Araz Madatian

Araz Madatian (BAEC ’24): One Journey, Three Countries

4 min read

Dark blue, burgundy, and blue. Those are the colors of the three passports before me. I was born in Tehran, Iran, where I lived until the age of 12. Shortly afterward, I moved to Los Angeles, California with my family to continue my education. Growing up in Iran, my primary subjects in school were taught in Farsi; however, as Armenian students, the schools we attended were Armenian schools, so we studied additional subjects such as Armenian history and literature. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to cultivate my knowledge of the Armenian language to the extent I intended, since I moved to the United States (U.S.) at a young age. Immigrating to the U.S., I experienced many obstacles and challenges, such as not being able to speak English fluently. Hence, that created many insecurities in me, as I attempted to adjust to my new environment. For example, on the first day of middle school, I was in the counselor’s office, and I remember looking at the list of phrases I had translated in my phone beforehand in case I needed them. For weeks on end, I remained constantly overwhelmed by my classmates’ curiosity in me and my inability to answer their questions. I would go home after school and cry in my room, wishing to go back to the familiar place I had once called home. In addition to the language barrier, I was experiencing minor cultural shocks, such as attending a mixed-sex school, since in Iran, boys and girls are separated when they reach first grade. It took me a couple of days to grow accustomed to having male teachers and classmates. 

As time passed and I started learning English and communicating with my peers, I became more confident in speaking, and I was able to make more friends and establish connections. Lived in Los Angeles, I was incredibly grateful to befriend peers from different backgrounds and cultures. This allowed me to become more educated and informed about different customs, traditions, and lifestyles. Consequently, through my many Spanish-speaking friends, I developed a love for Spanish, and when I reached high school, I took Spanish for three consecutive years in order to learn the language and use it to broaden my communication skills as much as possible. 

My parents had always planned to move to the U.S. for my schooling and then to Armenia for my undergraduate studies. Yet as a child, I was not aware of the toll the multiple changes in environment would take on me. However, I am glad that they made these decisions, because I learned countless valuable lessons that contributed to my character and self development. 

During my last year of high school, I knew I would be moving to Armenia the following year, and that meant choosing a university whose language of instruction is English that offers a reputable degree credible outside of Armenia. As a result, I started researching the American University of Armenia (AUA), and I remember visiting the website and gathering information about the admissions process and the available programs that could be of interest. I always loved writing, reading, and literature, so I applied to the English and Communications program. Furthermore, I was aware of my strengths and abilities, but I was still nervous about whether I would be admitted, since AUA was the only school I applied to that was an odd choice, since in the U.S., students typically apply to more than ten schools, and I had only applied to one. 

I took a leap of faith, and here I am, nearly four years later. Throughout my studies at AUA, I made the most valuable connections, friends, and networks, and the encouragement and support I have received from the AUA community have been incredibly fulfilling. I remember feeling anxious about how the AUA community would accept me, but as soon as I started getting to know my classmates and instructors, all my worries faded. For instance, I was happy to see so many Diasporan Armenian students, as well as others from different backgrounds, and I ended up forming a group of unique friends who each have their compelling stories to share. 

 I remember one day in early August during my freshman year at AUA. It was around the time of my birthday, and my classmates found out. They thoughtfully organized a Zoom call, lit candles for me, and sang “Happy Birthday” and in that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have such caring and good-hearted people alongside whom I would be studying for the next four years. On top of this, attending AUA has taught me resilience, patience, and the value of hard work. Conversely, the AUA community has taught me kindness, compassion, the importance of friendships and connections, and how meaningful bonds can help you continuously flourish. 

I am a fourth-year student graduating in June, and it is surreal to reflect back on the path I have traveled and all the events that have occurred along the way. AUA reminded me of my love for storytelling and journalism and helped me cultivate the skills I need to become a successful professional in my field. In late December of 2023, I applied to the University of Southern California (USC) to study journalism. Though I felt anxious, I was excited to take another leap of faith and, most importantly, trust in myself and my abilities. In February, I found out that I was admitted into the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism for the Master of Science in Journalism program, and I will begin my studies this June. I always say home is not four walls: rather, it is the people you are surrounded by. There are many places I call home, and AUA is one of them. 

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