This column will feature Q&A sessions with former ANCA Capital Gateway Program Fellows to talk about where they are now and how they got involved in the program.
This week, I talk with Ani Toumajan of Michigan, who completed the program in fall 2012 and currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Michelle Hagopian: How did you hear about the ANCA Capital Gateway Program?
Ani Toumajan: The first time I heard about the Gateway Program, an ANCA representative came to my university and gave a presentation to our Armenian club. I also have some friends who have participated in the program and currently live and work in D.C.
MH. What made you apply for the program?
AT: I love D.C. I have always wanted to live and work here. After graduation and some time abroad, I decided to take my chances and see what my options were for moving to the city. That’s where the Capital Gateway Program came in. It was the reason why I was able to move here and get started on my job search.
MH: What was your experience like day to day? Can you describe a typical day during the program’s duration?
AT: Every day, the other Gateways and I would walk from the Gateway house to the ANCA office right in the heart of the District and spend the day researching, scheduling informational interviews, and applying for positions. Each day I became more and more acquainted with how D.C. worked and how important networking would be in for my professional enrichment. I ended up getting an internship in the office I currently work in. Most of my days were spent there. On some days, though, I would continue scheduling informational interviews and researching jobs. Additionally, I have met people through the program who have become some of my closest friends.
MH: What did you look forward to the most when you moved to D.C.?
AT: I mostly looked forward to the adventure of moving to a new city. I’d visited several times during my childhood and fell in love. I was also looking forward to meeting new people and hearing their stories.
MH: Where are you now? What are you doing job-wise, recreationally, etc.?
AT: I’m currently a staff assistant for a U.S. Senator. I work with a great team in a wonderful Congressional office. I’m also finally beginning to do some sightseeing! Being in the nation’s capital with all these architectural wonders and museums—the novelty never wears off.
MH: Do you still stay involved with the ANCA or visit the D.C. office?
AT: I try to attend events that are sponsored by the ANCA as well as other events organized by the Armenian community here. I haven’t been to the office in a couple months. I’m definitely due for a visit!
MH: What do you think are the greatest merits of the program?
AT: The greatest merits of the program are the free three months of housing and the networking opportunities the program provides. The housing was honestly a significant stress relief in a new, expensive city. The Capital Gateway Program also had an amazing built-in community of Armenians who serve as mentors and advisers.
MH: Can you describe some of the social aspects of the program? Also, do you still stay in touch with anyone from the program?
AT: The Gateway Program would organize happy hours and put us in touch with people in the community. It is constantly building and rebuilding its social capital. The program would always connect new and old Gateways. I keep in touch with many of the people I’ve met through the ANCA.
MH: What would you recommend to young adults who are considering applying to the program?
AT: The program is a unique and amazing opportunity for Armenian young professionals. D.C. is a phenomenal place to start a career and build a professional network. Advice for future Gateways would be to take every opportunity the program has to offer and to talk to everyone. The most chance conversations can bring about a new opportunity.
MH: What’s your dream job? What do you hope to be doing in 5-10 years?
AT: I definitely see myself working in the public sector. For now, I’m focusing on work and doing some preliminary research for graduate programs here.