ARMENIA IS THE ONLY THING THAT UNITES THE WHOLE NATION GRIKOR BANDIKIAN, WHO IS IN ARMENIA THROUGH AGBU YSI PROGRAM, BELIEVES SO “We were very much amazed when we learned that we too were going to dance at the Youth Center. During the dance classes organized for us we learned how to dance and today we were on stage. I don’t know how we danced but we were trying hard to dance well”, said Lia Sarkissian from Los Angeles to “Azg” daily after the concert held a few days ago at the Nor Nork Children’s Center. She arrived in Yerevan together with 17 youngsters aged 18-25 on June 30 within the framework of Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) Yerevan Summer Intern Program (YSIP). The program, which is held for the first time, brought to Armenia Armenian youngsters from America, Canada, Egypt and Romania. AGBU also holds Summer Intern programs in New York and Paris, to which Armenia joined this year. The program is unique in two senses: first of all it gives a chance to the Armenians studying in different educational institutions all over the world to increase their professional experience. Secondly, it also returns them to their roots. During the five-week program of AGBU, Armenian youngsters from all over the world, who are still in Armenia these days, take an internship program in the best organizations and enterprises of our country; foreign ministry, National Assembly, Central Bank, American University of Armenia, “EuroTerm” company, medical agency, medical centers, Cafesjian Fund, “Sharm” enterprise, etc. During the weekdays they work in the mentioned organizations and companies in their fields, while in the evenings and weekends they go sightseeing. The interns also had the opportunity to get acquainted with the AGBU Armenian programs. They visited the American University of Armenia, Ultrasound Training Center founded together with the Heratsi Medical University, participated in the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra concert, and in the exhibition and concert organized by the Children’s Center. They also learned about the devoted activities of AGBU in Artsakh. The interns visited Karabakh and got acquainted with the AGBU projects in Karabakh. They saw school #7 of Stepanakert reconstructed by the AGBU, the building for war veterans, the chess school, visited the Alex Manoogian monument on Alex Manoogian Street, were present at the concert of Karabakh Chamber Orchestra, which functions in Artsakh again thanks to AGBU. The Diaspora-Armenian youngsters also got acquainted with the AGBU Repopulation Project visiting Norashen, Bareshen and Jrakn villages of Hadrut region, which have been and are being constructed by the AGBU. Norashen is already populated. It also has a school and a kindergarten. Jrakn is under construction. The interns met with the NKR NA Speaker Ashot Ghulyan, with whom they had a long and very useful conversation. This summer intern program also includes classes of Armenian language, dancing, history, as well as meetings with government members. Thanks to these dance classes the interns too participated in the concert organized in their honor in the Children’s Center. They also had the opportunity to listen to the lectures of Ashot Melkonian, Director of the History Institute, and Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Genocide Museum. They were also received by Deputy Foreign Minister Armen Bayburtian. Besides the classes and work the interns went sightseeing too – Garni, Geghart, Sevan, Dilijan, Khor Virap. “Experience proved that every event organized abroad, no matter how good and effective it is, because it unites the Diaspora Armenians, the events organized in Armenia give a completely different result. This is a huge core of Armenianism. This is the first time we are doing this program in Armenia and we had a great response – we had 17 young applicants”, said Ashot Ghazarian, Director of the AGBU Armenian Representation, who added also that the program will continue. AGBU is already constructing the Melkonian Center in Nork, which is a part of a big educational program. Ashot Ghazarian is convinced that it will be the best educational program for the Diasporans. The center in Nork will have a hostel complex, educational building, classrooms, to provide every condition for the Diaspora youngsters to participate in the educational program. AGBU Armenian Representation Director spoke about the Study Abroad international education project, which helps the students go to other countries, continue their study in their field in other universities for one semester, and then come back and continue their education in their own country. “Now we want to bring Armenian students from different countries of the world to Armenia. We will find corresponding educational programs for them in different universities of Armenia. They will live in the mentioned center and also attend classes of Armenian language, Armenian history, and get in touch with Armenian culture. We did this summer intern program only for the summer, and now we want to implement this program the whole year round. The students will go to accredited universities, collect their credits and return home. They will both spend a whole semester in Armenia and not lose their credits”, said the Representation director and added that all the higher educational institutions of Armenia have introduced the credit system of assessment being integrated to the educational system of the Bologna agreement. “A few more years and our whole educational system will pass to the credit system and we will have all the mutual agreements and recognition”, said the director. This means that the credits of the students who will study one semester in different universities of Armenia will be recognized by the universities of their own countries. Ashot Ghazarian remembered that once they have already done such a program in 1995-96 and today we have a young Diasporan professional who, thanks to the AGBU project, stayed in Armenia and now works here. “Coming to Armenia through this program, they later search for other ways of returning to homeland. This is the best way to bring the Diaspora Armenians back to their roots and connect them with Armenia. There’s no other more effective way”, he said. Armenia should be represented to them with its best sides, so that they feel proud to be Armenians. “We have Diaspora-Armenia mutual responsibilities, to help each other, and it’s important that they see the best of Armenia and get linked to it”, said Ashot Ghazarian. Lia Sarkissian, who moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was three, is now in Armenia within the framework of AGBU Summer Intern program and spends it in the Karagyozian Clinic. “The impressions are both good and bad, but I re-estimated everything here. I am working in the medical field and there are differences between the clinics. But at the same time I am proud to be given the opportunity to participate in an internship program here. I cannot describe or fully explain the emotions that I felt here in Armenia. Dancing united us, Armenian group dancing. I will never forget these five weeks that I spent here”. Lia promised to come to Armenia in every possible occasion. Group coordinator Tamar Shahabian assured that the interns are satisfied with the AGBU program and impressed with the trip. She mentioned all the places that they’ve been to. “We were very well received here. Now we understand deeper why we are patriotic. There are difficulties here, but the interns want to come back again. I myself am staying here”. The grandmother of Romanian-Armenian Louisa Tanasie is an Armenian. Knowing only a few words in Armenian Louisa expresses her wish to come to Armenia with her hands and poor Armenian, and then adds in English, “I wanted to come to Armenia because I have Armenian blood in me. I wanted to see Armenia and I am so happy that I am here. I work at “EuroTerm”. I will come back to Armenia again. I learn Armenian words in an Armenian school in Romania. I learn dancing too. Here we were received very well. I hope to come back again, this time with my grandma”. Armen Keshishian from Los Angeles is on a “government job” in his homeland. He works in the Foreign Ministry of Armenia. It’s his third visit to Armenia and he highly estimates the progress of the country. He also did not forget to thank the AGBU, for being the participant of this program. “This is my third visit to Armenia and my impression is very good and I’m happy, as I could imagine. We spend our time here, and we love the people. Armenia is the only thing that unites the people. It’s the only thing that is not divided into half-American, half-Lebanese, half other things. This is purely Armenian, this is the country that unites us all, the whole nation. I work at the Central Bank. I will come to Armenia again”, said Grikor Bandikian from Los Angeles. Shushanik Ghaltakhchian, the AGBU YSIP coordinator from the Armenian side, who was directly involved in the implementation of the program finding jobs for the interns, believes that the program was a success. Despite the differences of work style in Armenia and other countries Shushanik Ghaltakhchian is sure that the interns got adjusted to the jobs here better than they expected. “The biggest achievement of the program is that most of these youngsters have decided to come back to Armenia and this time not alone, with their families, grandmas, sisters and other family members”, said the program coordinator during yesterday’s reception at the Folk Art Museum. The AGBU had organized this event to thank all the employers of the interns. All the interns participated in the event with their supervisors. “It was a great pleasure for us to have two young men working with us whom we loved very much and who’s leaving will be difficult for us. They saw all the processes going on in our bank. They got in touch with the bank employees and what is more important learned a lot about Armenians”, said Harutyun Poghossian, Head of Marketing and Quality Department of ACBA Credit Agricol Bank. For Mary Ghazarian, Executive Director of “EuroTerm” company, the AGBU offer was unexpected. “Louisa perfectly substituted our employee who was on vacation. My assessment of this project is very positive. Children from Diaspora come to Armenia, get in touch with us and get acquainted with our businesses”, said the executive director.