The Cultural Day of Armenia at the College of Europe

It is a great honor to be studying at an institution that plays a crucial role in molding the political leaders of tomorrow and fostering cooperation within and beyond Europe. It is an honor to study in an environment full of bright, talented individuals who are graduates from some of the most prestigious universities in the world and to share rich knowledge, delicious meals and a promising future with them. But what’s even a greater honor for me is to see my culture shared and celebrated by so many smart and diverse people from all over the world. On February 16, 2024, the Armenian students studying at the College of Europe in Natolin organized the “Cultural Day of Armenia,” accompanied by numerous exciting events that filled the college with the energy and warm colors of Armenian culture. 

When I first applied to the College of Europe for a one-year Advanced Master of Arts in European Interdisciplinary Studies, I had very little knowledge about the institution’s remarkable past. I started doing more research about the institution after I was shocked by the number of high-level guests who visited our campus for talks and addresses on a regular basis. I came across numerous interesting facts that surprised me positively and made me realize the importance of my college, without having initially acknowledged the significance of my choice. 

Created in 1949 by important European figures such as Salvador de Madariaga and Winston Churchill, the College of Europe is a pioneering and unique institution of its kind, offering postgraduate studies and training in European affairs. Salvador de Madariaga advocated for the creation of a pan-European educational establishment, with the aim of building and maintaining peace in the post-World War II world by uniting smart and talented graduates from different European nations under the same roof. 

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Over the years, the College of Europe has given to the world numerous distinguished alumni, such as President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, Denmark’s first female Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Finnish President Alexander Stubb, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and HEC Paris Alberto Alemanno and many others. In September 2020, Federica Mogherini, former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, took on the role of rector at the college. 

It is by understanding this importance that the Armenian students at the College of Europe spared no effort in making the Cultural Day of Armenia as remarkable and memorable as it could possibly be. One of the events organized in the scope of the Cultural Day of Armenia was an interactive crash course titled “Discovering Armenia,” in which students from different corners of the world had the chance to learn about the Armenian alphabet, history and culture and get some intensive tongue exercise by pronouncing commonly-used Armenian words and phrases. 

Then, the students and staff at the College of Europe had the opportunity to get an authentically Armenian experience and taste some delicious foods, including dolma, gata and a beautifully organized Armenian dinner. During the dinner, the students were introduced to the Armenian toasting tradition (including a competition of toasts by students from different corners of the world), an unforgettable event led by esteemed guests including His Excellency Alexander Arzoumanian, the Armenian Ambassador to Poland. Ambassador Arzoumanian also met with the students and the academic staff of the College of Europe and answered questions related to Armenia’s foreign policy. 

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The Cultural Day of Armenia also included an exciting chess tournament, the final round of which was accompanied with an Armenian brandy tasting led by the Ambassador himself, turning the game into a memorable experience of healthy competition, delicious degustation and interesting chats. 

Last, but definitely not least, the day ended with a series of remarkable performances revolving around Armenian culture. The cultural concert started with the song “Սիրո Հասակ [Siro Hasak]” (“Age of Love”)  performed by Armenian, Italian and Moldovan students in the Armenian language. Other performances such as “Յարը մարդուն յարա կուտա [Yare Mardun Yara Kuta],” a piano performance honoring the great Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian by a Spanish student, a traditional Armenian dance “Բալենի [Baleni]” by Armenian and Georgian students, a beautiful waltz performance with Aram Khachaturian’s “Masquerade” by Armenian, Georgian, Ukrainian and Polish students, and Aznavour’s “Emmenez-moi” in French and Armenian followed. At the end of the cultural evening, the entire student body performed the traditional Armenian folk dance “Karno Kochari,” a heartwarming moment that left a lasting mark in everyone’s minds and hearts, all of whom could feel the vibrant spirit of Armenian culture through the lively notes of the music. 

Such days and celebrations of culture emphasize each culture’s uniqueness while paradoxically also bringing them closer to each other, reminding us of our humanity, shared joy and the value of togetherness. Perhaps, years later, many of the students who attended the Cultural Day of Armenia will be high-level officials, presidents, prime ministers or ambassadors, representing different political sides and interests, but the moments that we shared will stay with us and mark the way we approach and treat other cultures and traditions. We will be filled with respect and love, as we have experienced it firsthand and acknowledged the value of difference. Perhaps, politics start (or should start) right there: sharing a meal, holding hands for a vibrant dance, speaking words in each others’ mother tongues and feeling the many notes, sounds, movements and emotions that tie us together.

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan is a graduate from UWC Changshu China. Since the age of 11, she has been writing articles for a local newspaper named Kanch ('Call'). At the age of 18, she published her first novel on Granish.org and created her own blog, Taghandi Hetqerov ('In the Pursuit of Talent')—a portal devoted to interviewing young and talented Armenians all around the world. Baghdasaryan considers storytelling, traveling and learning new languages to be critical in helping one explore the world, connect with others, and discover oneself. After completing her bachelor's degree in Film and New Media at New York University in Abu Dhabi, Milena is currently enrolled in an advanced Master of Arts program in European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe in Natolin.

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