Marianna Sargsyan (BAB ‘17) Kept Moving When the World Shut Down5 min read
From being in the first class of undergraduates to complete AUA, Marianna Sargsyan has moved on to gain international experience studying in Prague and the United States. We linked up with her for a chat about her journey starting from school years to AUA and more.
Tell us a bit about your background before attending AUA.
I was born in Moscow and moved to Armenia at the age of five. The timing of my parents’ repatriation was perfect for me to start elementary school, after which I attended Karen Demirchyan High School No. 139. I have many good memories from that period of my life and I maintain contact with my school to this date. Aside from my mother, who taught English at the school for years, I developed a strong interest in the language thanks to the school itself given its strong English-penchant. As it later turned out, English became the dominant language throughout my higher education.
When and why did you opt for a major in business?
I can’t say that I had a liking for a career in business at an early age but, like many others, I thought a lot about what would be the best career choice for me, considering my academic strengths and personal qualities. I knew for sure that I had a keen interest in English and Math, so I was looking for professions that would be closely linked to those subjects. Less than a year before starting the university application process, the American University of Armenia announced the impending launch of several undergraduate degree programs, which included a BA in business. That is when my academic interests and career goals aligned. I still consider that one of the luckiest moments in my life and I am very proud to be one of the first undergraduates of AUA. I explored different options during my undergraduate years, favored the accounting track, then worked in marketing after graduation. I am excited about what the future holds for me and continue to aspire to run a company one day, as I remember mentioning to my business professor during my very first class at AUA.
What led you to Prague University of Economics and Business and Cornell University?
After my graduation from AUA, I took a break from my studies to gain some practical experience and explore business from a real-life perspective, though I never gave up on my goal of pursuing a master’s degree. I specifically wanted to do graduate studies abroad to have international exposure and broaden my horizons. That’s why and how Prague University of Economics and Business (VSE) came to be my choice for graduate school. I was pleased to learn that while it is the leading university in the fields of business and economics in the Czech Republic, VSE also offered a master’s degree where the language of instruction is English. In particular, the CEMS Master in International Management program interested me the most, not only because of its high ranking but also because it offered the global experience I was looking for. Regardless of the benefits VSE offered, I would have fallen in love with Prague for its beauty. VSE Prague and the program itself opened the doors to Cornell University, which had long been a dream. Cornell only recently joined the CEMS Alliance (the Global Alliance in Management Education), which means that I have the honor of being the first student from the CEMS program at VSE Prague to study at Cornell. I guess the best things happen unexpectedly!
How do you feel that AUA prepared you to be accepted to and attend an Ivy League University?
When I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree at AUA, studying at an Ivy League University may have seemed unattainable early on. However, I learned that hard work and perseverance always pay off. I feel very lucky to have the chance to study at Cornell as part of my master’s degree and I do believe that dreams do come true. AUA truly laid the foundation for where I am now and thanks to the University, I have been successful in gradually developing more competences. I found it particularly helpful to be familiar with the American teaching system, to which I was first introduced at AUA. Given that the systems are similar across both universities, I found it easier to adapt to life at Cornell, truly a great university to attend. It has so much to offer students, from academic knowledge to building networks. I am very grateful that Cornell joined the CEMS Alliance and that it could host students physically in Ithaca this year. Its gorgeous campus with many historical buildings and waterfalls make the experience truly unique.
What are the skills you learned at AUA that you use in your life today and that led to your current success?
AUA has played an important role in shaping me as an individual. It is hard to just mention a few useful skills that I acquired at the AUA, but I would like to underscore a couple of them. Firstly, AUA is where I strengthened my English language skills. Even though I began learning English at an early age, AUA pushed my knowledge to a whole new level. Secondly, at AUA I learned how to work with students from different backgrounds. I truly believe that AUA is where my global mindset was shaped, and from that point, my desire to take on new challenges and experiences kept growing. I could go on and on about how AUA built the foundation for my future success, but what matters most is the impact those years had on me as a person and how my AUA experience shaped my adult life. I have so much to be thankful for to my alma mater.
What’s next for you? Do you have plans to bring your skills back home?
Recent events have taught me that plans are often affected by factors that are outside our control, so I am curious to see where my journey takes me. I still have a year of studies ahead of me and will move to Prague to complete my degree. Due to the unusual circumstances brought on by the pandemic, I completed my first semester online from Armenia. Afterwards, I came to Cornell, my host university, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be here physically considering the current situation in the world. I am finally about to also experience Prague and explore its beauty myself! However, I definitely will apply my skills to best benefit Armenia, and I am still to figure out ways for doing so. I believe that Armenia is in more need of support than ever before. It is also encouraging to see the development across various sectors in the country driven by young new talent. I would very much like to be a part of that transformation.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective AUA students in the BAB program?
I believe that AUA is a great place to grow both professionally and personally. The BA in Business program, in particular, provides great opportunities and prospects for students to succeed in their respective careers. I would perhaps encourage AUA students to take advantage of those opportunities and not be afraid to experiment. In the end, it is all about finding the area that is close to your heart and working persistently toward reaching your goals. I want to wish good luck to all current and prospective students as I remember the challenges I encountered back then. In fact, that was the main reason why I took a work-study job at the AUA Office of Admissions, as I wanted to help newcomers in the best possible way. I hope that BAB students enjoy their time at AUA to the fullest and know that they can always refer to me and other alumni when they have a need for support.