Each month, we’ll be sharing the research and global adventures of one of our faculty members and/or students who have conducted research in his/her field of study, in our new blog series entitled: Global Research Series. This piece, written by Fresno State student Marine Vardanyan, was published in the Valley Voices section of The Fresno Bee on November 7, 2014. Marine is a senior majoring in public health and minoring in Armenian studies and mass communications and journalism.
Birthright Armenia. Those two words represent a program that is beyond description.
Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity of experiencing Armenia in its entirety — not as a tourist, but as an Armenian, returning to her roots on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment.
Birthright Armenia helped make my dream into a reality — to return to Armenia with a purpose. I wanted to immerse myself into the Armenian life and build connections with young Armenians who share the same love, faith and vision for the country.
Birthright Armenia is a program that empowers young diasporans, ages 20-32, to travel to Armenia as interns and volunteers in their desired fields. Not only does Birthright Armenia connect the participants to internships, but it also provides opportunities to gain unique insight into Armenia through forums, socials, community service projects, language lessons, and excursions.
From meeting with Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan, to visiting the 21st century Ayb School, to cleaning up a park in Hrazdan and driving a tractor with a wagon full of Birthrighters through a village in Karabakh, Birthright Armenia truly made my summer an adventure full of bright memories and new lessons.
An incredibly special part of my experience was meeting and connecting with volunteers from all over the world, ranging from Germany, Egypt, Argentina and more. We danced together, sang together and learned together.
I encountered both Armenians and non-Armenians with fascinating stories and backgrounds, each unique, yet sharing the same passion for making a difference in Armenia. My journey with Birthright Armenia gifted me with long-lasting friendships that I will forever cherish.
Birthright Armenia also connected me to CivilNet, an organization that provides online advocacy news and journalism in Armenian and English, covering local, regional, and international stories.
As an intern, I was given the opportunity to work on a variety of assignments alongside journalists such as Maria Titizian and Salpi Ghazarian.
Every morning, I awoke with excitement for what awaited me at my job. I strolled down Tumanyan Street towards Northern Avenue, happily aware of the sunlight, of the tall buildings, and active life surrounding me. The assortment of tasks, the spontaneity of each workday and the atmosphere of the office made CivilNet an ideal place that I grew to love dearly.
On my first day, I was sent out to cover a protest at the Afrikyans Home, a historic site that the municipality recently demolished.
On my second day, I translated an Armenian video report about the border-village of Chinari, which regularly experiences Azerbaijani gunfire, and recorded the English voice-over. Afterward, a viewer donated $3,000 to the family featured in the video.
I translated numerous articles and helped with several news stories. Some involved going out of town, for example, to a village in Armavir province for a first-aid class and to the village of Teghut in the province of Lori.
CivilNet welcomed me with open arms and made my internship an eye-opening experience.
My assignments, interactions, and adventures allowed me to uncover the issues in Armenia along with gaining real-life experience in journalism.
Birthright Armenia has much to offer, however, it is how one takes advantage of the opportunities that produces the unforgettable and amazing experiences.
To all my Armenian peers, I encourage you to look into this program. Allow yourself to be inspired, expose yourself to the new and unknown, and trust in your ability to make a difference.
Whether it’s for a few weeks or a few months — do yourself a favor by joining Birthright Armenia. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Marine Vardanyan is a student in the College of Health and Human Services’ Honors Scholars Program and is also the president of the Armenian Students Organization and editor for the Hye Sharzhoom student newspaper. She frequently hosts 90.7 KFSR Hye Oozh Radio Show. She was born in Armenia and graduated from Duncan Polytechnic High School in Fresno.