From the holy city of Etchmiadzin, to the humbling grave of William Saroyan, students and faculty of all cultures got a glimpse of Armenia, Tuesday, November 15. The presentation by Professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program, took place during the weekly International Coffee Hour on campus. The lecture gave attendees the opportunity to learn about Armenia and the Armenian Studies Program summer study abroad program directed by Der Mugrdechian. The Coffee Hour presentation was also part of International Education Week at Fresno State.
Many of the students and faculty in attendance were unfamiliar with Armenia, some not even knowing where it is located. Other students in attendance, however, are involved in the Armenian Studies Program and thus are more familiar with the issues facing Armenia. In both cases, students and faculty were able to learn about “Armenia, A Country in Transition.”
Professor Der Mugrdechian took the audience through the trip using slides from the past summer’s study abroad program, when he and a group of nine students spent three weeks traveling, and exploring the Armenian culture.
The group stayed in the Yerevan State University Guest House, located in the heart of Armenia’s capital.
They visited historic sites including the Temple of Garni, William Saroyan’s grave, and the fortress of Erebuni.
In addition to visiting historic sites, the Armenia Summer Study group learned what life is like for college students in Armenia. The students took classes with Armenian students at Yerevan State University and traveled with the students around Armenia. The group also met with Yerevan State University president, Dr. Radik Martirosyan, and learned about the problems facing the University.
Students were able to further their Armenian experience by visiting many Armenian churches. Converting to Christianity in 301 AD, Armenia has maintained its religious identity to this day. Students attended the church of Holy Etchmiadzin on a Sunday in order to participate in an Armenian service. Students also visited other churches including Zvartnots, Karmravor, and Odzun.
A new church in Armenia, the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, was completed in 2001. The church holds 1,700 people, representing the 1700th anniversary of Armenia as a Christian nation. The church cost over 10 million dollars to build and all of the money came from donations outside of Armenia.
The head of the Armenian Church, the Catholicos, plays a critical role in the Armenian Church. His status is similar to the pope of the Catholic Church. Having visited Fresno earlier this year in June, students in the Armenian Summer Study program were able to have a personal audience with His Holiness Karekin II, the current Catholicos. The students met with the Catholicos for over three hours.
Another significant person the students were able to meet was the foreign minister of Armenia, His Excellency Vartan Oskanian. The students learned about the current problems facing Armenia and how the country is transitioning for the better.
Students concluded their trip by visiting the Armenian Martyr’s Monument. The monument represents the 1.5 million Armenians that were killed during the Armenian Genocide. The monument was built in 1965 on the 50th Anniversary of the Genocide. The students left flowers and silently thought about the tragic events Armenians have had to overcome.
The International Coffee Hour was a great opportunity for students to learn about different cultures from around the world. In the presentation on Armenia, students and faculty learned about the tragic events that Armenia has overcome in order to become the independent country that it is today. It also provided an excellent background of the Armenian culture and history and gave the audience a glimpse of Armenia today.
International Coffee Hour is co-sponsored by the International Student Services and Programs, the USU Diversity Awareness Program, the Division of Student Affairs, and Fresno State.