AGBU Armenian Virtual College Continues Virtual Tours for Students A different language is a different vision of life - the words of the great Federico Fellini best describe what the AVC virtual tours are all about. Thanks to these events, AVC students not only learn the Armenian language, but they also feel and live it, reassessing their visions and viewpoints on life, traditions, culture and art. During the Winter 2013 academic term, AGBU’s Armenian Virtual College invited its students to two online social events, the religious holiday and ritual of Barekendan and a journey into the life of world-renowned Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky. Designed to supplement the learning process with extra-curricular educational and entertaining programs, these events were added to the growing list of social activities conducted each academic term.

BAREKENDAN - Special arrangements made by AVC online instructors set a very enthusiastic and entertaining mood for the virtual tour of Barekendan, a pre-Lent holiday of religious origin. True to the spirit of the rituals and celebrations that are associated with the holiday, the event was highly theatrical. AVC online instructors and students met in a live group video conference in costumes and masks. The instructors demonstrated the Aklatis, a puppet made of onion and chicken feathers and resembling a scarecrow, shared the rhymes and songs of the holiday, as well as recipes for food and pastries ty-pically associated with that holiday. Nay El-Helou, an AVC Student from Lebanon noted, “Before the tour,BAREKENDAN was a word I didn’t understand. Through the tour I learned everything about this holiday. I hope I will be able to participate in it live one day as it is really interesting and means Good Life.”

ARSHILE GORKY - The Arshile Gorky event was very warmly received by students. The participants were curious to learn even more about the extraordinary life and works of the great artist. Some students were surprised to find out that the founder of the Abstract Expressionist art movement in post-World War II American painting was of Armenian origin. The online instructors invited students to look beyond the tones and colors of Gorky’s work. Gorky’s brushstrokes were inspired by his lost Armenian highlands, by the azure tones of Lake Van and by the picturesque nature of his homeland in historic Armenia. The event describing the artist’s extraordinary life moved some students to tears. Henry Israyelian, AVC Student from Russia, shared his impressions on Gorky: “I was impressed by his great talent, by his ability to translate the Armenian soul into his paintings. The memory of the homeland he was born in always lived in his heart.” Another student, William Luiz from the USA, spoke of Gorky’s life and art in a very expressive way, “I was impressed by the extreme hardships that Arshile experienced growing up and how he overcame them. His dedication to his work and family was seen by never perfecting his painting The Artist and His Mother. Arshile lived an amazing life that was unfortunately cut short with his early passing.” Past social activities with AVC include virtual tours to Armenia’s most prominent museums, sites of historical and cultural interest, virtual tours in the streets of Armenia’s capital Yerevan, and many others. In addition to enriching students’ knowledge and understanding of Armenian history and culture, both past and present, these instances of virtual, live socialization create an “on-campus” feeling among students who are otherwise confined to an online learning environment. The list of events continues to grow under the careful assessment by AVC of students’ learning needs and in consideration of students’ expectations and demand for such events.

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