Name: Mandy Messer
School: Michigan State University
Type of Work: Education, Technology
Region: Middle East, Asia
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year
Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I worked for an amazing educational program in Yerevan, Armenia, called TUMO, www.tumo.org. The mission of the program is to teach animation, web design, video production and video game production to high school students, by way of a game-like environment. I wrote the curriculum and several activities for the web design discipline. Here’s some more information on my experience in the workplace in Armenia in these two blog posts: “Using Your Talents”, “HTTP”.
How can you forget a great smile and wave such as this from your host grandma?!
Share a favorite memory.
Oh gosh, there are so many. I’ll start with my host family: 2 hour long conversations with my host mom every morning, always ending her stories with the same line that I learned so well “Vorovhetev, mer presidente lav e chi!” Meaning: “That’s because our president is no good!”. Late night conversations with my host sister when we went to bed. Hugs, cakes, delicious food, birthday parties, vodka, bonding in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep, celebrations, watching the Genocide commemoration parade on TV with them as the whole country took moments of silence, learning the language, laughing, joking, bonding, everything. I miss them.
What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
It gave me tremendous perspective on the work that I do here in the United States and how technology can make an impact. Working at TUMO and living in Armenia inverted my world. Social dynamics that were strong in the US were weak in Armenia and vice versa. The eagerness of a young person there blew my mind. How they wanted to learn everything about the English language, asking so many questions, embracing any exposure to the world and other cultures as possible, while retaining respect and appreciation for staying true to the Armenian culture, their family and their life. Overall, it opened my eyes and expanded my world. Since then, I’ve moved to a city that is more global-travel-friendly and adjusted my career so that I can continue to travel. With the long-term goal of structuring my career so that I can work internationally for months at a time. I was inspired, challenged and rewarded beyond anything I’ve ever done prior to this experience. This is the fabulous program that made my experience happen: Birthright Armenia