Feature_Hakob and Sarah
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Love You to AUA and Back: Hakob Karapetyan (MPH ’18) and Sarah Ghazarian (MPH ’17)

4 min read

Many AUA alumni have found their life partners at AUA, and Hakob Karapetyan (MPH ’18) and Sarah Ghazarian (MPH ’17) are no exception. They both received their Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian College of Health Sciences (CHS) of the American University of Armenia (AUA). They met at the University, became great friends, and married a couple of years following their graduation. A Lebanese Armenian, Sarah moved to Armenia after their marriage, and now they both share the common goal of staying in Armenia and contributing to its development. Successful professionals working in the sphere of public health, Sarah and Hakob are grateful for the way AUA’s MPH program prepared them to excel in their careers. 

How did your relationship develop?

Hakob: Our journey started in 2015, when we enrolled in AUA’s MPH program. We became good friends, but during our studies, it was nothing more than friendship  not even secretly. We talked a lot about classes, assignments, and projects basically, topics related to student life. We hung out sometimes with other international students, and it was fun to be around each other. I saw Sarah as a very interesting person.

Sarah: I was born in Lebanon and visited Armenia a couple of times, but I moved here in 2015 to study at AUA. After graduation, I went back to Lebanon and stayed there for a couple of years. When I was there, we would text each other from time to time, sharing ideas and thoughts. Still, everything was casual between us, and there was no intention for a relationship.

Hakob: Something slowly began developing between us as we talked and joked with each other. Things continued like this until 2020. It was the post-Covid and post-war period, and I was extremely stressed. That was when Sarah decided to visit Armenia for twenty days.

Sarah: It was December 2020, three years since I had left for Lebanon, and I decided to return to Armenia for a short visit. My plan was to catch up with my friends. I stayed here for twenty days, and by the time I left, I was telling my parents that I was getting engaged. I was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Germany, and I turned it down so that we could get married and stay in Armenia. 

Hakob: We spent a lot of time together in those twenty days and fell deeply in love. Before that, there were some feelings between us, but the distance was a challenge. Seeing each other changed everything. I realized that if you feel something, you need to act right away, or you might miss it. And so, we got engaged in January 2021 and married in July of the same year. It just felt like the right thing to do. 

Sarah: And we don’t regret it. 

What’s your favorite part of being married to each other?

Hakob: Everything. My life. It was easy for me to make this decision because it was my chance to change my life. Getting married is a big responsibility, but I went for it with certainty. 

Sarah: My favorite part of being married to Hakob is that I found a life partner. It is not easy to find someone who so closely shares your values and views on life in today’s world, but we did.

Hakob: Come to AUA, and you will find your life partner (laughs). Never give up on that. When I pass by AUA, and other people with me, I always tell them that Sarah and I are here now because of this building. 

How did AUA’s MPH program prepare you for your career?

Hakob: After graduation, I started working at Tonus-Les pharmaceutical company as a clinical study coordinator and head of production. We are now designing innovative clinical studies and planning to implement them soon. I also teach program planning in the Department of Public Health at Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU). The knowledge and skills I gained through AUA’s MPH program helped me significantly in my career. I developed strong communication skills that are now extremely useful in my job. I also utilize the knowledge I gained in, for instance, the statistics courses of the MPH program when designing our clinical trials. 

Sarah: I also benefited greatly from the education I received in the MPH program. Following graduation, I started my career in non-governmental organizations in the field of development. I currently work for World Vision International as a senior advisor for data quality assurance and indicator custodianship. The set of technical and soft skills I gained at AUA are what helped me grow as a specialist in this sector. Within the framework of the MPH program, we studied and practiced program planning and evaluation, which is exactly what we do in the development world. We implement programs around the world and then evaluate their efficiency and the level of change they effect. I am responsible for the impact measurement and quality assurance of our programs. 

Why AUA?

Hakob: AUA was the only choice for me in Armenia. I really liked the community here, the curriculum design, the values, and the approach to education. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how seriously the students take their studies at AUA. 

Sarah: I could have attended a university in Lebanon as well, but for me, choosing AUA meant having the Armenian experience that I longed for. I wanted to live here, get to know the country, and connect with my Armenian heritage. I also liked AUA’s education system, which offers you the opportunity to gain practical knowledge. When I teach at YSMU now, I try to implement the student-based approach that I experienced in my classes at AUA.

Additionally, AUA’s student-centric approach makes it possible to study here without financial challenges. During my studies here, I received both the Dr. Haroutune and Sona Armenian financial aid and merit-based scholarships. Someday, I would like to give back to my AUA community and change someone else’s life through a scholarship. 

What is a life or career goal that you both share?

Hakob: Lately, it has been building a house together, and we already accomplished this. It has been a challenge that we overcame together, and it made our relationship stronger.

Sarah: In terms of our long-term plans, a desire that we share is to stay in Armenia and work on making our country a better place for us and for the upcoming generations. Changing something for the better starts with a personal level of effort. As important as institutional efforts are, you also need personal efforts to change something for the better. AUA provides you the opportunity to see that it is possible to make a change. When you look at the scale of change AUA is making, you think that it is possible for you to make a difference as well.