ANCA Welcomes Largest Summer Internship Class in Program’s 30 Year History

2017 Interns Learn Grassroots Advocacy, Advance Policy Priorities, Make Connections in Washington, DC

Washington, DC — Hailing from California to Massachusetts, Michigan and Montreal, they have all gathered in Washington, DC for a singular purpose – to hone their leadership in advancing Armenian American policy priorities. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Leo Sarkisian Internship (LSI) and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program (CGP) have welcomed their largest group of summer fellows for this unique boot camp for the Armenian Cause, with additional participants arriving in the upcoming weeks.

“The ANCA is fortunate, once again, to have an incredible crew of energetic and committed students from top universities devoting their summer to expanding their leadership and community organizing skills to advance our collective cause,” said Tereza Yerimyan, ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Director, who manages both programs. “During eight weeks of intensive training, they’ll get first hand insight into how our federal government works and how best to empower locally to shape policies nationally.”

ANCA LSI and CGP participants went through a rigorous application process with acceptance based on academic excellence as well as a strong track-record of community involvement and student leadership. Fellows engage in a wide range of research projects tailored to their areas of interest while increasing their political understanding through Congressional meetings, think tank talks, and bi-weekly lectures by members of the diplomatic community and public policy experts. Summer interns in need of housing stay at The Aramian House, located in Washington DC’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, just a short walk from the ANCA headquarters.

The 2017 Leo Sarkisian interns include Shant Eulmessekian, Shushan Gabrielyan, Hagop Housbian, Harout Manougian, Taleen Simonian, Mari Tikoyan, and Leonardo Torosian. They are joined by CGP fellows Anna Avannesyan, Gregor Bayburtian, Monique Bolsajian, Stephen Boursalian, Garen Kosoyan, Marie Papazian, and Noor Varjabedian, with additional interns arriving throughout the summer.

Each intern is motivated and eager to do their part in furthering the Armenian Cause while utilizing the resources and opportunities provided by the ANCA and the city of Washington, DC, while truly living out the motto of the ANCA: “Educate, Motivate, Activate.”

Established in 1986 and named in memory of the late ANCA Eastern U.S. community leader who spearheaded grassroots activism to advance the Armenian Cause for more than four decades, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship program now has hundreds of alumni across the world, spreading the message of truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide, freedom for Artsakh, and a secure, prosperous, and democratic Armenian homeland.

Launched in 2003, the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program helps secure permanent employment and professional internships in Washington, DC for young Armenian American professionals and students. Through the years, the ANCA has developed many relationships in and around Capitol Hill and identified a wide range of opportunities in the Washington, DC area. The CGP utilizes these resources and contacts to help candidates identify and secure jobs that fit their interests and needs.

Photos from the 2017 LSI and CGP internships will be posted to the ANCA Facebook Page.

Meet the 2017 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns:

Meet the 2017 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns:

Shant Eulmessekian is a freshman at Glendale Community College (GCC), who will be applying to the University of California Los Angeles in the fall of 2017. In addition to serving as Senator of Activities in student government, he was recently announced as President of the Honors Program at GCC.

“The Leo Sarkisian Internship will allow me to solidify my political interests while giving me the opportunity to work with dedicated, motivated, and talented individuals,” said Eulmessekian. “Living in the nation’s capital, and working 10 minutes away from the White House – I look forward to exploring all that this great city has to offer.”

Shushan Gabrielyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia and moved to the United States with her family at the age of 5. In the fall, she will be studying philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She has been involved in the ANCA for many years, including an internship in the local ANCA-Glendale chapter. Recently, she concluded an internship with Congressman Adam B. Schiff (D-CA). She is deeply passionate about social progress, specifically relating to gender inequality in Armenia.

“I am thrilled to be spending the summer with other students from across North America, learning about the mission and vision of the ANCA, advocating for the Armenian Cause, and building relationships that will last for a lifetime,” explained Gabrielyan. “I hope to return home inspired and emboldened, ready to share with my community what I have learned this summer.”

Hagop Housbian is a senior at the University of La Verne majoring in International Studies and minoring in Psychology. He has been an active member at the La Verne Model United Nations club, having served as an Executive board member for two consecutive years. Last year, Hagop was among a handful of his peers in founding and initiating the ULV Armenian Club. Since then, he has worked with his fellow Armenian peers in hosting several on-campus events on genocide recognition, cultural education, and traditional showcasing – an initiative that he considers as a regional grassroots movement inspired by the ANCA.

“My aim for these next eight weeks is to learn and accumulate the tools and strategies necessary for the push toward the common struggle in the name of righteousness and freedom. Bearing cognizance that I am among the future leaders of the Armenian Cause, surrounding myself with my fellow peers with the same vision is a true emblem of shared responsibility toward the greater good of our community,” noted Housbian. “I believe the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship will prove to be the prevailing impetus in galvanizing the shared Armenian Dream at the behest of the Hai Tahd.”

Harout Manougian will be starting a Master of Public Administration at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government this fall, focusing on electoral design and administration. He has served on the Armenian Students’ Association at the University of Waterloo in Canada, as well as the Central Executive of the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada. In 2012, he was elected as one of 22 Trustees at the Toronto District School Board. More recently, he was a board member with the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto.

“The work that the ANCA accomplishes is unmatched,” stated Manougian. “It’s an honor for me to be spending the summer with such a talented, dedicated team.”

Taleen Simonian is a rising junior at Boston University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Political Science. She is an active member of the Boston University Armenian Students Association and the Providence “Varantian” AYF chapter. She also serves on the AYF Eastern Region Public Relations Committee.

“I am extremely excited to work with the ANCA this summer as a Leo Sarkisian Intern. Not only will this opportunity challenge me, it will allow me to impact causes I am passionate about,” explained Simonian. I cannot wait to immerse myself in meaningful projects that will give me a first-hand look at the foundations of politics.”

Mari Tikoyan is a rising senior at the University of Maryland-College Park. She is studying public health science and hopes to attend law school after graduation. Her interests lie in health education, advocacy, health equity, and human rights. At university, she is a Peer Health Educator and a mentor for College Mentor for Kids. In addition, Mari has been heavily involved with the Washington DC AYF chapter for the past 11 years, holding several leadership positions. Regionally, Mari has served on the AYF Central Javakhk Committee and the Central Junior Committee.

“I am excited to spend my summer as a Leo Sarkisian intern,” said Tikoyan. “I have heard wonderful things about this program and all the opportunities it provides. I always grew up with the ANCA in my backyard, but I am excited to finally see how it operates and how I can help my community from the tools I learn this summer.”

Leonardo Torosian was born in Córdoba, Argentina and moved to Canada at an early age with his family. He studies Political Science and Philosophy in Montreal, at the McGill University. He is also an active member in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Co-President of the McGill Armenian Students’ Association. Very interested in local politics, he is the President of one of Montreal’s 19 boroughs’ Youth Councils. He is also part of the Youth Council of Montreal and the Québec Youth Parliament.

“I am enormously proud of being a Leo Sarkissian intern,” said Torosian. “I hope these two months will be a hands-on experience where I will be able to learn and serve my community. My philosophy is that knowing is not enough, we must apply. I am honored to work for an organization that shares my deepest values.”

Meet the 2017 ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Summer Fellows:

Anna Avanesyan is a student at Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC, where she is in the 11th grade. She enjoys playing tennis and theatre, and greatly looks forward to working with the ANCA this summer to further connect with and learn about her Armenian heritage. Avanesyan believes that the best way to become in touch with one’s roots is to “educate oneself on the affairs of the state, and advocate for the well being of the people,” leading to a stronger connection, and sense of affinity to create a deeper understanding of the people and culture which one stems from.”

Gregor Bayburtian is a rising Senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD interested in political science and languages. Gregor participated in the Arakadz Summer Camp with the Fund for Armenian Relief, where he was Director of Sports for Syrian Armenian Children at the Camp.

“The ANCA program is a rare opportunity which will allow me to prepare for my future career while simultaneously maintaining a strong connection with my roots,” explained Bayburtian.

Monique Bolsajian is a rising junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is currently double majoring in Global Studies and English. She is a member of the UCSB ASA and participates in their genocide awareness events, and is also active in Homenetmen Massis Chapter’s scouting program through their venturing crew. Monique also works in UCSB’s Residential and Community Living department where she plans community development programs for undergraduates in campus housing.

“I’ve always wanted to participate firsthand in the work that the ANCA does for the Armenian-American community, and to do that in the nation’s capital is an incredible opportunity,” said Bolsajian. “I am looking forward to learning about the ways the ANCA works with the federal government, and I know that the Capital Gateway Program will provide me with the skills I need to continue this work in the future.”

Stephen Boursalian born in Springfield, VA and is currently a senior studying Management Information Systems at Oakland University. Boursalian produces two podcasts — AutoLink and Detroit / International – interviewing members of the automotive community as well as Detroit-area artists of all media.

“I want to give back to a community that has given me so much over the years in one of the best ways I can,” said Boursalian. “I’m looking forward to applying the skills I’ve developed in my time, and I’m glad the ANCA will help me develop as a professional.” He also noted, “I’m excited to experience the dynamic of NGOs and governmental organizations at large.”

Garen Kosoyan is a rising junior at Pepperdine University majoring in Political Science and Economics. He will be serving as Vice President of the Armenian Student Association of Pepperdine University beginning this fall. Through the CGP, Garen is interning for the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC).

“Working with the ALC’s Kate Nahapetian has been an amazing opportunity,” said Kosoyan. “Through my various research projects, I‘ve been able to explore the richness of Armenian culture and heritage as well as participate in the legal fight for justice of the Armenian Genocide.”

Marie Papazian is a rising college freshman from San Jose, California. She recently graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, and will be attending Barnard College of Columbia University this coming fall. She is hoping to study both Human Rights and Creative Writing during her undergraduate years. She was the public relations officer of her school’s gender equality club and hopes to further understand how to alleviate gender inequalities in Armenia.

“Given my interest in Public Policy, coupled with my hope to become a strong advocate for Armenian issues, I am incredibly excited about the opportunity that the ANCA has granted me,” said Papazian. “I am most excited to make contacts with our Armenian allies in Washington, as well as to learn more about ways in which I can become a strong activist in my own region. One day, I hope to return to D.C. to continue our work.”

Noor Varjabedian is a rising senior at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is working towards her Bachelor’s Degree in marketing with a minor in sports management. Last summer, she participated in AYF Youth Corps Program in Armenia and Artsakh, where she worked with Armenian youth in Proshyan, Gyumri and Askeran. She plays field hockey at UMW and enjoys traveling whenever possible.

“I am extremely excited to be participating in ANCA’s Capital Gateway Program and am eager to learn more about the importance and impact ANCA has on the Armenian-American community,” said Varjabedian. “I hope my time interning in D.C. will be an impactful one.”

Photo: The Leo Sarkisian Internship and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program team with the ANCA’s Aram Hamparian and Tereza Yerimyan.

Diversity Our Strength

By Harout Manougian
Harvard Kennedy School – Class of 2019
2017ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern

(ARMENIAN WEEKLY, June 30) The motto on the coat of arms of the City of Toronto reads “Diversity Our Strength.” Having grown up in that multicultural city, I always considered it a privilege to be surrounded by students, professors, and coworkers with experiences that spanned the globe. They taught me the basics of different languages, history that was not included in the Canadian curriculum, and new perspectives from which to view current events.

After spending a week at the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) Washington, D.C. office, my city’s motto rings truer than ever. The Armenian-American community itself is a truly diverse collective. We have members whose families arrived in North America a century ago and also many who themselves were born overseas. We have community members who can speak different languages and different dialects. Armenian-Americans live across the 50 states and have taken on many different career paths. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and some are not bound to any one party.

In the microcosm of the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship, that diversity remains well-represented. We are the largest group of interns in the program’s history, hailing from Northern and Southern California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Virginia, and even Montreal and Toronto. Each one of us brings our own unique set of skills and experience to the national office from public relations and communications to data systems and business analytics. Many of us have been to Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk, and some have yet to embark on those adventures.

With such an amazing group of people, coached by our veteran staff members, we have the perfect environment to learn and grow in our personal development and make a meaningful contribution to advancing the Armenian Cause on Capitol Hill.

The ANCA is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. One reason for that is its recognition of diversity as a major strength.

Fatherland: Hairenik
By Hagop Housbian
University of La Verne—Class of 2018
2017 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern

(ARMENIAN WEEKLY, July 24) It was the 18th of June, Father’s Day. I was sitting in Terminal 6 at LAX, anxiously waiting to board the plane to head out to Washington D.C. for the first time. I could not wait to experience the capital of the free world, let alone to get started with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Capital Gateway Program and meet my fellow interns.

About 15 minutes before boarding, an hour flight delay was announced. I resorted to reading a book, but my excitement would not allow me to continue reading for longer than a couple of minutes. And so I put my book down, set aside my phone, and sat back to reflect on my trip to D.C., the internship program, Father’s Day… until it hit me. It all made perfect sense: On this Father’s Day, I was heading out to D.C. to contribute to my fatherland.

I continued to ruminate, and the more I contemplated, the more I became convinced that the coincidence carried significant meaning. Մեր Հայրենիք (Mer Hairenik), our national anthem, translates to Our Fatherland. Never had it been so symbolic and significant for me as now. I reflected on my lifelong sentiment of working for Hai Tahd (the Armenian Cause)—instilled in me since my birth by my father. I recalled at that moment how he would tell me that we are the future generation of the Armenian Cause, and that pragmatic involvement would be the ideal way of engaging our youth to further our shared progress toward justice and peace as a people.

And so it became clear on this particular Father’s Day, that I would embark on a journey to contribute to my hairenik—an ambition engendered by the amalgamation of the values of patriotism and justice that I have learned and inherited from my father throughout the years.

With that as background, for me the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship program has been nothing short of spectacular. I had always wanted to be involved in the inner workings of Hai Tahd, and to finally be able to directly contribute is quite the milestone for me. My fellow interns’ diligence, intellect, and passion for the common cause of justice and freedom make it even more inspiring and motivating. It truly is a joy when—because of the spirit of perseverance and the heart that we all, collectively, put into it—the work becomes something we want to do as opposed to something we have to do.

As the weeks go by, I get to learn and understand more about the importance of lobbying and delegation by taking part in the practical side of things. A few of the most impactful initiatives we have taken part in are calling representatives to urge them into signing on to certain letters and amendments that directly help our cause, contacting constituents to do the same in advocating for justice and participation, and accumulating as many people as possible to sign up to our Rapid Responder Program, which enables us to send emails to representatives on their behalf regarding the most prominent issues that face the Armenian-American community.

Earlier in the internship, during one of my calls to representatives, I was fortunate enough to get in contact directly with a member of Congress. I would consider this the epitome of grassroots lobbying: one phone call that went straight to the congressman, ensuring that he had heard our concerns and promised to act on it. Though a chance occurrence, it felt extremely empowering to have had communicated with a congressperson firsthand regarding an Armenian-American issue.

The ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship takes place at the heart of it all—in Washington D.C. As an international studies student, I find being in D.C. the most insightful, rewarding, and strategic experience, especially in the context of the contemporary political climate of the U.S.

What is most astounding to me is that I write this only halfway through the eight weeks’ of our stay in the nation’s capital. Despite all the remarkable people we have met thus far, the tireless efforts we have put into the work of the Armenian Cause, and the unforgettable experiences we have shared in the city, I know the best is yet to come—and so look ahead with great eagerness.

We all find ourselves here, in the ANCA headquarters, coming from different corners of the world, working to carry out our mutual responsibility: continuing the work of our fathers and forefathers for a free, independent Armenia.

«Մեր Հայրենիք, ազատ, անկախ,
Որ ապրել է դարէ դար…»

“Our Fatherland, free, independent,
Which has lived on from century to century…”

Ամերիկայի Հայ Դատի Ամառնային Վարժողական Ծրագիրի Մասնակիցներուն Խումբը՝ Ցարդ Մեծագոյնը

(ԱՍՊԱՐԷԶ, 7 Յուլիս) ՈՒԱՇԻՆԿԹԸՆ.- Արդէն իսկ ընթացքի մէջ է Ամերիկայի Հայ Դատի յանձնախումբի 2017ի ամառնային վարժողական ծրագիրը (Լէօ Սարգիսեանի անուան վարժողական ծրագիրն ու Յովիկ Աբօ Սաղտճեանի անուան «Քեփիթըլ Կէյթուէյ» ծրագիրը), որուն կը մասնակցին Քալիֆորնիայէն, Մեսեչուսեցէն, Միշիկընէն եւ Մոնթրէալէն 14 հայորդիներ։

Ծրագիրի վարիչի պաշտօնը ստանձնած Թերեզա Երիմեան կը յայտնէ, թէ այս տարի եւս խանդավառ եւ նուիրեալ ուսանողներ կը մասնակցին ծրագիրին. անոնց գլխաւոր մտահոգութիւնն է՝ Հայ Դատին ի նպաստ իրենց գործունէութեան որակը բարելաւել. ան կ՛աւելցնէ, որ այս տարուան խումբը մեծագո՛յնն է ծրագիրի պատմութեան մէջ։

Սոյն վարժողական ծրագիրին նպատակն է նոր սերունդին մօտ զարգացնել քաղաքական գործունէութիւնը եւ Հայ Դատի ջատագովումը, պատրաստելու համար Հայկական Հարցի ապագայ դեսպաններ: Այս ծրագիրին միջոցաւ, Հայ Դատը աւելի քան 30 տարիներէ ի վեր առիթ ունեցած է աշխատելու Հիւսիսային ու Հարաւային Ամերիկաներէն եւ աշխարհի այլ անկիւններէ ժամանած աւելի քան 200 համալսարանական ուսանողներու հետ, որոնք նուիրուած են Հայկական Հարցի պաշտպանութեան:

Մասնակիցները նաեւ օժանդակութիւններ կը ստանան մայրաքաղաք Ուաշինկթընի մէջ գործի կարելիութիւններ գտնելու համար։ Անոնք առիթ կ՛ունենան մօտէն ծանօթանալու ամերիկեան քաղաքական կեանքին՝ մասնակցելով շարք մը ծրագիրներու իրականացման, ինչպէս նաեւ քաղաքական անձնաւորութեանց հետ հանդիպումներու եւ դասախօսական ձեռնարկներու:

Իրենց ութշաբաթեայ ծրագիրին ընթացքին, մասնակիցները կը բնակին Հայ Դատի «Արամեան Տուն»ի մէջ, որ Ամերիկայի Հայ Դատի յանձնախումբի մայրաքաղաքի կեդրոնատեղիին մօտերը կը գտնուի:

Այս տարուան Լէօ Սարգիսեանի անուան վարժողական ծրագիրին կը մասնակցին Շանթ Էօլմէսէքեան, Շուշան Գաբրիէլեան, Յակոբ Հուսպեան, Յարութ Մանուկեան, Թալին Սիմոնեան, Մերի Թիքոյեան եւ Լէոնարտօ Թորոսեան, իսկ Յովիկ Աբօ Սաղտճեանի անուան «Քեփիթըլ Կէյթուէյ» ծրագիրին՝ Աննա Աւանէսեան, Գրիգոր Պայպուրթեան, Մոնիք Պոլսաճեան, Ստեփան Պուրսալեան, Կարէն Քոսոյեան, Մերի Փափազեան եւ Նուռ Վարժապետեան։

‘Tebi’ or Not ‘Tebi’? That Is the Question

University of Maryland – Class of 2018
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship 2017

(ASBAREZ, August 3) Should all Armenians go ‘Tebi Yergir?” The idea of Armenians moving back to Armenia has been a heavily discussed topic amongst the Armenian community. During my time interning for the Armenian National Committee of America, I have come across Armenians who have completely opposite opinions on this issue. Some people believe that every Armenian must move back to strengthen Armenia and preserve Armenian culture. Others have no desire to move to Armenia and enjoy living in the diaspora. However, my summer in Washington has allowed me to finally answer the question of going “Tebi Yergir.”

During my first week in the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Program, I got into a discussion about going “Tebi Yergir” with a fellow intern. My colleague basically argued that all Armenians should move back to the Homeland because assimilation is inevitable and one must take the appropriate measures to strengthen and preserve our culture. I thought long and hard about this concept; I even pictured how life would be if I picked up everything and decided to move to Armenia. After imagining such scenarios, I realized that the idea of moving “Tebi Yergir” may not be for me.

There are so many benefits of the Armenian diaspora. I believe it is one of the greatest strengths for Armenia. Some overlook the benefits and even go so far as to argue that Diasporans are “not real Armenians.” In my case, being a diasporan Armenian has only strengthened my desire to maintain my history and culture.

From a young age, I joined almost every Armenian youth organization imaginable. I was involved in AYF, ACYOA, and I went to Armenian school. I would drive about an hour into a different state just to go to an Armenian church. I would drive about an hour just so I could get together with my Armenian friends from the DC area. I would spend countless weekends at Armenian events and I always longed for weekends with my Armenian friends.

Yes, my Armenian may not be the most fluent, it may take me a while to read a sentence in Armenian, I may not hang out with my Armenian friends as frequently as others, I may live in a smaller Armenian community and I may not have a desire to spend my life in Armenia. However, I have always gone the extra mile to maintain my Armenian heritage. I have always been proactive in keeping my connection with the Armenian community. I want to give back and help contribute to making Armenia a better place.

So when I hear some argue that diasporan Armenians do a terrible job in maintaining the Armenian culture, I cannot help but get frustrated. Being Armenian is so much more than knowing the language, knowing every bit of Armenian history, and wanting to live in Armenia. Being Armenian is about embracing your Armenian background, informing those around you of our struggles as a nation, and working to create a better Armenia for those in the generations to come.

Interning for the Armenian National Committee of America has taught me just that. The ANCA works tirelessly to bring Armenian issues to the forefront, support the Armenian cause, and help create a better Armenia. The Armenian National Committee of America has reaffirmed my faith in the Armenian diaspora. In working on the various projects this summer with supporters from across the US, I have seen the commitment, the passion, and drive our community members demonstrate to strengthen the Armenian Homeland.
I’ve witnessed the benefit of the Armenian diaspora throughout my entire life. Had I not been the sole Armenian in my high school, none of my classmates would have known about Armenia or Artsakh. If I did not live with non-Armenian roommates in college, they would have never heard about the Armenian Genocide or have the chance to attend the annual protest in front of the Turkish Embassy. If Aram Hamparian was not in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence on May 16th – iPhone in hand – people may never have seen the brutal beating of peaceful protesters by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.

I am forever grateful to live in the diaspora because I have the chance to educate those around me and bring awareness to Armenian issues. So no, I do not think one must go “Tebi Yergir” to preserve the Armenian culture. Just one look at the dedicated Armenian communities around the globe serves as enough proof that the Armenian diaspora is alive and well – and the important role they play in the life of the Armenian nation.

The Summer of ‘17

ANCA Leo Sarkisian Intern – 2017
Glendale Community College

(ASBAREZ, August 17) I apologize in advance if what you are about to read is too sentimental or dramatic, but as I sit in the ANCA’s Aramian House on the final day of my internship, with my plane leaving a few hours from this point, I cannot help but feel emotional as I reflect over the past eight weeks. Since I hope to be a good writer, I must commit to my emotions and transcribe them, and since I hope that you are a good reader, you have begun reading and you must commit as well.

There is a personal truth that I have noticed. It is when I am called to reflect and remember joyous times in my life, I do so with utmost difficulty. There can be many explanations for this. I say that I am so enveloped in experiencing and enjoying the moment that remembering the moment itself becomes a low priority. Others argue that my brain resembles that of a goldfish. You choose the explanation you prefer, but I will try my best to collect and condense my memories into 650 words or more.

When you lean back in your seat, or whatever contraption that is keeping you from falling, whether it may be your legs or a pleasant yellow kayak floating on the Potomac, I hope that you forgive me for my “excessive” language, and understand what a journey this has been.

It began as I landed in Baltimore, Maryland and stepped out of the baggage terminal into the hot and humid air. The sensation of being wrapped in a warm, wet blanket is not a pleasant one, and this was reflected by the water dripping off the radiators of the various taxis and cars that made up the pickup strip I was waiting on. Promptly, Ms. Elizabeth Chouldjian — I was later told that she preferred either “Yeghisapet” or “Yeghso;” I chose the latter — picked me up from the coziness of my warm and wet blanket, and we proceeded on our two-hour drive to the office. I was introduced to my fellow interns as well as the rest of the staff, and so my story had begun.

You get an interesting variety of outcomes when you force together a collection of determined, intelligent, and headstrong Armenians, especially if they all come from different backgrounds. A possible, and most probable occurrence, is hell breaking loose, unfettered words flying in and out of ears, and division. A less likely, and infinitely more meaningful experience, is what happened during the summer of 2017 with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns.

The family began with polite and timid people, with hushed “hello”s and “where are you from”s and “what is your major”s. Those common phrases possess, somehow simultaneously, absolutely no meaning and absolute necessity. It was from those words that we grew.

We began eating together, discussing and comparing food. We bought gym memberships and tried to exercise consistently — “tried” being a key word, as our $90 was wasted on napping and untouched protein dust. It is generally called “protein powder,” but when it sits on a fridge for a week straight it does not deserve the dignity of that name.

We toured around the beautiful city of Washington DC, visiting the Smithsonian museums and the White House; but, I will have difficulty describing it as my vocabulary lacks — please visit Leonardo Torossian’s article to get a thorough review. We spent Fourth of July in front of the Capitol, patriotically listening to the Star Wars theme song and watching the fireworks color the black sky. We spent nights lying in our beds with our eyes closed but our minds open, pondering with our fellow roommates about life’s various mysteries. We spent mornings waking up late and dressing as quickly as possible, wondering if it was perhaps better to continue our thoughtful discussion on the “automation of our society” in our dreams. We spent the days speaking to Members of Congress or Representatives of Artsakh and Armenia, while simultaneously working on personal projects to further Hai Tahd, to assist people in the Homeland, and reduce the injustice in our world. We spent evenings curled up on the couch together watching films, or under dimmed lights playing Durak — fantastic game by the way, I recommend you learn it. We spent dinners passing ribs and macaroni and cheese back and forth, toasting to our future and our new family. We spent our energy rowing yellow, double kayaks through the unnaturally green Potomac river, screaming “Shant! Please sit down!”

It really has been a story and, as with any great story, there were moments of laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, stress and accomplishment, and there was, of course, the occasional romance. To remain dignified, I will speak for myself when I say that these emotions came together and shook me to the very core of my being. I am relatively young, and this has been quite an interesting life for me so far. I have reached a point where I am confused and lost, happily of course, and trying to find myself in this great big mess of a world. It is without hesitation that I say this has been a moment of clarity, the greatest summer of my life.

I hope that you, dear reader, are currently leaning back in your seat, or whatever contraption that is keeping you from falling, and reflecting on your “greatest summer.” I hope it is filled with determined, intelligent, and headstrong Armenians. I hope it is filled with laughter and tears, expired gym memberships, and a pleasant yellow double kayak.

If it is not, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern family welcomes you with open arms.

A Transition: From Boston to D.C.

By Taleen Simonian
Boston University, Class of 2019
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Participant, 2017

(ARMENIAN WEEKLY, August 22) Being a Bostonian means having a handful of inherent characteristics: a devotion to local sports teams, a sense of independence, and, most important, an unshakable devotion to your city. As a native Massachusetts resident and a proud student of Boston University, I’ve always felt that my state’s capital is the place I truly belong. However, upon acceptance to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Leo Sarkisian Internship Program (LSI) in Washington, D.C., I knew that my future held a temporary relocation.

Being accepted to the program has been one of the biggest honors of my life, and I was eager to begin my work with the Armenian National Committee of America. I felt a slight discomfort knowing that I was going to be away from home and the city I love so much. Yet, with the prospect of productive workdays and nighttime adventures, I packed my bags and flew to the nation’s capital to begin a new journey.

As my plane began its descent into Ronald Reagan National Airport, the first thing that caught my eye was the Washington Monument. It stood tall and gray, parting the clouds and signaling that I was no longer in Boston. To this day, each time I see the Washington Monument, I am reminded of the moment I saw it from the sky and how it symbolized the beginning of my summer in Washington.

I knew upon arrival in D.C. that it would be difficult to open my mind and heart to a place I had never been before, but I also knew that doing so was a major part of growing up and expanding my horizons.

My first days prior to the start of the LSI program were spent exploring the city. I remember the awe I felt while staring at the White House, a building I’ve spent my life reading about in history books and looking at in other people’s photographs. It was the same for the Lincoln Memorial, a monument I have seen only on the screen of a phone or computer. The breathtaking beauty of the Georgetown Waterfront Park and the vast number of Smithsonian museums filled my heart with excitement.

The Aramian House, which housed us interns, was another incredible surprise for me. It is nestled in the perfect place, steps away from Adams Morgan, DuPont Circle, and U Street. Its location allowed me to explore the local culture of D.C., and I spent my bursts of free time taking walks in the area, window-shopping, and taste-testing the incredible cuisine offered in the countless restaurants lining the streets. It was the people within the house, however, and not the location, that made D.C. truly feel like it could be home. The support and friendship of my fellow interns was like none other.

Transitioning from one place to another can be frightening, even if it is only for a short time. Yet, to my surprise, I have taken a liking to D.C. in ways that never crossed my mind. I appreciate the pace of life. I appreciate that everywhere I go I meet a slew of intellectuals. When I get to speak to them, I learn new things and enrich my knowledge on various topics or subjects. I like D.C. because it is home to the ANCA, a place where I have learned and enjoyed myself more in one month that I could have ever dreamed.

With each passing day, I find myself discovering a new part of the city that I like. D.C. is similar to Boston in that it is rich in history and culture, but each city has a different taste. For me, Boston is familiar and reminds me of home. D.C. is new and vivid, something different. And I cannot wait for what is to come in my next month here. I have made so many new friends, I have tried so many new foods, I have enjoyed so many new experiences. I have also experienced leaving home and making a new one, even if temporarily.

I realized that to be your best self and to work to your full potential, you don’t need to be in a familiar or comfortable place. A location is a source of inspiration, not the sole facilitator of productivity or success.

Leaving your comfort zone is challenging, yes, but it is all part of the adventure.