My Way Home
22.09.2020Armenian by Birth
Per Aspera ad Astra: One Year in Armenia
I repatriated to Armenia last September and honestly, it was one of my best decisions ever taken. For the first time in my life, I had a one-way ticket to Armenia, and I still keep my boarding pass as a reminder of this life-changing event.
Born to Armenian parents in Armenia, raised until seven months in Georgia, and since then in Belarus, I was in a tight connection with Armenia. I spent many summers in Armenia staying with my relatives in Alaverdi. I also studied for one semester at Yerevan State University (MA degree), and that was my longest stay in Armenia. I could not even expect that I would move to Armenia forever four years after.
My family decided to repatriate a long time ago, though. Once I finished my obligatory job assignment in Belarus (one has to do so if he or she studies at the State’s expense), I decided to move to Armenia. I was the first "ARMonaut" from my family :)
I knew all the logistics, and I had a place to stay in Yerevan. With my Belarusian passport, I could stay in Armenia for six months without registration. The only thing I cared about was employment. I started to apply for vacancies in June and kept applying all summer long, but most often, I would not get any feedback from employers. It was discouraging, but I am not a person who gives up that easily.
I decided to contact people whom I knew personally in Armenia. I reached out to Vahan Bournazian, my former professor from the master’s program. He is also a repat who moved from the USA more than 15 years ago. This is how an interesting circle of introductions began. Vahan recommended contacting his friend, Sara Anjargolian (Co-founder of Impact Hub and Chief of Staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs), and Maria Karapetyan (MP from “My Step” party). Sara, in her turn, connected me with Repat Armenia’s Executive Director and Co-Founder Vartan Marashlyan, and Integration Manager Dzovag Soghomonian. I did not even expect that Repat Armenia guided repats in job searches.
Dzovag was very helpful. She advised me to update my CV and shared a lot of practical tips. I continued applying for vacancies. For some positions, Dzovag sent recommendations on behalf of Repat Armenia. Again, most of my applications were left without any feedback, and I also got several rejections at the initial stage and after interviews.
I was wondering what was wrong with me, my education, or experience. I held one BA and two MA degrees, I had experience in Customer Relationship Management and Sales in the IT sector, and also in translation and interpretation. Finally, after three months of active searches and about forty positions for which I applied, I got a job of an Administrative and Logistics Assistant in a representative office of an international charitable NGO working in the area of humanitarian relief and human rights. I knew that salary was low, but I did not concentrate on that even though in my case, it was a downshifting in terms of position level and salary. As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. All that I cared about was my social integration in Armenia, gaining new experience, and improving my Armenian.
I informed Dzovag about my success. After that, we did not communicate for a couple of months. Finally, I visited the office of Repat Armenia and met Dzovag in person to get some consultation on my project. She was very supportive, and she provided a couple of contacts. Then we all witnessed the coronavirus outbreak, and I stopped working on the project.
One day Dzovag asked me to help with the translation of repats' messages from Russian. I was happy to help (while working from home during the quarantine, I was saving about two hours per day), and this is how I started volunteering for Repat Armenia. I was interviewing Russian-speaking repats, doing need assessments, and guiding them through various aspects of repatriation.
I volunteered for four months and helped to prepare a repatriation guide. Eventually, in July 2020, I ended up as an Integration and Community Manager of Repat Armenia. The Foundation needed a Russian-speaking Integration Manager and the Community Manager.
Now, I am not just a #repatwithnoregret, but a repat who is helping other repats to reunite with Armenia.
Never underestimate what you are capable of, and one perfect day you will be where you have to be.