WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) Summer Internship Program in Armenia concluded in August with another successful summer. The program featured lectures and discussions with a wide range of officials and tours around the homeland. The eight-week internship program in Yerevan was packed with interesting activities including meetings with prominent individuals from civil society and political leaders, aimed at helping the participants better understand the socio-political situation in Armenia and Artsakh.
This year’s summer class included Kyra Chamberlain interning at the International Center for Human Development, where she researched the status of Syrian refugees in Armenia; Rachael Minassian interning at the Regional Studies Center, where she examined gender studies in Armenia under the supervision of its Founding Director, Richard Giragosian; and Satenik Beglaryan interning at ArmComedy, the first satiric political news show in Armenia that just completed a tour in the United States.
“It is my pleasure every year to meet our summer interns and get to know them, especially their passions and ambitions, and watch them grow while participating in the Armenian Assembly’s internship program in Armenia. These dedicated students will be leaving their marks on the Armenian community, both in Armenia and in their hometowns,” Assembly Regional Director Arpi Vartanian said.
Since its inception in 1999, the summer program in Armenia has introduced college-aged students to life in their ancestral homeland, provided valuable international work experience, and helped participants foster the skills needed to become the next generation of community leaders.
The Assembly interns met with U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr., Founder and Director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center Richard Giragosian, Assembly Turkish Regional Analyst Alin Ozinian, and former Assembly intern Sarkis Balkhian. Balkhian is now the Advocacy Director of the Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization, which supports Syrian refugees in Armenia, and a Middle East and North Africa consultant at Human Rights Watch. Balkhian spoke about his experience participating in the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program in Washington, D.C. in 2007 with the Armenian National Institute (ANI) and in Armenia in 2008, where he interned at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute and the Middle East Division of the Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The interns participated in local events around the capital, including “The Local Roots of Global Peace Conference” at Eurasia International University, where they heard presentations from speakers including USAID-Armenia Mission Director Deborah Grieser and Giragosian. They also toured the Armenia Tree Project’s Karin Nursery, helped build a home with Fuller Center for Housing in Geghard Village, participated in a local folk dance lesson, and visited historical, religious, and cultural sites throughout Armenia and Artsakh. These sites include Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery, Zvartnots, Khor Virap Monastery, Areni Cave, Noravank, Karahunj archaeological site, Parz Lake, Dilijan, petroglyphs at Sev Sar, and more.
“A large part of discovering my heritage in Armenia has been about this ethereal experience that comes with soaking up the atmosphere at each cultural site, not simply visiting the sites or memorizing facts about the history. It may not happen at first, but it gradually sinks in after a while, and you put together the puzzle pieces of your own identity,” Kyra said after visiting Vagharshapat, also known as Holy Etchmiadzin, the spiritual capital of Armenia. She is a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The participants traveled to Artsakh, where they sat down with President Bako Sahakyan and Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan. Reflecting on her meetings with Artsakh President Sahakyan and Foreign Minister Mirzoyan, Rachael said: “For a political science major, this was a thrilling experience. We were able to ask [President Sahakyan and Foreign Minister Mirzoyan] questions and hear from them firsthand about their positions on different issues pertaining to Artsakh and Armenia. This was probably my favorite part of the trip, and it’s something I’ll never forget.” Rachael is a student at Providence College in Rhode Island.
While in Artsakh, the interns visited the ancient cities of Shushi and Tigranakert, toured Gandzasar Monastery, and met with The HALO Trust staff. HALO clears landmines in the area and makes Nagorno Karabakh safe. On their way back to Yerevan, they rode on the 3.6-mile (5,752 meters) Wings of Tatev Aerial Tramway, recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 as the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car, and explored the magnificent Tatev Monastery.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.