Dear Veterans of Armenia,

There are many forms and suggestions that have been recommended to me in order to write this email, but I’m not gonna follow any of those, I’m going to write out of my heart, whatever it comes, because I am confident that you also did this donation out of your heart, just because you believed in me.

Of course you know very little about me, so I will start with that. I’m a 20 year old guy who is obsessed with computers, robots and everything related to Artificial intelligence. I was born in a small town located in the south of Armenia, called Sisian. I don’t have any big things to tell from the first 14 years of my life. I was a young kid who didn’t know who he wanted to be, and didn’t participate in any activities because of social anxiety. Then, after one event, my life has changed drastically. It happened at the end of the year 2016, when I was 14 years old . There was this program from Germany for students my age. Although the goal of it was to do community projects, they were also selecting and sending a few students to Germany for a week. To be honest, at that time, I was only thinking about how to get myself into that list and go to Germany.

I tried my best, tried everything I could just to ensure my place on that list, but I did not make it. I had a breakdown, which lasted for about a week. During that period, I was thinking terrible things about myself – how am I wasting days of my life, how far behind I am from my peers and how I have no future ahead.

You are probably already guessing what happens next: after a week when I come out of that shock, I made a plan, a good, well organized plan of what I want to do and who I want to be. Till today I’m working towards some of the goals that I set on that day. Many years later I will understand that this worst week of my life has become a life-changing moment. The worst days of my life brought me to consciousness.

From 2016-2018 I pushed myself in talking with as many people as possible. Especially the ones who were smarter than me. I met with lots of Peace Corp volunteers and participated in their projects.. During this time, I met with an amazing Peace Corp guy who helped me to get started with programming and showed me the incredible opportunities it would give me. He was my first teacher of programming and I will remember him till the very end of my journey. During these years, I won first place in a Chess competition and a math competition (in my province). I applied and got a chance to participate in camps and workshops. In 2018, I got a call from the American Councils – I was accepted to one of the most competitive programs that there is out there: Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). I was given the opportunity to go the USA from summer of 2018 till the summer of 2019. This program was a life changer for me. I became smarter, learned different family values, learned how to take care of myself in an environment where I don’t know anyone.

I am most thankful to my host family, they were in a similar position as you are right now, willing to help me to learn and grow even though I was almost a stranger to them in the beginning. They helped me to become better at English, math, and programming, they showed me their vision of family. After spending 10 months with them, I no longer had the feeling that I was alone in America, I had a family – people who were ready to do everything for me like my real family does. All the values that I have currently were shaped, fused with the values I learned from them. I am sure that I will have a similar experience with you. Although I might not meet you in person like I did with them, you are also helping me to learn and devote my time to something I enjoy, and I’m forever thankful to you too. It was a great, great experience in the US and I’m grateful to America for giving me that

My life from 2020 till 2022 was a bit different than I would expect. Yes, everyone at that time had struggles with covid, economical downfall and so on, but mine was all of that, combined with the mandatory army service(which I started in August 2020) and war in Armenia (September 2020). As you may know, army service in Armenia is mandatory for boys and it is for 2 years, during which you have a chance to be home for 15 days. Army here is a very challenging experience for a boy to be in even at the age of 18. You have to have strong morality to be able to stay here. Evaluate the situation correctly and make choices with regards to the environment you are in right now, not the environment you were used to before. The war happened during the second month of my service – I had no idea what to do, where to be and what they expected from me. Even after so many months, I’m still elaborating on the question of what is right or wrong here. The army has been the most difficult quest of my life yet, and I am pleased that at the end of this tough journey, I feel that I came out of it with dignity and pride with myself.

After the army, there is still a lot to do. Together with my studies at the University I’m planning to build my own workshop for robots and start doing projects. Mostly I will concentrate on building autonomous drones. I did lots of research on this topic and I’m super excited to get started with it. From FLEX I have learned to write good projects, and I used these skills to find donors for me to start this project of building drones. I still have a lot to do but I’m confident that as long as I am sure where I am, what I want to do and who I want to become, I won’t have problems with creativity, energy, money, and motivation.

I hope you enjoyed reading this short story of my life. To conclude this, I would like to say that I would love to meet you someday if it is possible, to give my thanks and learn about you too.

Armen Mkrtumyan,
BS in Data Science, class of 2026

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