second was spent working towards their imperative and urgent mission to protect human rights in Armenia. I was even a monitor for the City Council Elections that took place in September, and visited polling stations to monitor electoral activities around the city. Working with human rights defenders, I never knew what I was going to expect as a law graduate, coming from a country where human rights are thoroughly upheld and maintained by law and international treaties. Working with the best advocates and monitors at Helsinki, I began to appreciate and respect the dedication and strength they hold, working towards their mission to maintain civil society and democracy in Armenia. I was deeply moved by every story I heard and by every client that walked through those doors, with tears running down their cheeks, but hope still firmly grasped in their hands.
No one could ever give me the experiences, memories, friendships and opportunities like Birthright did. Not only do I feel like I have found my true calling after 3 months of working in human rights law, but it has motivated me to start and run my own program in the near future in Armenia, to help sustain human rights and prevent discrimination and violations against civilians. I hope to continue my involvement with Armenian affairs once I leave, as I feel so deeply connected with it and I have hope that my small contributions and efforts here will have made a significant impact to its future. Birthright also gave me a chance to meet inspired, courageous and amazing Armenian youths from the diaspora, whom I would have never met if it wasn't for this program, especially a few from my own city (and Meghety, who lived 5 minutes away from me!).
Honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to expect, or who I was going to meet, or where I was going to work or whether I'd enjoy living independently away from home (and whether I could survive it!). But a word to the wise... don’t let your fears of the unknown stand in the way of chasing your dreams! Take the chance, make a choice and embrace the change that's about to come your way, because if I learned anything from my time at Birthright, it is to be as flexible as possible! I’ve learned to be open to new possibilities, to the new doors opening in front of me, to meeting new people, trying new things and changing my way of life and the way I view the world in its entirety.
Trust me, you wont feel like you belong anywhere, until you experience Birthright. Being Armenian will have a whole new meaning to the name and you'll look at this beautiful, rich country with a new set of eyes. You'll understand what its like to actually be an Armenian, not just visiting Armenia...but living here, working here and embracing your culture in a way you've never felt before. You will feel like every minute that you have spent living away from Armenia was wasted time, and you are finally awakened to all the new possibilities that have opened here for you. Every person you meet, view you see, attraction you visit, heart you touch, life you change lesson you learn or memory you make will stay with you to the very end, and when you know you only have a few days left in this gorgeous city or when you finally return home, you'll want to relive every second once more, only to experience those days again when you felt truly like an Armenian, in our Motherland.
Someone once said to me ~ “take chances, take a lot of them, because honestly no matter where you end up, it always ends up just the way it should be".