Armenia is unlike any place in the world. From the Syrian restaurants decorated with Arabic letters, to the Hindi roots within the language, to the post Soviet infrastructure, after spending a summer in Armenia, I feel as though I’ve lived all over the world. I came to Yerevan because I was interested in learning more about the Armenian Genocide, fully aware that mass atrocities cannot simply be taught in the classroom because learning about facts and statistics do not adequately do a genocide justice. I went for the stories and the museums, so that I could better understand the dynamic sentiment and complex history. Though the genocide occurred over 100 years ago, and very few people can recall, first hand, what transpired, almost every family within Armenia today was directly affected by the tragedy at some point.
So, I packed my bags and left my comfortable beach home in Florida to venture across the world without knowing a word of Armenian or a single person in the country. And I could not have had a better experience. From the moment I reached the airport in Yerevan, I felt comfortable in this foreign city. Thanks to the Armenia Volunteer Corps, I was placed in a challenging internship with the French Armenia Development Foundation where we were implementing a program for refugees to economically integrate within the country. Additionally, I was given free Armenian language classes, and matched with a wonderful host sister, who cooked delicious Armenian food, and who quickly became one of my closest friends. Before I knew it, we were laughing into all hours of the night, and traveling around the country on different adventures. In addition, I had the honor of meeting many Syrian-Armenian refugees, and hearing their stories about war, first hand. It showed me how much resilience and strength it takes to flee violence and uproot a life, and it enriched my passion to pursue a career in international law, to legally assist displaced people.
Located in a tumultuous region, Armenia remains a safe haven for travelers and scholars, yearning to experience life in a different way. If you are reading this, and perhaps you are unsure where life should take you next, please come to Armenia. I want the whole world to sit in the streets of Yerevan, sipping Armenian coffee, or to taste delicious lavash bread with herbs and spices. I want the world to hear the stories of the Armenian Genocide from the grandmothers, and visit the museums, memorials, and monasteries, to discover why the people here continue to smile so wide, and love with such generosity.
University of Michigan, Class of 2019