My goals were crystal clear at the ripe age of 10 years old, as I sat in the mess hall of Camp Haiastan on lecture night. The AYF Internship Program and Camp Javakhk were my aspirations. Having been a part of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) growing up, I already envisioned how I would structure my summers—first as a camp counselor at Camp Haiastan followed by participation in Camp Javakhk and the AYF Internship. Of course, I would have to patiently wait almost 10 years to fulfill my dreams of participating in these AYF programs.
When I applied to the AYF Internship in early 2023, I not only had to persuade my parents to let me apply but also mentally prepare myself to handle any obstacles that might arise in the upcoming summer. The next step involved booking a flight to Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan. Little did I expect that I would have the best summer of my life. I knew this experience would be a lifelong story. It marked my second time in Armenia, without my safety net—my family. However, the friendships that blossomed during the summer allowed me to claim a new family with my fellow interns. Our director, sometimes called “mom,” Alex Avaneszadeh, not only shared insights from his own AYF internship but also helped and guided us through the uncertainties of the journey. There were a total of seven interns—six girls and one boy. Kira, Sanan, Areni, Sara, Araz, Chris and I spent our entire summer with one another in close quarters. I knew four out of the seven interns from childhood, Camp Haiastan and my local community. I had never met my roommate for the summer, Sara Kurkechian. I was excited and eager to meet her, and who would’ve thought she would become my new best friend! These girls and I have created so many memories, and our bond with one another will last a lifetime.
My daily routine over the summer included a pleasant 9:00 a.m. wake-up call, followed by arriving at the office of the marketing agency Closr, with an amazing view of the Vazgen Sargsyan Stadium and Mount Ararat. With open arms, they welcomed me into their work family, ensuring I felt comfortable asking questions and becoming part of their tight-knit bond. My favorite work day was when one of my supervisors invited me to a shoot for one of their clients. I was so excited to tag along and see what behind-the-scenes looked like. It really opened my mind to how much work goes into a shoot.
Along with the incredible work experience, I had the best excursions with outstanding tour guides. Did I imagine driving around multiple mountains, encountering sheep and goats blocking our road? Certainly not, but these memorable experiences were made possible by our skilled driver Gegham, whose driving powers could impress any F1 racer. He cared for us not only as passengers but as if we were his kids, sharing and teaching us multiple things, even at times with a language barrier, making his intentions clear that he was there to protect us.
Spending my summer in Armenia through the AYF Internship was an unparalleled experience that I will cherish forever. It provided an amazing opportunity to forge deep connections with my roots, cultivate lifelong friendships and create countless memories.
I wholeheartedly recommend the AYF internship to fellow young Armenians eager to deepen their connection to our homeland and heritage. Whether navigating the rapids of Lori, soaring over Ijevan or swimming in Lake Sevan, each experience fueled our pride and passion for our Armenian identity.