Moved in 2018 from Canada
Hello Anita! Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your life
I was born in Iran but lived in Canada for over 10 years of my life. I studied engineering in Canada, working as a mechanical engineer for five years before moving to Armenia. I was not very active with the Armenian community in Canada and thought it was more important to physically be in Armenia, to do something here, versus participating in community events there.
Did you move on your own or with a specific program?
I moved with YES Armenia. Actually, with a one-year contract. We will see what happens after that. It depends entirely on the types of opportunities I can find in the meantime. I would love to stay much longer, of course. I was a Birthright Volunteer in 2016 for about a month and half, which exposed me to the YES Armenia program later on. I always thought I owed it to myself to experience Armenia as more than a tourist, exploring that aspect of my identity. I quit my job in order to take part in this, and while that was a hard thing to do, it was a good opportunity to test the waters a little. I decided to take the risk, accepted the offer and moved to Armenia within two weeks. It was a very short period of time. I had 10 days to decide if I wanted to quit my job! I can always go back and find another job, but I will not get such an opportunity again, I think.
Did you face any challenges in terms of language when you arrived?
Honestly, I thought my Armenian was better than what I have discovered. I know how to read and write, but it is not always easy to understand. Th grammar has changed here, the written documents have become a challenge. I don’t know the key terminology in Armenian and end up speaking English a lot at work. For day-to-day conversations, however, I have no problems. My co-workers have been great with helping translate the documents. It’s a plus that I can compare the languages. In any country it is important to be able to work in the native language, especially when you’re with a ministry, which is why I’m grateful they were very flexible with my use of English throughout.
How was your first day at work? What are some things you have noticed?
I think it was surprising. It was quite different. It took about a month to adapt; it was neither better nor worse. While initially the different manner of working was hard to accept, I eventually began to realize that perhaps I am the one in the wrong here. I did not have a huge cultural shock, but the work ethics were not what I expected nor was exposed to in Canada. I think one thing that would be great to see is more digitalization of the paperwork. Also, I feel people do not value themselves much; that is something they need to work on and be more comfortable presenting, especially in the workplace.
What were some of the most shocking things you experienced?
One thing I had never noticed when I had come as a tourist before was just how angry people could be here. I mean, you can’t blame them so much; I think the societal pressures are what brings out the anger in the general populace.
Your contract has ended now. What are you looking to do now?
I think I am open to any opportunities. I would not limit myself to just ministry work. If the job can offer something and I can give my own skills back to the betterment of the country, I would be open to it. I’m definitely satisfied here, particularly since you see the impact of your work so quickly. Even a small contribution makes a big difference.
Do you have a to-do list for newcomers who are interested in living in Armenia at some point in their lives, who are exploring their options right now?
I definitely suggest coming as a volunteer first, building up your network and getting a feel for the local culture to minimize the surprises later when you move permanently. As a volunteer you are more relaxed and try to experience the country as much as possible in those few months. Following that step, it is important to find a job posting website that can give you an outline of the openings available at any given time. It might be nice to research some companies which might be in line with your values and engage with them. Getting in touch with Repat Armenia is also important since it is hard to know about companies in Armenia from just an online research.
What would you like to tell us about YES Armenia?
I think YES Armenia was a great idea for people like me to experience governmental jobs in Armenia. I doubt it would be easy to enter this field otherwise, especially without a citizenship and a less than stellar grasp on business Armenian. The program allows you to directly work with high officials. You start seeing some of the challenges in a different light. I look at those around me and see exactly how disconnected simply tourists are from reality.
Have you learned anything professionally in your placement here?
I have learned a lot, actually. I’m working with environmental conventions, UN conventions mostly, and I have never looked into them in so much detail before. I learn a lot by looking at these now, analyzing and figuring out how to better implement them. It was a huge learning curve for myself and what I have gained during these few months has been invaluable.