Last April, our students with Dr. Basilio Monteiro had a five day trip to Armenia: a former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe.
The following blog is prepared by the students: Yige Mao, David Bierwirth, Yao Li, Fengying Zhan, Natalie Affenita, Gohar Aznauryan.
David: “When I visited Armenia a couple of weeks ago, I gained a plethora of rich historical and cultural knowledge of the small mountainous country. Throughout dozens of centuries, Armenia has endured a countless number of challenges like tyrannous empires, wars, and genocide. Despite these hardships, Armenians have never ceased to fight for their identity. The Armenia I saw is a result of the resilient spirit and rebirth of Armenian perseverance.”
Natalie: “Before this trip, I did not know anything about Armenia with the exception of knowing that the famous Kardashian family is of Armenian descent, and one of the safest places for American tourists to visit.”
Yige: “After a 19-hour flight, we finally arrived in Yerevan. The weather in Armenia in April was pleasant, and the sky was clear. Fortunately, there was no rain during the week. We climbed to the top of the Cascade, and had a delicious local dinner, Armenian style beef barbecue with Armenian bread Lavash, on the first day to start our trip.”
David: “At first glance, Yerevan looks like a modern city with microbreweries, tech shops, and boutique restaurants, but by glancing through alleyways and closely observing the architecture I noticed how ancient the city really was.”
Yige: “Yerevan gave me the impression
that it is a charming city, which is small but has a
great municipal functionality. Walking around the city center, one can see restaurants, diners, and self-service coffee machines everywhere, the ancient trolley bus, the colorful Lada cars, and you can also see the Chinese minibusses with tiny Chinese flags on their body. The stone buildings are majestic, the storefronts are continuous, the pedestrians are endless, and the streets are bustling right into the the Republic Square in the heart of Yerevan.”
Gohar: “I was glad to travel to my home country with my colleagues and our professor. I could feel how interested they were in learning about Armenia and how amazed they were by not only the architecture but also the hospitality of the nation.”
The first day, we had a walk around the city, had crafted Armenian beer, and finished our day at a nice restaurant in the city.
We left to the hotel after dinner to prepare for the main event of our trip: “Armenia on the Silk Road: Its History, Present and Future” Symposium at the American University of Armenia
Yao:We had a symposium “Silk Road on Armenia” at the American University of Armenia, where the students and professors were very enthusiastic about our visit and presentation. The great enthusiasm for international communication of Armenian students impressed me a lot, and I have to say it is precious for a university student.
As China proposed “The Belt and Road” initiative in 2013, the old silk road appeared in people’s eyes again, which is an opportunity for the countries alongside the road to reactivate the memory of the ancient trade across the different continents, how the modern railway and highway will replace the camel and horse team of the old. Different transportation not only means higher efficiency in modern times, but also means more possibilities for the future.
My presentation was about the negotiation of trade and development between China and Armenia. I introduced my trip along the silk road in China from Xi’an to Hami first and then talked about the infrastructure cooperation between two countries. I was surprised that the students were interested in my personal experience in China and expressed their wish to know more about China.
Natalie: The symposium was absolutely amazing. I was grateful to share my ideas and thoughts with the students of the American University of Armenia, as well as some faculty members, which included the President of the University. I was delighted talking with the students and even made some new friends. I think it is always great and amazing to connect with people from all around the world. My topic of discussion was Armenia’s trade relationship with Russia.
After my presentation not only did my colleagues from St. John’s reassured me that it went well, but the Armenian students reassured me as well. This was very kind of them and knowing that it was a sensitive topic they thought that I explained the situation very well. I was very happy to hear this and was proud of myself for taking on this challenge.
Yige: My research for the symposium was focused on the history of Armenia on silk road as understood in China. It was my first time to do a presentation at another university, and I have to say this was a great experience for me and all of us. Although we had our own topic, I didn’t feel the presentation was independent from my colleagues’s topics. We encouraged each other and helped each other, sometimes
I was so nervous at first, but it became better and better. Several Armenian students thanked us after the presentation because I moved along the Chinese historical records of Armenia, which they were not aware of. I am glad to be a friendly messenger of the communication between China and Armenia, and the feeling of fusion between the two different cultures makes me feel excited.
Now, let’s cover what we did during the other days of our trip, and not forgetting the important meetings we had in Yerevan.
Yige: “We had opportunities to visit the United Nations office in Armenia, EVN Report, Armenia SDG Innovation Lab, Archeology and Ethnography Institute of Yerevan State University, and the Armenian ministry of foreign affairs. In the process of discussing with the UN Resident Coordinator, the manager, the professor, and the spokesperson, I also have a better understanding of the development of Armenia. Their emphasis on education, their constant efforts towards Armenia’s evolving external relationships, and the commitment of many young people to Armenia’s sustainable development goals to remove obstacles to growth at all levels of society have impressed me and helped me to develop a greater appreciation for the people of this nation.”
Yao: “We also visited several officials in the UN, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and some young people who work at the SDG Innovation Lab. We had an impressive talk and some profound discussions on various issues. I also felt the great vitality and openness of them and really appreciated their sincere conversation with us.”
Gohar: “During our stay, we had an opportunity to meet with the UN Armenia‘s Resident Representative Shombi Sharp, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Anna Naghdalyan, Chief Editor of EVN Report Maria Titizian, Levon Abrahamyan and Gayane Shagoyan from the Institute of Ethnography, Academy of Sciences in Yerevan.”
The discussions we had with the representatives of various spheres educated us about the history of Armenia not only as a country, but also as a nation with a long and rich historical. The students had a chance to learn first-hand about the recent #VelvetVevolution that took place last year in Armenia, bringing the change in the governance system of the country and leading into a more trustworthy, innovative and prosperous future.
Anna: The trip gave me a new perspective on Armenia and this ancient nation. We got to visit the United Nations office in Armenia, Armenia National SDG Innovation lab, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American University of Armenia.
At the National SDG Innovation Lab, where we learned about the projects through which the country is planning to achieve the SDGs.
Yao: “The last two days, we visited the ancient wine cellar, ancient monasteries and viewed amazing natural scenery, the Ararat mountain, lake Sevan, which sits 4200 feet above the sea level. The perfect fusion of the ancient history and beautiful natural view was unforgettable!”
David: “What is Armenia famous for? Armenia has much to offer to the world and its identity is distinct amongst others in its region and around the world. One clear distinction is how much Armenian sense of being is imbued by Christian values, as it was the first country to adopt Christian faith. The “blooming cross” is unique to Armenia because of its use of flowers to represent life of Christ and his followers. Another clear feature of Armenian identity is its glorious tradition of wine. Archeologists assert that the oldest winery ever to be discovered resides in Armenia and I was fortunate enough to taste the acclaimed fermented grapes which was bursting with vivid flavors.”
Yige: “We also visited several famous Armenian monasteries and the genocide memorial. The Armenian genocide is a painful history; but the people are still strong, and I think it also proves that because of this history, Armenians love their country and nation all the more.”
Natalie: “We had a trip all around Yerevan to understand its history and culture. We were able to visit many historical places, which was absolutely breath-taking. We also learned about Armenia becoming the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state of religion in the year 301.
Who ever knew that the country of Armenia was filled with so rich history?!”
David: “Overall, my experience in Armenia was a lasting one that will remain with me for the rest of my life. The hospitality that was given to me and my colleagues was the highest level and the food was second to none. However, if I were to choose one experience from my visit that had the biggest impact it would be the visit to the Genocide Museum. Referring to the Armenian Genocide, the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau said “I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this.” Over 100 years later, the Armenian spirit thrives stronger than ever and I hold hope the world will recognize the genocide and seek justice for all Armenians.”
Yige: “It was a terrific experience, and I will miss the days when we were in the streets of Yerevan, visiting museums, landmarks, research centers, government departments, tasting the delicious Armenian local food as well as fighting with jet lag.”
Natalie: “I truly think that more people should visit this amazing country and all it has to offer. It was truly an honor to get to know and meet the kind people of Armenia, and I can’t wait to visit again soon!”
Anna: I still remember the last day in Armenia, we had so much fun on our road trip. We left Yerevan and headed out to different villages. We saw the temple of Garni, the oldest church in the world, historic monasteries. In the last stop, we saw Sevan Lake with snowy mountains at sunset. I am amazed by the beautiful views and gradually fell in love with this lovely country. This was a great opportunity for us to learn about Armenia and its economy, history, politics and culture.
Small trailer about our trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcdgDKcK7K8&list=PL0ZcQ-XRY0fOB-LvaeoBhGNhRCq7aurEo&index=3&t=4s
Full movie about the trip: https://youtu.be/vAoMGJfdWPM