Your instinct is always right. If someone had told me last year that I would be in Yerevan at this time, I would have laughed, as I did not think it would even be possible.
I was supposed to return to Los Angeles over a week ago to prepare for my journey through pharmacy school at the University of the Pacific in Northern California since classes start at the end of August. One month ago, I decided to apply the deferral of my admission to pharmacy school by a year, which would allow me to, instead, begin in Fall 2019 if approved by the university. My request was approved, bringing me to the brink of a difficult, yet very easy decision.
Ten weeks in Armenia simply was not enough for my heart and soul, and I wanted to continue to discover our motherland, as well as discover myself. I trusted my instinct.
Birthright placed me in two job-sites for my stay in Armenia. I volunteer at the children’s portion of Muratsan Hospital Department of Chemotherapy, where I shadow doctors and build friendships with the kids who are suffering through different forms of cancer. The other is an internship in the department of regulatory affairs at FMD K&L, a Chinese pharmaceutical company with offices in Yerevan. I work as support on projects pertaining to the maintenance of accurate legal documentation provided by drug manufacturers relating to their markets in Europe and North America. My colleagues here welcomed me with open arms and went out of their way to teach me more about the job as well as the industry and have become good friends of mine. This job is crucial to why the University of the Pacific allowed me to defer my application; at FMD, I am gaining valuable experience that will further prepare me for pharmacy school and for becoming a pharmacist.
This is my first non-touristic visit to Armenia. Living here as a local has given me an entirely different perspective on the country itself. I feel a completely different sense of happiness here than I ever felt back in California. Breathing fresh air, eating natural fruits, vegetables, and meats, and enjoying the company of people around me are some of the little joys of daily life here. The warmness of the people and the prioritization of success as a group over individuals combine to make someone like me, an Armenian American who has lived his entire life in the USA, feel very at home here.
Living in Armenia without an imminent return date or pressure to visit touristic sites has given me the opportunity to explore the gems of the country. Through excursions organized either by Birthright staff or friends, I have explored and will continue to explore the real beauty of Armenia, which lies outside of Yerevan. From the green hills of Dilijan to the breathtaking Aragats mountain, to the historical and mountainous Artsakh region, it is evident that the true wealth of our country is our nature and landscape. Throughout Armenia, the cultural practices of language, religion, art, music, and dance have been preserved very well and still live vibrantly among the people today both in Armenia and in the diaspora. They are indicative of different parts of our history and show how strong we stand today as Armenians. Attending Armenian school further integrated me in our culture by educating me about our rich history and traditions; it allowed me to better understand and relate to our country and people as a current resident of the ‘hayrenik’.
I am not sure yet when I will return to the US. I will surely return before August 2019, as pharmacy school still remains a priority in my life, but a concrete date is yet to be determined. I will have to just go with my instinct, as it has made me as happy as can be thus far.