For the past nine months, I have had the incredible opportunity to live in a city and interact with a culture that is not my own. Through this experience I have learned much about my host country as well as my ability to adapt to different, sometimes challenging, situations. I have come to know Yerevan and its citizens quite well, and I will surely miss them when I return to my former routine. However, I know that the lessons and experiences that have shaped my time here will continue to influence how I see and interact with the world around me for years to come.
For me, Yerevan—and Armenia as a whole—has been an amazing adventure. The city itself feels very large and very small at the same time. While it is the capital of the country—it’s economic, political, and cultural hub—Yerevan has managed to maintain an almost small-town feel. Almost everyone seems to know each other, and it’s quite common to meet several friends or acquaintances while walking around the very family-friendly capital. I guess this speaks to the character of the Armenian people. From my vantage point of an outsider looking in, Armenians seems to be quick to make friends, incredibly sociable, and genuinely interested in the lives of those around them. They also have a very family-oriented culture. It is quite common for multiple generations to live under the same roof, and not exclusively for financial reasons. Family members and close friends can stop by unexpectedly, so it’s always important to have tea, coffee, and snacks close at hand for these sometime hours-long social calls. Due to this sense of hospitality and close familial ties, it can arguably be said that many Armenians grow up with tight-knit support systems that they carry throughout their lives.
Interestingly, the city itself seems to be struggling to assimilate into the increasingly evolving global culture. While new western-style buildings, stores, and companies are being built and fostered throughout the capital, there seems to be a deep-rooted sense of history and a desire to retain traditional customs. Some citizens even resent the new supermarkets and high-rise apartment buildings, claiming that these structures do not accurately represent the “true” Yerevan as it was intended to be. Considering the country lies near the convergence of the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates, there might be a valid argument for continuing the traditional low-rise architecture of the city.
However, in the face of this modernity, Armenia’s rich and historic past continues to permeate the capital city. With its classic tufa architecture, restored churches, welcoming atmosphere, and numerous museums and monuments dedicated to Armenia’s national treasures, Yerevan exudes an ambiance of cultural antiquity of which its citizens are highly cognizant. It is almost impossible not to be affected by this enduring culture and charming city.
By: Amy Stidger
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Spring 2013