Vahe Nazaryan (MSE ‘17) Shares his Journey of Perseverance to AUA
American University of Armenia (AUA) alumnus Vahe Nazaryan (MSE ‘17) has overcome several challenges before he made his way to AUA. He improved his English proficiency, acquired a second profession, and received a promising job offer from the State Revenue Committee of Armenia before graduating. In our interview he reflects on his AUA journey recalling his military service and adjusting back to civilian life, struggling with AUA admission tests, and building a successful career.
Tell us about your background. Where do you come from?
I was born in Getap in the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia in 1988. After graduating from the local school, I entered the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia. When I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2009, I had to choose between continuing my education and serving in the army. Although I had already applied to the National University of Architecture and Construction for master’s studies and had received military deferment, I decided to enroll in the army before continuing. At first I was a trainee soldier, then I became squad commander, and a year later platoon commander, after which I was discharged holding that senior rank.
When I returned from the army I continued my education at the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia. In 2013 I earned my master’s degree with honors in engineering and construction.
What motivated you to pursue another master’s degree? Why at AUA?
A conversation with my father’s best friend motivated me to apply to AUA. He congratulated me for successfully graduating from the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia, then told me “that’s not enough to be successful in life.” He noted that nowadays communication in most professions is English and to advance in my professional career I would need to master the language. I had studied German at school and had no knowledge of English at that time. But, the conversation with my father’s friend motivated me to pursue a degree at AUA. I knew that AUA is the best educational institution in Armenia where you can both learn English studying in an English-speaking environment and also pursue a second specialization.
What challenges did you overcome while preparing for admission to AUA?
My journey to AUA was full of challenges. As I already mentioned, I didn’t know English at the age of 25. But I was firm in my decision to enter AUA. So I started learning English on my own, though I had a teacher to turn to if and when I had questions. I failed my first TOEFL and GRE exams scoring only 18 points in TOEFL and 40 in GRE. But I did not give up. I continued practicing and a month later took the GRE again and ranked 72 percentile. I continued practicing English for nine more months, retook the TOEFL, and got 77 points. Ten days before the application deadline I found out that my TOEFL score was not available on the website. When I called the U.S. office to inquire about the issue, I was told that according to their statistics, a person who has failed an exam is not likely to receive 77 points nine months later, so they were double checking my test. Luckily, I received my final score five days before the application deadline.
When I applied to AUA, I indicated two choices in my application: MBA [Master of Business Administration] and MSE [Master of Science in Economics]. I failed the interview for admission to the MBA program, but then I was invited to interview for the MSE program. This time, I was admitted, but on probation. After the first semester I realized that MSE was a good choice for me.
Was it difficult to transition from military to civilian life?
In general, adjusting to civilian life wasn’t difficult. Military life is full of restrictions and, compared to civilian life, it is more difficult. So, when you get discharged you immediately feel the freedom and it is easier to get adjusted to that.
However, one thing was particularly challenging for me. As I have already mentioned, I was a platoon commander and there were over 20 soldiers under my supervision. For about two weeks after I returned from the army, I was mentally with my soldiers, thinking about them, and calling them to check up on things.
What is special about an AUA education?
The most important thing I want to emphasize is the unique relationship that exists between AUA faculty members and students. I think that those direct relationships that are created at AUA have a very positive impact on the overall educational process and its effectiveness. I think that is the most important factor that motivates students to perform well and to succeed.
AUA differs essentially from other universities in Armenia. The educational process is organized very well and the content is rich. Also, students who want to learn have all the necessary facilities at their disposal to achieve the best results.
How did you benefit from the education received at AUA?
AUA had a great impact on my life. It changed my viewpoint and widened my horizons. I improved my English proficiency, acquired a second profession, and received an offer from the State Revenue Committee of Armenia even before graduation.
The knowledge and skills I acquired at AUA prepared me to perform well in my current position as a tax methodologist. My job is related to micro- and macro-economy, which requires knowledge of both to contribute effectively to the working process. Besides, we often receive requests from various international organizations and I am able to apply the skills gained at AUA in providing them with the feedback and information requested.
What advice would you give to current AUA applicants for successful admission?
I think my experience serves as a good example for them. They should never give up. If their goal is to study at AUA and to pursue a degree in their chosen field, I would advise them to dedicate more time to test preparation in advance and never to get discouraged, so that they can achieve better results. I would also advise them to take the preparation process very seriously, because on the one hand getting high scores ensures their successful admission to AUA, and on the other hand, the more knowledge and skills they manage to acquire while preparing for the tests, the easier it becomes to be successful at AUA after admission.