Lida Asilyan, Nane Khachikyan, Sona Adamyan
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Winners of Student Writing Contest Announced

4 min read

2020 was a year of real challenges. The COVID-19 situation, the devastating war, and the painful losses we all had to go through have forced us to seek ways of expressing our thoughts and finding our paths to recovery.

At the Math and Writing Center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), April 14 was marked with the announcement of the three winners of the writing contest And I Need to Write This Letter and an exciting workshop by award-winning filmmaker and AUA lecturer Zareh Tjeknavorian. The workshop was organized exclusively for those who took the time and effort to participate in the contest.

With the contest, the staff of the Math and Writing Center aimed to open the door to the healing power of writing so students would have the additional chance to write and let the unspoken words be heard. 

“We are thrilled to note that our students did an excellent job!” proudly states Anna Aghlamazyan, coordinator at the Math and Writing Center. “We received touching, creative, and deeply personal pieces of writing, which made it truly difficult to choose the three best letters. The discussion was long and heated, but we eventually chose our winners: Lida Asilyan (BAEC ‘24), Nane Khachikyan (BSCS ‘24), and Sona Adamyan (MATEFL ‘21).” The winners received gift cards from the local bookstore Bookinist.

Winners of the Writing Contest Share Their Thoughts

“Usually I don’t like sharing my thoughts, but when I opened the email announcing the contest, I thought: ‘OK, I need to write this. I need to give it a try,’ ” says Lida Asilyan, author of the winning letter The War Has Started. She recalls that after the war she couldn’t talk about the topic, but one day she woke up late at night, took her phone, and started typing her thoughts in the Notes app of her phone. The following morning she read the text and was surprised at how the letter she had written so spontaneously resembled a real story.

While Lida only writes when she gets too emotional, Sona Adamyan, who took third place, writes all the time. “Sometimes when you do not have anyone with whom to share your feelings, worries, and happiness, the best way is to write down your thoughts,” Sona notes. She believes that when you transfer your stress onto paper, you feel relieved and that is exactly what she did in Stop Asking Yourself: “What if, what if…”

Winner of the second prize, Nane Khachikyan, was emotionally broken when she found the contest announcement in her inbox. “At the war, I lost a close person, and even though I thought the hardest part had passed, I never fully healed,” explains Nane, who thinks that the opportunity to write her letter Have a Garden of Yellow Flowers in Your Lovely Soul “was just the right thing at the right time,” which pushed her to find herself again while creating. “There is always a deep side of the story which we usually do not talk about, and while writing that ‘deep part’ I thought I would help somebody else with similar feelings who would read it someday.” 

Exclusive Workshop by Zareh Tjeknavorian 

The participants of the contest had the opportunity to take part in a workshop led by Zareh Tjeknavorian, who generously agreed to share his valuable experience in filmmaking and cinematography. As he beautifully put it, “Using our creativity — our imagination — to express ourselves and to make sense of the world through writing, filmmaking, or any other artistic medium is a skill as vital as speech itself. At its best, cinema, like music, is a spiritual language understood by all. As a form of dramatic art, it speaks its truths not through action alone, but through our capacity to empathize.” 

Three talented AUA students, Zhanna Muradyan, Kristina Abovyan and Lilit Galoyan, who are taking the Filmmaking course at AUA, joined the workshop to share their short films with the contestants. Nane notes: “The workshop once again showed that there are talented people around us who express their feelings in different forms of art to overcome their fears and deliver an important message.”

After watching the short films, the participants had an interesting discussion on empathy, healing, overcoming fears, and being courageous enough to chase one’s dreams.  

“I was really impressed by the short movies and by how even a silent movie can have a huge impact on the audience,” reflects Sona, emphasizing that honesty is the most important and one of the most difficult things we should exercise in life and in art. 

Lida continues by highlighting that the workshop felt like a private conversation between the professor and the students. “I even thought that I want to create a similar movie myself and started considering taking the filmmaking course,” she says. 

(Left to right) Anna Aghlamazyan (Math and Writing Center Coordinator), Nane Khachikyan, Sona Adamyan, Angela Balasanyan (Writing Consultant)

(Left to right) Anna Aghlamazyan (Math and Writing Center Coordinator), Nane Khachikyan, Sona Adamyan, Angela Balasanyan (Writing Consultant)

“The screen is a mirror in which we see ourselves, and our reflection, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell’s concept of the mythological hero, has a thousand faces. We are one, and we are many, and we are not alone,” concluded Tjeknavorian, calling for a sense of unity and camaraderie in these challenging times.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.