Joining the AYF

Kristen Bagdasarian participates in a protest outside the Honorary Consulate of Armenia in Chicago as part of the pan-Armenian youth resistance movement, November 9, 2021

If you were to ask me about the AYF over one year ago, I probably wouldn’t have had anything to say. Now, it has become one of the things that I am most grateful for in life. My path toward joining the AYF was different than most, because I do not come from an ARF-affiliated family and have had to learn a great deal on my own. But I believe this has led me to fall even more in love with the organization. 

I discovered the ARF while researching the Armenian Genocide, and I learned about an organization that played an immense role in saving Armenia. I was thrilled to discover that the ARF was still in existence, and that there was a youth organization with a chapter in Detroit. 

I have always been politically charged and passionate about all things Armenian, but it wasn’t until I began the process of joining the AYF that I felt I had an outlet for these feelings. During the 2020 Artsakh War, the AYF—with its informative social media posts and virtual meetings—became a rock in my life.

During the novice program, everything was so new to me, but my ungers supported me every step of the way. Because of the online nature of 2020-21, it wasn’t until I visited the homeland for the first time during the AYF-YOARF Internship in Armenia program that I truly understood the meaning of my AYF membership. I met so many AYF members from around the world and developed lasting friendships. 

When I returned to the US, I was motivated to get more involved. I attended Senior Seminar, where I spoke as a panelist on my experiences in Armenia. I was also fortunate to attend ARF weekend, which was also eye-opening. I heard from my peers about their decisions to join the party, and they helped me answer so many of my questions as well. 

Although I’ve only been a member for less than a year, I strive to follow in the proactive and dedicated footsteps of my ungers. This organization heavily depends on what kind of member you choose to be. Of course, there is value in becoming a member for sports and friendship. However, I’ve learned that the heart of the AYF can be found in late night discussions with ungers from across the region after a day of lectures or in conversations with our ARF ungers during regional events. These moments highlight the importance of membership, because they open intellectual pathways aimed at strengthening our nation and our organization. 

I’ve also had to learn this as someone who did not grow up in the AYF or any sister organizations. To have a meaningful AYF experience, I believe it is crucial to step outside your comfort zone, knowing that your ungers will back you at all times. When you join the AYF, you will gain new levels of confidence and develop skills you never knew you had. It’s a leap of faith, but it will lead you to the most memorable experiences and facilitate so many beneficial connections. For me, something as simple as sending a text to an unger or clicking ‘register’ on a Zoom link used to be such a big deal. I saw any participation with such a large and organized group as an onerous task. Now, a few months later, I traveled across the world with my ungers and am serving on a central council. In my opinion, this is the heart of the AYF. When you join, things that used to scare you will become the same things you look forward to. Any fears one might have are eliminated through the warm, welcoming community, an experience I believe is unique to the AYF.

My ungers’ absolute dedication to the advancement of our cause will never cease to amaze me. This group boasts intelligent people who are willing to put all of their efforts to our cause. In the aftermath of great tragedy, the AYF and its sister organizations creating, leading and promoting the Resistance Movement is critical and meaningful beyond words.

These last few months have brought me closer to Armenia both physically and mentally. Without the AYF, I might not have traveled to the homeland for the first time. I might have felt alone as my screen was bombarded with constant updates, instead of motivated while knowing my role in our cause. Being an AYF member is an immense honor, and I’m incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to join.

Kristen Bagdasarian

Kristen Bagdasarian

Kristen Bagdasarian is a sophomore at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is studying anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies with a focus on Armenian history.
Kristen Bagdasarian

@kristenb1314

umich mideast/anthro ‘24
@NeilPHauer @vahebaronian @ARTSAKHPUBLIC You’re watching the plan unfold. Besides, what are you doing to help besid… https://t.co/JuSK1SP9PK - 7 months ago
Kristen Bagdasarian

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