My Way Home

Repat Story
Sevag and Tamar Gosdanian
Sevag and Tamar Gosdanian
| From Montreal, Canada | Moved in 2011

The Gosdanian family moved to Armenia from Canada a few years back. They had visited Armenia many times in the past, throughout their married life and beforehand, but it was in 2011 that they finally decided that Armenia would now be home, leaving Montreal and their family behind. Their children are 11 and 9 and have adapted well to the country that they call home now, even if they enjoy visiting friends and family in Canada.

“We couldn’t really see what, how, when, where, but there came a time that we were also sick of the materialistic lifestyle… bigger house, bigger car, bigger this and that. That’s not what we wanted in life.”
It was after coming to Armenia that they realized that this was what life should be about and the feelings were mutual between the couple. Of course, there was the patriotic aspect to it as well, but it was mostly the humanity of the country that captured their hearts. “Patriotism only gets you so far in Canada, between the school, the community center and the extra-curricular activities. Here, we don’t have to worry about that patriotism.”
Sevag and Tamar have an intriguing marriage, a combination of AGBU and ARF in the mix. And the joke is that they “consider the union a mixed marriage.” It is much easier to raise a family in Armenia, due to the lack of pressures and divisions in the homeland. Here, things just seem to be a lot more fluid and the focus is no longer on ensuring the preservation of the Armenian identity but raising the children to simply become great human beings.

Back in Canada, Tamar was a high school teacher and she loved the work that she did. It makes sense that in coming to Armenia, she has turned to teaching, to children, adolescents and young adults, English and French. After her first job in Armenia, she went back to school and did her Master’s in TOEFL at AUA, finishing at the top of her class as valedictorian, which opened many doors and can be used anywhere in the world.

“In Armenia, it’s not native and it’s not a second language. English is a foreign language and AUA gave me the right tools to work with them; they are people who do not hear English during their day, are never exposed to it.”
It was after graduation that Tamar began the Arev Day Camp, where they learn English along with theatre, songs, physical education, and arts and crafts.

“I don’t have a reason to go back. I have my family yes, who I love and miss each day, but neither I nor Sevag, nor the children want to leave Armenia. This, now, is what I know and what I love,” says Tamar. It is an experience that the couple won’t be trading for anything else. The only thing that Tamar wishes the kids had is a childhood with their cousins, something they lack being so far away from their family now. “There is nothing else that attracts us back really, other than the cleanliness and the order, too much order…”

However, there are other aspects of life that are much more enjoyable and easier in Armenia, particularly when it comes to medicine and diagnoses.

“In Quebec, your generalist has to refer you to a specialist, giving a reference and then you wait for a few months before you are treated.” Another plus that the couple sees here is the fact that you live for today and not really wait to plan for the next three months. It might become annoying at some points of course, but life simply makes more sense this way. “Here, I can call the day of and get an appointment! People here make bread from rocks, as the saying goes, and they really have less stress in planning because of this impromptu lifestyle. If it doesn’t work now, no problem, tomorrow it is. That is foreign for those of us from the West.”
In the last five years, Sevag and Tamar and come to understand that in this country, where there is a will, there is certainly a way. If you cannot find it yourself, those beside you certainly can. That’s how this country simply lives, and the Gosdanians are forever in awe of it all. Even when it comes to vacation time, the government will announce a week or a few days before that Monday is not a working day and another Saturday is.

“After initially scrambling about the first time that happened, we realized that there was nothing to stress about at all. You don’t work one day and you do another. You just make do and move around your plans because nothing is set in stone anyway.”

To this day, the funniest thing is that those in Canada call them crazy and fools for coming to Armenia, and those in Armenia say the same for their move, wondering why one would trade in a life in Canada for Armenia.

“We cannot be happier here,” the couple says however.
“If I ever end up going back, I know that this fire in me will die. Yes, financially we may be better off there, but my goal is not to be wealthy the way others see it. For me, to be wealthy is to be able to afford that which I need to live, but moreover, to have the energy and the enjoyment of it all… to merely be able to enjoy that which I have. What’s the point of a large home you never get to see because you are so busy? There, you get a 2 week vacation and you enjoy that immensely, yes, but here I am enjoying 365 days a year!”

At the moment, the couple has two startups between them, with Sevag newly beginning “One Stop Armenia” and Tamar having run the “Arev” school at Indigo with the summer camp for 2.5 years now. Whereas husband and wife have very different types of work they do, they work together where necessary to help get the other through. They are a team and it really shows. For those looking to have their properties in Armenia managed, Sevag’s startup is the perfect choice, while youth looking to develop English and French skills should turn to the “Arev” after-school program.

“Arev” English School is run by Tamar Kabassakalian-Gosdanian, a repatriate from Montreal, Canada, who moved with her husband and two children in 2011. She works as a teacher at Indigo, running her “Arev” English after-school program. She teaches using intriguing methods, particularly through storybooks, focusing on speaking and vocabulary, but not at all on the typical grammar lessons – instead, this is done through songs.

Those who attend the program should not feel like they are going to school, but to enjoy the world of books and the joy of learning. She works on reading, comprehension, pronunciation and critical thinking. Those in attendance get to enjoy learning through songs, the older groups enjoying everything from the Beatles to Sting and Scorpions. The “Arev” curriculum, like the summer day camp that follows during the months of June and July, is all unique and developed by Tamar herself, based on her 15 years of North-American experience.
Prepared by Tamar Najarian

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