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Coming to CSUF Making Sacrifices for Opportunities

With the third year of funding from the United States Information Agency, the Armenian Studies Program was able to invite three students from Yerevan State University to study at Fresno State for the 1995-1996 academic year. Last year two students, Vahagn Tonoyan and Mary Melikian successfully completed their one year stay and returned to Armenia. The USIA funding of the Russian & Eurasian Awards Program is administered by NAFSA (Association of International Educators). The Armenian Studies Program with the cooperation of the International Studies Program on campus annually arrange for students from Armenia to study in the United States. Fresno State provides fee waivers for the students and the Armenian Studies Program provides substantial financial assistance for the students. This year, three students, Anoush Chubarian (major in Spanish), Tsovinar Petrossian (major in English), and Aram Gevorkian (major in computer science) were chosen to participate in the REAP program.


Three students recently left their faraway homeland of Armenia for the chance to study at Fresno State. Tsovinar Petrossian had hopes of being part of another culture, Anush Chubarian wished to study English, and Aram Gevorkian simply wanted to see the world and make friends. But the one thing they all found in America, in California, in Fresno was freedom. These students have come from the Yerevan State University in Armenia. They arrived August 21 in a place without problems. A place which allows more than two hours of electricity a day. A place where they believe life is easier because everyone has choices. Monday after school Aram doesn’t need to cut down trees to provide heating in the dorms. Tsovinar may talk on the phone anytime and Anush can listen to Michael Jackson for hours. “When we see life here in America we feel sorry for those who are suffering in Armenia, said Tsovinar.” “How can one people live so good and another so bad?” asked Anush.

These students spent a couple of years in programs at Yerevan State University where outstanding grades and strict policies were a must. In Armenia high grades mean college is free, and those that don’t meet certain expectations are required to pay. Being so far from home, Aram can’t help but miss his brother and his computer. Being in such a closed-off culture, Tsovinar can’t help but miss her friend and the warmness from people that she is so accustomed to. “I was shocked to see two girls fighting in the dorms and cursing each other.” Anush dislikes the hot weather and wishes to see more of happy smiles as she walks on campus. These three quickly learned that the rules of the game had changed.

In America football games draw the massive crowds, the latest trends are the latest brand names, one popular car–$40,000, you can drive at 16, and drink at 21. While in Armenia, chess tournaments capture the most fans, the latest trends are political meetings, one standard Russian car–$3,000, you drive at 18 (very uncommon for girls to drive), and drink whenever you want. For Aram, coming to Fresno meant that he would have to part with his slices of Armenian cheese and Dolma. As for Tsovinar and Anush, they found their calling here at the bottom of a banana split. When asked if she could return home with something from Fresno, Anush replied, “I would like to bring electricity and gas.” “Something for Armenia, nothing for me,” said Tsovinar.

Tsovinar, Anush and Aram are faced with the reality that in America life is easy, choices exist, and they all can be truly happy. However, each agrees their rightful place lies with their family, friends, and country so many miles away. So they will eventually return, if only they could return carrying suitcases bursting at the seams with FREEDOM.