02.04.2015Armenian by Birth
| From New Jersey, USA | Moved in 2014
Laurie Alvandian was born in Maplewood, New Jersey. She majored in Literary Journalism at the University of California, Irvine and obtained her Master’s degree in Information and Library Sciences from Pratt Institute in New York City.
Taking into consideration that the community she was part of did not include many Armenians, and her parents were not involved in any Armenian activities and organizations, she too, never interacted with the Armenian Diaspora in the US. Although Laurie moved to California for college, and was surrounded by Armenians, she had never wanted to befriend them, because she “was never particularly fond of Armenians” her age, since she felt she did not have anything in common with them, including the knowledge of Armenian. “I did not speak the language very well, so there was that barrier” stated Laurie; the only Armenians she felt comfortable with were her family members.
When Laurie decided to join Birthright, her family thought she was "crazy”, because she had never been active in the Armenian community. When she first moved to Armenia she did not know what to expect. However, doing Birthright helped her overcome major obstacles and she instantly had a community that she belonged to; a community of repatriates that were “as lost and as confused” as she was. Approximately four months after she arrived to Armenia, she went through a “bit of existential crisis”. She was not sure whether she wanted to stay in Armenia, whether she was going to find a job or not, however, after going away to Georgia for a weekend, she realized that Armenia was where she wanted to be, and had no desire to return to the U.S either.
Laurie has been living in Armenia for a year, and she thinks the country is undergoing constant change. Things as little as metro announcements; which were only in Armenian before, are now in Armenian and English have caught her attention. She thinks that “To appreciate Armenia you have to notice the little things – the old men playing ‘nardi’ behind their house, the constant coffee breaks, and the different kind of foods at the ‘shuga’ (market). It may not sound like anything special but it feels special to me because it’s ours.”
She currently works at the American University of Armenia (AUA). Working at AUA has helped her transition; however she identifies herself as a librarian. She has project ideas that she hopes will make Armenia a country with literary culture the way it used to be once.
Laurie’s entire family still lives in the U.S. She will be happy if they move to Armenia, however she knows that most of them won’t. She has hope for the young generation. Her younger cousins are interested in moving to Armenia or even just visiting. She is making every effort to get as many family members to visit Armenia at least once, because many of them have never even been.
Laurie believes many Armenians in the Diaspora misunderstand Armenia and only see the bad in it. “If you want to only see the bad in this country, then that’s all you’re going to see. But there’s a lot of good here too, and I’d rather focus on that.” Thus her advice to everyone is to “come explore Armenia, and make their own conclusions…. If the Diaspora focused more on building the good, rather than looking for people to blame, things could be a lot better.”
“We were on the ‘marshutka’ having just re-entered Armenia and I just felt at home. Suddenly everything was clear to me. I wasn’t done with Armenia and Armenia wasn’t done with me.”
“The thing is, they had never even been to Armenia. All they knew of the country were the bad things. I can’t really explain what it was that drove me here…I just knew that I wanted to see and judge Armenia for myself. “
Interview by Nayriy Keshishian
Edited by Alice Ananian