Are you “not a morning person”? If you answered yes, then Armenia might be JUST the country for you! Guess what time I have to show up to work in the morning? 10AM. Guess what time everyone usually actually shows up to work in the morning? Maybe 10:15. Or maybe a little later. If I get there at 10AM, I’m one of the first ones. I’ve never had more productive mornings because there is SO MUCH TIME before work.
I guess it’s time I told you what I’m doing here. Last week was my first work week, and it was exhausting (mostly emotionally) as I attempted to figure everything out at once. The way Birthright does volunteer placements is kind of cool. They try to organize at least your first placement before you arrive, and after that, what you do is very much dependent on you.
We have to work 30 hours a week. That was presented at orientation as an, “I KNOW that 30 hours might seem like a lot, but that’s what you agreed to when you joined the program.” My eyes practically bugged completely out of my head. 30 hour weeks? Hahahahahahahahaha. That’s a vacation. The weeks still end up being very busy though because besides work, we have 2-hour language class twice a week and different forums/cultural activities to attend. It’s nice though because then there’s some time to study on your own, explore the city, and maintain some sanity.
Like I was saying, 30 hours a week. Most people have more than one job to make sure that they can reach their 30 hours, plus we have 6 hours of community service each week fixing up a school in a nearby town. My main placement is at the Gyumri Technology Center. It’s a technological center that’s geared towards making Gyumri the IT hub in Armenia. There are a few different things going on there. There are a bunch of different tech companies in the building, plus the center itself puts on trainings and workshops to build technology, engineering, business, etc skills. They have a bunch of different software and equipment resources, and it’s a cool idea for building up Gyumri. With good companies and opportunities here, skilled people will have some motivation to stay here and improve the local economy rather than having to move to Yerevan to find solid careers.
Starting in a week, I’ll be teaching an intro class on architecture/AutoCAD/laser cutting. They wanted me to include that last part, but I literally have no idea how to use a laser cutter. Fun, right? Just add it to the long list of things I’ve had to learn how to do this year! Oh, and this is going to be the first time I’m teaching a class with a translator, so that should be interesting… I’m turning into an expert curriculum builder, though. Do you know how hard it is to create a class from literally nothing?? No textbook, no guidelines, no precedent. It’s not easy. Thank goodness the internet exists because at least I can find tips for different parts of the curriculum, but then I still have to mold them into something that fits my purposes. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be fine. At this point though, I’m still in the “what the heck did I get myself into????” phase.
I spend two days a week at GTC prepping and soon teaching my class, and my other two days are at one of the tech startups in the GTC building. I’m working for Renderforest (www.renderforest.com) which is a company that 1. makes custom animated videos for clients and 2. makes video templates so that people can make high-quality videos without having any skills in or knowledge of video editing. I said initially that I only wanted to work at non-profits, but this is a cool opportunity to experience Armenian startup life and see the GTC mission come to life. Three people started it in Gyumri two years ago, and now it’s grown to 30 employees. They’ve had multiple buyout offers, but they want to keep the company in Armenia.
I’m working for them as a tester/content writer, so I spend my days writing descriptions for templates and graphics and testing different video templates to make sure they’re all working correctly. I don’t think that they knew what they were getting themselves into when they gave me that job, but they’ll find out soon enough. I am super detail oriented, so the summary I sent them of the bugs I found in the first template I tested was overwhelmingly thorough. My supervisor’s eyes literally got wide when I sent her the list I made. Hehe.
This is my life for at least the month of July, and maybe next month I’ll switch up my Renderforest job for something else. I have my eyes set on an archaeology job, so we’ll see if that comes through. I’m kind of loving having the freedom to try so many different things!