From June 26 – August 5, 2011, 13 Armenian university students participated in the Moscow Summer Internship Program (MSIP). Following the success of similar programs in New York and Yerevan, MSIP was launched last year, and it has quickly grown, almost doubling the number of its participants this year, while establishing its place among AGBU’s summer youth program offerings. Arriving from four countries – Armenia, Canada, France, and the United States – this year’s Armenian college students spent six weeks in the Russian capital, which is home to the world’s largest Armenian diasporan community. Program participants were immersed in Moscow’s entrepreneurial culture and were exposed to the hustle and bustle of this global hub of trade, commerce, diplomacy, and innovation.
Before the AGBU interns arrived, students were interviewed by MSIP staff about their educational interests and future ambitions and then matched up with full-time, unpaid internships in English-language work environments that would help them reach their career goals. Secured through AGBU’s network of Moscow-based institutions, host companies, and organizations, this year the following organizations welcomed MSIP participants: the Association of Russian Banks, Central Partnership Digital, Cigar Clan Magazine, Henderson and Hayas, Russian Research Center of Surgery, SKOLKOVO School of Management, Star Expo Exhibition Company/Gostiny Dvor, The Moscow Times newspaper, and Troika Dialogue Investment Bank. A few of the interns, seeking to gain greater exposure to various fields of interest, chose to participate in internships at two different companies simultaneously.
Exploring All that Moscow Has to Offer
MSIP participants were housed in the dormitories of the Higher School of Economics, which is one of Russia’s leading universities. SIVAM, an Armenian young professionals group in Moscow, worked tirelessly with AGBU to organize the MSIP program, while acting as mentors to the interns, and organizing various cultural and social activities for the students. The AGBU program was staffed by coordinator Angela Sarkysian and activities coordinator Anahit Khadjabekian.
Evenings and weekends were filled with several cultural and educational seminars, including introductory Russian language courses, Armenian dance classes, meetings with leaders of the local Russian Armenian community, and sightseeing tours to the many historic sites throughout the city, including the Kremlin, Red Square, Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin Museum, St. Basil and Christ the Savior Churches, and Sergiyev Posad, a historic city outside of Moscow. Students had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Yezras Nersissian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Diocese of New Nakhichevan and Russia.
Participants also attended a joint event with the Higher School of Economics and AGBU Academics. AGBU Academics is an international network of Armenian students and was founded by Camilio Azzouz-Kiwanian of France, who was also among this year’s MSIP participants. During an educational meeting with Karen Mikayelian, executive director of the International Organizing Committee for the Preparation of the Western Armenian National Congress, interns participated in a discussion about the Armenian Genocide and Armenia’s foreign policy.
During the course of the summer, students also had the opportunity to visit St. Petersburg, where they spent a few days exploring the monuments of czarist Russia, including the world-renowned Hermitage Museum, the Peter and Paul Fortress, and the historic St. Catherine’s Armenian Apostolic Church, which dates to the 18th C. They also attended live performances of “Spartacus” and “Swan Lake” at the Mariinsky and Alexandrovsky theaters, and had a meeting with local Armenian youth at the St. Petersburg Armenian Sunday School.
Before the 2011 season came to an end, participants attended a Supervisor’s Reception to honor the gracious professional hosts who made the summer intern experience unforgettable.
Christine Haroutounian, a 2011 MSIP participant from the United States, reflects on the summer as a valuable learning experience. “It reaffirmed the importance of being open to everything in life and always remaining curious. Whether you’re out of your comfort zone exploring the multifaceted, rough city of Moscow or carrying out familiar Armenian traditions and holidays, something to learn that will enrich your perspective and challenge you to grow,” she said.
Fellow intern Nare Tevanyan, also of the United States, added that the summer helped her appreciate her heritage in a whole new way. “Being Armenian is a gift. You can either put the gift under your bed and let it collect dust, or you can use that gift to guide you through the different chapters of your life.”
As with all AGBU summer intern programs, the cultural awakening participants experience during the summer was coupled with the benefit of hands-on practical work experience that will serve them well in the future. “Working at The Moscow Times was a pleasure. Each day I was excited at the prospect of going to work. My colleagues there were friendly, interesting, and patient. My duties didn’t relegate me to copy and coffee machines; instead I spent time out in the field conducting interviews and ultimately writing articles that were actually published in the paper. It was rewarding to see my hard work actually put into black and white and printed for people to see,” said Nick Burdman of the United States.
Preparations are already underway for the 2012 MSIP program and applications will be available on AGBU’s flagship website, agbu.org, by November 2011.