Hovig and Angine Aguilian
Repats who arrive armed with relevant skills and an open mindset have an easier time building a life here

Hovig and Anginé are the married duo behind the branding, web design and development agency Concept Studio.

Hovig Aguilian, a designer from Aleppo, made the move to Armenia in 2004. Unbeknownst to him, that same year, 20-year old Anginé Pramzian would leave her childhood home in Tehran to start her formal education as an architect at the Yerevan State Architectural University. "I have nothing bad to say about Iran, but it was not my home. That, I found in Armenia!"

The two would not meet for another six years. In the meantime, fate had other plans for them. Hovig's first visit to Armenia back in 1996 as part of an ARS-organized (H.O.M.) summer camp was such a life-changing experience that upon his return he exclaimed to his father "put me on the next flight back to Armenia!" Several years later, he would be settling into his new life as a UX/UI designer in one of Yerevan's pioneering tech firms. 

At the same time, his future partner (in both life and business) was completing her studies and venturing into the world of Armenian entrepreneurship for the first time. Working as a freelance designer, she sank her teeth into the business acumen, which would become so valuable to her in the future. Hovig, who by then had mastered his craft at different firms, was ready for a new challenge.

As it happens, he would be presented with two new challenges in short succession: a new life and new career came in the form of Anginé. After crossing paths at a club in 2010, they bonded over their shared interest in design and entrepreneurial spirit. By 2012, they would establish their branding and web design agency, Concept Studio, tying the knot a year later in a ceremony held on the shores of lake Sevan.

Together, they would build their modest startup into an established creative services agency. Their firm now employs 15 professionals, including repats from Canada, Iran, USA, Russia and the UK. Their efforts to push the boundaries of design have earned them recognition by Awwwards, the World standard-setter for digital design trends.

For both Hovig and Anginé, Armenia was indeed a land of opportunity. Here they found education, careers, love and a chance to plan their own lives together.

That isn't to say they faced no obstacles along the way. The culture shock was a little unexpected, given the fact that both of them are Armenians. Hovig soon discovered that his Western Armenian accent could be an asset as well as a liability when dealing with his homegrown compatriots. However, he would rapidly pick up the distinctly Yerevantsi inflexion in his speech, switching between the two with ease. Over time, they established the networks which greatly facilitated their lives in the Homeland.

The couple remains convinced that even individuals can have an exponential impact on the country's improvement. Anginé tries to boost market demand for locally produced goods wherever possible by always inquiring about the products' countries of origin. She then insists on the vendor showing her Armenian alternatives - or at the very least, non-Turkish ones. She finds the results encouraging.

The couple has some wisdom to impart on those in the process of repatriating. "We always say that if you are going to move to a new country and might fail, at least fail in Armenia where you'll have made a difference," says Hovig. 

They caution against putting too much thought into the decision to move. Sometimes, the couple argues that occasionally you just need to go for it. What's essential is having realistic expectations for life here. It's about knowing your purpose and adding value both to your life and the country. "Repats who arrive armed with relevant skills and an open mindset have an easier time building a life here."

According to Anginé "Repat Armenia nurtured a community of like-minded individuals and established programmes geared toward helping with the integration process. The foundation has made our lives easier in tangible ways, including an exclusive health insurance package, special banking privileges at Ameria Bank, and other resources. We can always count on Repat!"

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