(Dover, MA, USA)
For many volunteers, a trip back to Armenia is a trip back to the familiar; they may be acquainted with the language, the food, or even its ancient history. For me, now a 3rd generation half-Armenian living in a very non-Armenian community, living in Armenia was an amazing opportunity to learn everything about where my ancestors come from.
Birthright Armenia gave me the opportunity to begin learning Armenian, to meet a diverse group of volunteers from all over the world, and to visit sites all around the country. It gave me the chance to experience Armenia as an Armenian, not as a tourist. I lived with a host family and learned so much more about Yerevan than I otherwise could have. I ate the ripest apricots, peaches, and tomatoes I have ever tasted. I was drenched by kids carrying overflowing buckets of water in a village on Vartavar. I enjoyed many a café glacée in the outdoor cafes at Opera. I went to the opening ceremonies of the Pan-Armenian games and felt immense pride in being a part of such a unique and diverse culture. And I saw the old churches that were among the first Christian churches in the entire world.
The result? I have come back to the United States with a much greater pride in my heritage. I now know what it means to be an Armenian. I have Armenian friends all over the world that I know I will keep in touch with. But most important, I have the memories of an incredible trip that will stay with me forever. Thank you, Birthright, for allowing me this opportunity of self-discovery. Until next time, ts’tesutyun!