YEREVAN — It’s 3 am at Zvartnots, Yerevan International Airport. Six students from the Special School of Public Works (ESTP), a large engineering school in Paris, arrive with their suitcases, ready to spend six life-changing weeks in Armenia.

Welcomed by Varazdat Yeghiazaryan , the project manager on site, they take taxis and head to the Armenian capital, where they will spend a few days. On the agenda: discovery of Armenian culture for these six French individuals, who only know Armenia through Charles Aznavour and the somber history of the Genocide. Churches, museums, historical monuments, and traditional dishes offer them a first taste, as reported by Varazdat Yeghiazaryan, who describes them as “jubilant with curiosity and wonder.”

After a few days in the capital, the students are taken to Ashtarak, in the Aragatsotn province, where they will carry out their mission. Indeed, the purpose of their trip is to undertake a humanitarian internship, in accordance with their engineering school’s curriculum, which allows them to substitute the so-called “executive” internship with an experience of this nature.

At one of the kindergartens in the city, their mission is to support the local workers in renovating certain classrooms. Painting, cleaning, demolishing and rebuilding walls, and laying concrete slabs are among the activities that will not only help the students bond with each other, but also with the people around them.

Armenian students and teachers were also present, and interactions with them were described as “valuable, enriching, and allowing us to understand the various challenges these people face on a daily basis,” says Matthias, one of the French participants.

Moreover, the actions carried out were self-financed: a €5000 collection had been organized beforehand by the Armenian Educational Benevolent Union (AEBU)-France to purchase the necessary raw materials for renovations. In addition to the renovation mission, the students also offered to teach math and French classes to students aged 5-10. These bi-weekly exchange moments were fundamental in the eyes of the young interns, as Axel narrates: “The goal of the humanitarian internship is not only to assist the local community materially but also to engage with them, understand their customs and habits, and share some of the knowledge acquired in France.”

While the students were occupied with different assignments during the week, weekends were dedicated to tourism, exploration, and relaxation. From Lake Sevan to Tatev via Gyumri, and through the peaks of Mount Aragats, they immersed themselves in Armenian folklore, its enchanting landscapes, and experienced the renowned Armenian hospitality. They also explored the capital, both during the day and at night, enjoying its vibrant nightlife filled with cafes, bars, and nightclubs.

Given the success and excitement generated by this first edition, the humanitarian programs proposed by AEBU-France in collaboration with AEBU-Armenia will be expanded to other schools this year, with the aim of enhancing access to education in the most remote and isolated areas of Armenia.

The project has begun!

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