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ACYOA Members Participate in a Summer Internship at the Diocese

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Three ACYOA members interned at the Diocese through the AGBU summer internship program in New York City. Megan Karanfil, George Macarian and Nick Burdman worked in various departments for several weeks,gaining an inside look on how things are run behind the scenes.  Despite being in different departments, each intern expressed gaining a deeper desire and commitment to serving the Armenian Church. Here are their stories.

Megan Karanfil:

When I was asked to write this article, it really hit me that the time I have left is limited.  I cannot believe I have to return home in less than two weeks.  The time has flown by yet so much has happened.  The Diocesan AGBU internship program has enriched my life in so many ways.  My sense of my Armenian Christian identity has expanded immensely through the various educational and cultural programs provided as a part of my internship at the Eastern Diocese.

Our schedule has included Bible studies, Armenian language and history classes, and weekly lunch meetings with clergy.  As well, we have traveled to St. Nersess Seminary and St. Vartan Camp with the Primate. We even put on a talent show for the Armenian Home for the Aged in Flushing, Queens.  For the first time in my life, I was able to speak with survivors of the Armenian Genocide.  One of the six survivors who reside in the home even got up and danced with us after our performance.

As Diocesan interns we participated in the AGBU New York Summer Internship Program.  Only about half of our AGBU group is composed of American-Armenians.  We have students from so many places, including Argentina, Australia, Russia, Cyprus, and even Uzbekistan.  Because of this, I am learning not only about my Armenian heritage, but many other cultures as well.  This has changed my perspective on many issues faced in my day to day life.

I learned about the Diocesan internship program last year at a conference and immediately was interested. I am currently working toward a degree in biochemistry in hopes to be a physician’s assistant.  Even though my tasks at the Diocese don’t directly relate to my field, the experience has been more beneficial than anything else I could currently be doing.  I am putting together many projects in which I get to read the Bible every day.  That is probably my favorite part.  Being in scripture daily, along with Bible studies and morning services several times a week, has thoroughly reinforced my faith.

The work I’m doing at the diocese really means something.  A lot of internships typically consist of making copies getting coffee, but the Diocese has given us real work experience in which many of our skills have considerably advanced. One of my projects is to put together a Bible study for ACYOA chapters.  My hope is that a Diocesan Wide Bible study can be put into place to spiritually connect our youth while further developing their relationships with God.  I am also writing bi-weekly Advent reflections for the upcoming Christmas season with themes from the verses from our liturgical calendar.

I was recently appointed co-chair of a committee that is making a book to commemorate ACYOA’s 65th anniversary, therefore another part of my job is to sort through archives for pictures and memorabilia to use.  This project not only will be preserving the memories of our past generations, it will raise money to support ACYOA’s promising future. Looking through the archives I have found that the youth are not very different today than they were fifty years ago.  We all have similar questions and struggles.

My relationship with God has always been a vital part of my life and I have such passion for serving the Armenian Church.  I have held the position of chair of my local ACYOA chapter, and am currently vice chair.  Teaching Sunday School has been by far the most rewarding experience in my service to the Church.  I strive to help instill in my students a strong love for God and appreciation for the Armenian Church. Even though my purpose in service is to give and not to receive, I feel I have gained vastly more than I have contributed. 

Nick Burdman:

When I originally applied to be a Diocesan intern through the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s New York Summer Internship Program, I was not exactly sure what to expect. I thought I knew about the church already. I had been ordained a tibir, taught Sunday School, attended St. Vartan Camp, and served on the executive board of my parish’s ACYOA Juniors. What I had not anticipated was the scope of the Diocese. With departments ranging from accounting to youth ministry, with the offices of the Fund for Armenian Relief directly above the communications department, the Diocese bustles with activity. Where, I worried, would I fit in?

The answer, I would later find out, is in the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center. Here, to my delight, my responsibilities change day to day. Some days I help to catalogue the seemingly endless amount of books that flow into the center through charities and bequeaths. Often I can’t help but peruse the titles and sample the stories. Other days I help to organize the immense collection the library owns. Perhaps most intriguing, however, was when I spent time going through the photos and documents of prominent Armenians who have seen fit to leave such things to the Zohrab Center. I poured over the passports of Clara Zohrab, inspected pictures of the artist Vava with all of the celebrities and academics she was friends with, and through doing this I have forged relationships with people I never even knew.

What I have found, it seems, is that Armenians share a marvelous history of success. Thriving in nearly every aspect of world history, Armenian traditions continue to today. The New York Summer Internship Program attests to this fact. Drawn from all over the world, greatly varied in interests and occupations, the thirty four of us are representative of the successful nature of Armenians. Future doctors, lawyers, writers, hedge fund managers, engineers, and architects, the internship group, much like the history of Armenians, is a story of global impact.

George Macarian:

About 10 minutes ago I was told by the Diocesan Communications Department that my deadline to submit my internship blog was today at 3:00p.m. It is now 2:15p.m.; however, I must admit that I am not phased by this task because the past five weeks that I’ve spent in New York as an AGBU intern have provided me with so many experiences and opportunities that writing a mere blog doesn’t even do it justice. In today’s economic and political climate, internships and entry-level job positions are scarce, but with the aid of the AGBU’s New York Summer Internship program and the Diocese Summer Internship Program, young Armenians can find themselves working in the field of their choice at a time when most college students are unable to. The AGBU places young Armenians in an environment where they can learn to grow culturally, spiritually, and professionally, while simultaneously interacting with others from around the world.  I can not imagine a better way to bring together the young Armenian Diaspora than having them come to the greatest city in the world to enhance and enlighten their career aspirations. It was obvious from day one that this experience would be one to remember for a lifetime.

I first heard of this AGBU internship in 2008 while attending an ACYOA Chapter Workshop in Boca Raton, Florida. I was immediately interested in the idea of interning in New York, however I decided to attend Camp Nubar instead, which proved to be a great experience in itself. It wasn’t until a year later that I decided to pursue the internship through the Eastern Diocese.

Upon entering the Diocese on the first day I felt a warm sense of welcome which continued to express itself in the everyday work environment. As a fourth-year accounting major, I was assigned to work in the accounting department, and at first I thought that it would not be as beneficial to me as working for an accounting firm or hedge fund, but I soon realized that was not the case.

From the first day I was assigned the tasks of working on accounts payable, accounting software, cash operations, and open income contracts while my friends, who were interning at other companies, were doing much more mediocre tasks. The accounting team at the Diocese has been very friendly and helpful in making me accustomed to the everyday financial operations. Besides enhancing my accounting skills, the Diocese provided me with other great outlets from which to learn and grow. As an active church member, ordained sub-deacon, and newly-elected ACYOA Central Council member, I thought that I knew all there was to know about our church, religion, and culture, but as I discovered there is always much more to learn.

By participating in weekly Bible study and lunch with various clergy from our Diocese, we really became better acquainted with the clergy as well as increased our theological knowledge. We also traveled with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, to St. Vartan Camp and St. Nersess Seminary, where we shared our experiences as AGBU interns.  The internship schedule also included Armenian language and literature lessons once a week, which really helped since living at university for three years weakened my Armenian speech, reading and writing. Finally the history lessons we received at the Zohrab Information Center also helped incorporate culture, religion, and Armenian identity with professional skills, which makes for a very educational and balanced program.
Besides working and learning at the Diocese, the AGBU also provided all interns in the program with educational and social events ranging from professional presentations, to mentoring, and sightseeing around Manhattan. The AGBU even arranged a day for us to give back to the community by hosting a talent show at the New York Armenian Home where I had the opportunity to speak with a Genocide survivor.

It has been a great privilege so far to socialize and interact with the interns from four of the six continents living together at New York University apartments we have really grown close as a family and truly encompassed the vision of Armenian poet William Saroyan by “creating a new Armenia.” I feel blessed and humbled to have had the opportunity to participate in the AGBU New York Internship Program this summer, and even more so to have worked in the Eastern Diocese. I hope this program continues for years to come and benefits others just as much as it has benefited me.