Being a Volunteer in Armenia Has No End to The Possibilities…

ShahanShahan Nercessian
(Arlington, MA, USA)

BW2 = bwmorph(BW,’bothat’,inf);

hsv_image = rgb2hsv(rgb_image) ;

[net,tr,Y,E,Pf,Af] = train(net,P,T,Pi,Ai);

Lines of code like these ones are commonly thrown around at my workplace.  You’d think that I’m working in a cubicle at a million person software company in Silicon Valley, or perhaps at a defense contractor located a half hour outside of Boston, but I’m actually working right in the heart of the Kentron of Yerevan on Abovyan St.  I graduated from Tufts University in Medford, MA, USA with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering in May 2007 and 2009, respectively.  My master’s research was in the field of image processing and computer vision.  During the summer, I decided to come to Armenia for 2½ months as a means of relaxing before beginning my Ph.D. program at Tufts.  Completely by chance, I met a fellow Tufts alum by the name of Art Ghazaryan on the street one day near the Garabi Lij.  It turns out that he co-founded an image processing company called Imagenomic, LLC which has a branch here in Yerevan.  Imagenomic creates standalone applications and Photoshop plugins for digital imagery enhancement solutions.  Through the Armenian Volunteer Corps and Birthright Armenia, I have been given the chance to work as a software engineer intern, doing R&D to improve Imagenomic’s current product line.  They have provided me the opportunity to gain practical work experience in my field of interest while also connecting with my homeland and its people.  The job and experience in Armenia thus far has truly revived my passion to continue my studies when I ultimately return to the States.

Though I have an engineering background, I consider myself equal part musician.  I have been playing guitar for about 12 years and have played in settings ranging from live hip hop bands to jazz and Afro-Cuban big bands.  When I’m not working or enjoying the people and sites of Armenia, you can probably find me at the Paplavok Jazz Cafe, Malkhas Jazz Club, Ulikhanyan Club, 12 Club, or Stop Club performing with some of the best jazz musicians I have ever had a chance to play with.  I had met many of them during my trip the summer, and am thrilled to be able to reconnect with them.  In particular, I have had the honor of meeting and consistently playing with Vahagn Hayrapetian, who I regard as “the Herbie Hancock of Armenia” to anybody who doesn’t know about him (though I sincerely hope you all know who Herbie Hancock is, at least).  Having been pretty discouraged with my playing before coming to Armenia this summer, Vahagn uplifted my spirits.  For some reason he has faith in me, and he has gone so far as to call me “a gift to Yerevan,” which is quite an amazing compliment coming from someone of his caliber.  In late October, I am expected to become the guitarist of his band Katuner, one of the most famous jazz bands in Armenia, and an offshoot of the critically acclaimed Armenian Navy Band.

Overall, I cannot stress the type of opportunity Birthright Armenia has given me.  I have been able to prolong my amazing summer experience, pursue both my engineering and music endeavors, and meet great people both in the form of Diasporans and local Armenians.  It just goes to show you that if you decide to create opportunities for yourself, being a volunteer in Armenia has no end to the possibilities, and in reality, much more than one can ever imagine.

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