This year marked the 18th year that enthusiastic young professionals discovered their homeland with FAR during the Young Professionals Trip (YPT) to Armenia 2013. The trip participants, including professionals from the fields of health, journalism, construction management, and music, spent two weeks in Armenia discovering its history, culture, and people.

Under the guidance of FAR’s Project Director Arto Vorperian and tour guide, historian, and comedian extraordinaire Galust Hovsepyan, the YPs explored monumental historical sites, such as Garni, Ambert, Sardarabad, and the tomb of Mesrob Mashots. They also discovered the wealth of the Christian Armenian faith in the churches of Geghard, Saghmosavank, St. Hripsime, St. Gayane, Khor Virab, Noravank, and the majestic Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. The highlights of the cultural visits were perhaps the visionary filmmaker and artist Sergei Parajanov’s museum and an invigorating performance by the Barekamutyun Dance Ensemble.

An exciting feature of this year’s program was a trip to Artsakh, where the participants had the opportunity to see the area’s natural, breathtaking view and visit the historical Shushi and Gandzasar. Seeing the bustling town of Stepanakert and the scores of young children throughout Artsakh, it was exhilarating to witness the rapid development of such a young state.

In addition to discovering Armenia’s heritage, our YPs had the chance to meet the Armenian people and learn about FAR’s programs. They visited the FAR Children’s Center, FAR’s soup kitchen in Gyumri, and GTech. As a special treat, the participants were treated to two concerts (!) – one at each of the music schools that FAR has helped renovate: the Octet School in Gyumri (which is opening its doors in just a few days) and the Oshakan Music School. Center.

Whether it was the breathtaking greenery in Dilijan, the divine views of Tatev, the delicious taste of Armenian wine, the smile of a child, the warmth of a grandmother, the sweet tunes of the land, or exciting new and innovative ventures in Armenia, each participant seemed to make a special connection with a special aspect of Armenia that spoke dearly to his or her heart. The travelers made another special bond, as well – with each other, the keepers of the cherished memories they made on this remarkable discovery of themselves, their roots, and their role in the future of Armenia.