(Los Angeles, CA, USA)
My reasons for doing Birthright Armenia were simple from the beginning: I wanted a year in Armenia so I could drown in the language and read books and travel all over the country and hopefully come out of it with some clarity about whether I should pursue a doctorate degree in comparative literature. I wanted to meet writers and artists, to try my hand at translation, and to watch as many films as possible. I had spent my college years reinterpreting my Armenian heritage as a text rather than a burden on my identity, and decided a deeper, direct foray into the material I had been studying remotely in sunny Los Angeles was necessary. Since the Fulbright didn’t come through, Birthright Armenia was the next way to make it happen. I worked through the summer and fall after college to save up a small nest egg to equal about a year’s worth of drams, packed my bags and flew over. Birthright Armenia was my way of keeping a roof over my head and having a set support system and resources available to me as I built my base for the first time in a foreign country. The first few months in Armenia are challenging, to say the least, and knowing that I could go through the ups and downs of figuring it all out without having to worry about paying rent was an absolute blessing.
That’s it. “Birthright Armenia” isn’t what one should name their time in Armenia, especially when coming here with a clear set of objectives. Birthright Armenia is a means of supporting those objectives, and anyone who expects the organization to mediate or control their understanding of this place is setting themselves up for disappointment. Getting to know a place and its people is an incredibly personal experience, and to not take responsibility for it is a major disservice to one’s self. So if you’re reading this in an attempt to try and decide whether you should “do Birthright” or not, remember that the only thing you’ll be “doing” here is living–and so it’s entirely up to you to make it happen.