By Garen Bostanian
For the record, I am not writing this article on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). I am writing this as an individual who has a passion for the Armenian Cause, is eager to become more active in American politics, and wants to reach out to others who share the same interest.
Although I’ve only completed two weeks of the program so far, I know I made the right decision to come to Washington, D.C. for the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship (LSI) Program. Here are four reasons why this program could be worthwhile for you, as well:
#1: The Living Experience
I have never had the opportunity to live on my own. School and work have always been within a reasonable distance from home, so it was senseless not to commute. The LSI program was an opportunity to travel cross-country to the nation’s capital and spend eight weeks in a group-living situation with six of my peers. This is definitely a new experience for me, and for most of the interns. Although I was a bit nervous upon arrival, it didn’t take me long to become familiar with my surroundings, and now I can maneuver around any part of the city. I must give credit to my peers and Capital Gateway Fellows, though; they were extremely friendly and helped me become familiarized with both the house and our neighborhood.
This was a test-run, of sorts, for future undergraduate and graduate studies away from home. If I was nervous about it before, I feel more confident now that distance should not dictate which school or program I choose.
#2 The People You Meet
One of the most unique aspects of this internship is its location in Washington, D.C. Being down the street from the White House and Capitol Hill allows us to meet with legislators we’ve only read about—and not just meet them but have the opportunity to advocate for the Armenian Cause. I have interned with local, state, and federal officials in the Southern California area, and each was an experience that I would not trade. But D.C. is different—from Congress to the White House to the think tanks—it is a unique opportunity to affect policy.
During these past two weeks, I was fortunate enough to speak with the former U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Evans; the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR) representative to the U.S., Robert Avetisyan; and Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Joe Baca (D-Calif.), and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). I have gone to the U.S. Capitol on several occasions, visiting various Senate and House Members’ offices, providing them with press clippings from Armenian American newspapers, and thanking them for fighting in support of our just cause. It is a great way to learn who is who and get a better understanding of the legislators who support our issues. You really cannot do that anywhere other than in D.C.
#3 The Knowledge You Gain
I am, by no means, an expert in Armenian history, but even my fellow interns, some of whom were very well educated about our past, found themselves learning new information. In all honesty, every day we come across a subject that we discuss heavily while completing our work, and I find that to be both informative and entertaining. If you are like me, and enjoy reading and expanding your educational horizon, this city is meant for you—and this program is meant for you. Every day, “think tanks” host events on a myriad of topics, where they debate current controversial issues, led by individuals who are experts in the field. Some of these discussions focus on Armenia and the Caucasus; many do not; but all provide interesting perspectives and an opportunity to be part of the dialogue and not simply an onlooker from afar.
However, it is not just the interesting people you meet or the events you attend. I was looking for a summer experience where the projects I took on were not just simple office tasks. From the first day, I tackled new and interesting projects, and as soon as I completed them, I had another one waiting for me. In this office, I feel useful, I feel productive, and most importantly, I feel like my work is helpful for the Armenian community.
#4 Unleashing Your ‘Inner Hai Tahd’
From the very first Armenian event we attended (a picnic at the local Soorp Khatch Armenian Church), I felt my passion towards my culture and community grow significantly. I met Armenians who hardly spoke our language, yet were tremendously active and interested in the Armenian Cause, and that was inspiring to me. Since that day, I have been thinking about ways to develop my involvement, my education, and my passion for the Armenian community when I get back home. How can I get more active in our Cause?
I owe it all to my fellow interns and, most importantly, the team here at the ANCA National Headquarters, who wants us to have the best experience possible and sets the foundation for ongoing Hai Tahd activism.
These are the points I’ve compiled after being in D.C. for only two weeks. I am positive that this list will continue to grow longer. But until then, I have one concluding thought, about not only this internship, but life in its entirety: Regardless of what you are given, the real value of an experience depends entirely on how much passion, interest, and effort you put into it. The LSI program gives you the opportunity to really experience D.C. and its intersection with Hai Tahd. It’s up to you to take full advantage of the program and make it a summer you will remember for a lifetime.
Garen Bostanian is in the Class of 2013 at College of the Canyons in California. He is currently a Leo Sarkisian Intern, Class of 2012.