A couple of years ago, my seven close friends and I traveled to Armenia as we graduated our Saturday Armenian School. It was a joyful time, as for most of us we would see our homeland for the first time. Years after studying all the history and significant landmarks on paper, it was truly a remarkable experience to finally see what we had dreamt of all this time. We shared great laughs, mouth-watering food, admired the resilience and candidness of the high population of people in poverty, and, of course, heard many stories.
One of these stories has been stuck in my mind ever since, and with the recent recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US House of Representatives, it has come back to me. The story was about, giving rise to questions about what it means to be Armenian, how we “stay” Armenian in the diaspora, and what role the existence of being Armenian plays in this.
Going to school at UCC for nearly my entire life, it has always been difficult for me to share my full patriotism with my peers. However, going to Armenian classes, we have been taught the same lesson on how we need to sustain our language and always be familiar with our Armenian roots. These lessons have taught me that no matter my surroundings, I always need to share who I am and spread the pride that people like me have in being Armenian. There’s nothing worse than telling someone your Armenian, only for their response to be: “Oh like Kim Kardashian right?” Because of this ongoing issue, a goal that I set for myself is to spread the impressive history that Armenians have – how we survived one of the first and worst genocides of the 20th century but are still a thriving nation. I want everyone at UCC to know that being Armenian is not like anything else. I want them to know that when you are Armenian you are strong, proud, and nothing can stop you from where you want to go.
These are the points that form an intrinsic part of what it means to be Armenian for me, and they all involve my trip to Armenia. They connect me to my identity and ground that identity in a place I can touch and feel at all times and I know that our family has so many more stories that are yet to be written in and on Armenia.