Coming Home

Marie Hagopian
(Mt. Laurel, NJ, United States)

Allow me to be frank.  Coming to Hayasdan was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  From the moment I stepped into the country, I was no longer lost in a sea of Irish, Italians, and blacks.  I was amongst my own people, and I truly felt I belonged.  I’ve always had great friends of all nationalities, but my strong Armenian identity is something that none of them could completely grasp, no matter how worldly they are.

In Yerevan, I lay awake in my comfy bed each and every night in a dreamland, recounting in my head the events of my day.  When my wonderful host sister and host mother asked me if I have any grandparents, I told them I have one grandmother left, whom I absolutely adore.  I quickly began to tear up as I told them how much I miss my grandparents, and wish they were still alive.  I know they’re watching from above as my new-found friends and I eagerly navigate through the streets of Yerevan.  As I walk down the street, I see grandfathers and grandmothers walk their tourniks home from school, briefly stopping at each corner to greet the men and women they’ve probably known for their entire lives.  It makes me smile.  This is a place unlike any other.

Being able to interact with and participate in day-to-day life with my kind, genuine students at Manana Center and my intelligent, insightful co-workers at Pan Armenian Media is truly a reward in itself.  Armenians are a beautiful people.  Passion, loyalty, and love have coursed through our veins since the beginning of time.  This will never end.

Although Philadelphia will always be my birthplace, Hayasdan will always be my home.  Something in this country has grabbed ahold of my heart and I don’t think it will ever let go.  I never imagined I would feel so comfortable in a place that is halfway around the globe, with a language that I cannot speak fluently, and where I didn’t know a soul.

To my brothers and sisters in Yerevan, and the Birthright Armenia and AVC staffs: I cannot thank you enough for welcoming me to Hayasdan with open arms and smiles.  My experience is sure to be relayed to future generations and I hope it inspires them to follow in my footsteps.

It took me 22 years to finally come home, but I’m here.

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