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Visit to Armenia on ASP Summer Trip 2011 Leaves Lasting Memories

Staff Report

pg. 4-Kyle GaedeKyle Gaede

I had the incredible opportunity, from May 24 to June 9, 2011, to visit a country, Armenia, whose language, culture, and traditions are some of the oldest and most beautiful in the world. Every waking moment was spent well occupied with some form of immersion into the Armenian culture, from an early morning tour of the Matenadaran to an afternoon of cognac tasting. With the help of our wonderful driver, we spent our days traveling from the beaches of Lake Sevan to the open-air market in Gyumri.

While it is difficult to decide what I specifically enjoyed the most, I would have to say it was the beauty of the Armenian culture, country, and maybe somewhat its women.  Watching the little old ladies who rose at the crack of dawn only to polish the already clean sidewalks with their old straw brooms, is one of those things that I will always remember. I never thought I would see the day when I would be able to say that a talent show put on by the children of the Nork Youth Center would leave me speechless.

The hospitality of David Tataryan’s family still puts a smile on my face when I think of David’s baptism. The way they unwaveringly tried at every song to get us all onto the dance floor, and made sure we all had enough food to eat, made the language barrier in the country all but disappear.

I find that life is all about the small things. While the monasteries in Tatev and Geghard were awe inspiring, the classes on the state of the Armenian economy informational, and the 1,000 foot high gondola ride a little terrifying, I will never forget the simple little things—like playing poker all night just to win enough tram (money) to go buy a chocolate ponchik in the morning.

pg. 4-Denise Altounian-ArmeniaDenise Altounian
Political Science

It would be difficult for me to say that traveling to Armenia was a lifelong dream of mine. I had always been curious about the land of my ancestors, but not much more. I had often heard that you can’t truly feel a connection to the land of your ancestry until you step foot on the soil and this past summer I discovered just how true that really is.

During the long plane ride there, my mind was filled with thoughts of what Armenia would be like. As we got off the plane in the early morning and saw Mount Ararat so clear in the distance, I knew any preconceived notions would be wrong. Traveling to Armenia with the Armenian Studies Program and Prof. Barlow was an experience of a lifetime. I can now say that I have seen more of Armenia than most of my family members. We traveled through so many regions of Armenia, each one having something different to offer. The turnaround was amazing, one day we would take in the big city atmosphere of Yerevan, while other days we were surrounded by mountains in the outskirts of Armenia, almost secluded from people.

One of my favorite visits was to Holy Etchmiadzin. Never before had I seen such a beautiful church filled with so many amazing treasures, and a choir that sang so beautifully. Another beautiful site was Lake Sevan—that really just took my breath away. The size of the lake was incredible and the time we spent on the small beach was so much fun.

A soccer game between Armenia and Russia that was being broadcast in downtown Yerevan was an unexpected moment, that really left an impression on me. There were so many people gathered to support their country; you just could feel that everyone was watching the same game. Their passion and patriotism were amazing. It made me so proud and made me wish that we lived in a society where life could stop for a soccer game. If I could take this trip again, I would in a heartbeat. I left proud to be Armenian and wanting to tell everyone all I knew about the country of Armenia and my trip.

pg. 4-Andrew KhasigianAndrew Khasigian

As a young child, I had always heard about the beauty and history of Armenia. So when a chance to visit Armenia arrived, I jumped at the opportunity. Once our plane landed, I saw the attractiveness of Armenia in Mt. Ararat.

The landscape was stunning and was constantly changing. On each trip to see a different church, we saw more of the beautiful scenery of Armenia. I enjoyed seeing and hearing about all the history of Armenia, the churches, and the Armenian culture. Many of my favorite places that we visited were the churches and especially the landscape and scenery that surrounded them. Even though a majority of the memories I have of Armenia were of the churches or museums, some were of the new friends I made and the time we spent exploring Yerevan.

I plan on making a return trip to Armenia so I can see the tree that we helped plant in the grove at the Armenian Genocide Monument. I would recommend any and all students to attend and participate in a study abroad opportunity such as this.

Armenia Summer Study Trip participants at the Sardarabad monument commemorating the famous battle of 1918. Photo: Barlow Der Mugrdechian
Armenia Summer Study Trip participants at the Sardarabad monument
commemorating the famous battle of 1918. Photo: Barlow Der Mugrdechian