Navigating the streets of Yerevan

Sylvia Ohanyan

While studying abroad in Turkey the fall semester of my senior year of college, an Armenian friend of mine from grade school whom I hadn’t spoken to in years, emailed me and told me he thought I should think about doing Birthright Armenia after graduation. In all honesty, I had never had any strong desire to visit Armenia. Yes, I love traveling and want to see the world, but Armenia was not high on my list. But, as I’ve come to learn, life works in funny ways.

When I graduated from college in May, I was not prepared to start a real career and I needed a break from school before I could think about earning my graduate degree. To appease my parents, I began interning at a company but I did not find the work meaningful. On a whim, I perused the Birthright Armenia website, and with the least amount of thought I have applied to any area of my life, decided to move to Armenia.

To some degree, I realize that my coming here is me running away from “real” life, but when else am I going to have the chance to spend four months volunteering in my homeland without any obligations back in the United States? I’m using this experience as a way to push myself out of my comfort zone, as a way to help me realize what’s vital in my life and what’s not.

Although I arrived less than a week ago, I’m slowly becoming comfortable navigating the streets of Yerevan on my own and working on understanding Eastern Armenian since my family and I speak Western Armenian back home. While it’s strange living with a new family, they have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. During the two months I’m spending in Yerevan, I’m going to be an English assistant at the Macsedan School, which should be interesting since I have never taught English before. I’m excited for the new experience and ready to meet the kids in a few days. I will then head to Gyumri for two months to work at an orphanage. That’s all I have pre- planned for my time here; I’m functioning on a day by day basis and remaining open minded about everything. I have no idea what I’m going to do once I return to the US, but I have no intentions of allowing worrying about the future to interfere with my time spent in Armenia.

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