A Trip That Changed My Life

The author in front of the "These are Our Mountains" monument in Artsakh holding that country's national flag

The author in front of the “These are Our Mountains” monument in Artsakh holding that country’s national flag

From Birthright Armenia Blog

“Lost time is never found” Benjamin Franklin.

Everything about this quote is 100% correct. When I as a kid, I always wanted to visit Armenia. My grandfather encouraged me to apply to Birthright Armenia as soon as I turn twenty-one years old. The years passed and my grandfather died in November 2014. Ever since his death, I have wanted to apply but didn’t do so until I turned twenty-four. This was the best decision I ever made. Birthright Armenia is a life-changing experience. You meet so many incredible people throughout this journey. This experience has by far more exciting than running my first half marathon when I was only twelve years old.

As my two-month journey started, extending my stay was not on my mind, but that is exactly what ended up happening. My two-month stay suddenly became a full three-month stay. The first day I was there was a culture shock, which lasted about a week or so. I wasn’t used to this type of environment, especially because I came from Los Angeles. What really changed me was the first excursion to Artsakh. Visiting Artsakh was filled with amazing experiences. The trip there changed my perspective. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the land was and how courageous the people were living in danger every day of their lives. We, in Los Angeles, have everything and yet we always find something to complain about. People in Armenia are happy, warm-hearted and are proud to be there for us. These are my people, they are like my family. Being there taught me a lot about patience and ambition.

Armenia taught me that we have to be grateful for what we have and we must help people who do not have our standard of living but do their best to enjoy life. Even with the struggles people face in Artsakh, I still managed to see a smile on the faces of every villager who welcomed us to their home. What I found to be most interesting was the generosity of the people of Artsakh. Neighbors from the villages would invite us in for a glass of wine or dinner. Whatever the time, wherever the place, so long as you are Armenian, you’re part of our family,” I was told by more than one of the neighbors…when you are told that, you feel happier to be Armenian. We Armenians always stick together, we are all one, and that was especially confirmed when a neighbor told me so.

While I stayed in Yerevan, I lived with a local family who were so gracious to host me.  I volunteered at the Helsinki Human Rights Association and Orran. Working in Armenia taught me a lot about the working conditions.

The author and his colleagues at a local gathering

The author and his colleagues at a local gathering

One of the things I looked forward to were the excursions. Going on excursions made us grow. It helped us connect with one another and together. No one was left behind. Going to Meghri was inspiring, even though we were there for only a very short period of time.

While in Meghri, a family invited us into the home with open arms. Immediately, they left their house to buy food from the local market so that they could feed us a warm meal. As soon as they returned from the local market, they started serving us a full five-course meal, minus the kabob. The more excursions I would go on, the closer I got with the volunteers. I spent my first Christmas and New Year’s without my family. I spent it with my temporary family who will remain dear to my heart forever. The fact that it started to snow on New Year’s Day made it very special because it reminded me of my childhood when we used to visit my father’s family in Chicago.

I ended my trip by attending my friend’s engagement farewell dinner in Armenia. What a wonderful ending to a love affair. They met each other while at Birthright. Living in Armenia taught me about values and honor. It strengthened my Armenian identity.

I can’t thank my family back home enough and the Birthright family in Armenia for allowing me to be part of this amazing experience. Thanks to Birthright, I discovered a lot about myself and those around me. Everything you do in life is all meant to be done for a reason, a purpose, and a sacrifice. Spending a couple months of your life away from your family is something many people won’t be willing to do. I’m glad I did it and served my country.

Living in Yerevan impacted my life in many ways and that is one thing I’m never going to forget. Yerevan is a city full of many surprises and it’s where many people meet each other from all over the world. That’s exactly what happened to me.  I met Armenians from Europe and South America. I never expected to feel so close to people from all over the world. I am going to miss all of my new friends upon my return to Los Angeles. But I will surely be back in the future to reconnect with old and new friends. Thank you Birthright.

This has been a wonderful experience. I will see you again in the near future.


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  1. State of Emergency said:

    But as soon as they emigrate out of Armenia, Artsakh, or any other Armenian community and settle in the US their attitudes change fairly rapidly. Once self sufficient, arrogance and negligence becomes the modus operandi towards fellow Armenians and omnis vir enim sui towards all else.

  2. Satenik said:

    What an inspiring story. Glad you have returned to LA enriched with your culture and will go back again and again no doubt.