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Friend Tamara Arvanian This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Most Americans grow up very sheltered. Even if there is ethnic diversity in their neighborhoods, often families have lived in America for generations. My friend Tamara was born in Armenia in 1984. We talked about the places she's lived and how they are different.



Where were you born and how long did you live there?

I was born in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, which is located between the Black and Caspian Seas. I lived there until I was seven years old.



Why did your family move so much?

Things were really bad in Armenia, but we did not really want to move. My dad decided that it would be better if we did, so he went to England for a seminar where he met a lot of scientists who worked in different countries. He talked to them about working for them. My dad was one of the youngest scientists in Armenia to get as far as he did. He was accepted wherever he applied. We moved around so that my dad could work at different places and see which he liked. I'm glad we moved a lot, because we did not have electricity, water or heat back home.

I miss Armenia a lot, though, and want to go back the first chance I get. Even though we did not have a lot, the people are very supportive. It was like a huge family of friends and it was also really beautiful.



Of the places you've lived, which did you like most?

That is a really hard question, since every place had its pros and cons. I miss Armenia because it was my home. I like the culture and way of life there, and I miss the land.

Taiwan was good, it was really the first big change in my life. It was a whole new experience with new people, and it was also very beautiful.

New Zealand was great - it was peaceful and relaxing. It was like living in a picture book, but I did not have many close friends like in Armenia.

America, well, I love it here because o feverything I have learned and am able to do that I couldn't do otherwise. There is so much to learn and so many opportunities. I'm also seeing America through the eyes of a teenager. I saw every other place through the eyes of a child, so I'm sure those views are different. But every place I have been has taught me new things and allowed me to meet new people and have new experiences. Since each was different, I cannot have one favorite. I miss every place in its own way.



Where do you want to live when you finish school?

Well, after college, my boyfriend and I plan to move to New York City, and I am going to finish my optometry schooling while he works. I want to stay near New York City, or maybe California. New York gives me a chance to experience something new every time I am there, which is what I love about it. In California there are a lot of Armenians and it is very diverse. But we'll have to talk about that ...



Would you want to move around so much when you have children to give them the same experiences you had?

That's hard because yes, I would like them to have the experiences I had, but I would wait until they were older. In some ways I feel I missed out by not having a constant home for a large part of my life. I would encourage them to travel and take them with me when I travel (I plan to do a lot), but I won't force them if they don't want to. I don't like being forced to do anything, and I will try not to do that to them.



What did you think of the United States before you moved here?

Well, it wasn't very good. To me, the U. S. did not seem a good place, considering Armenia was part of the U. S. S. R. at the time, and the Cold War was not over yet. I don't know how to explain what the United States represented to me. I think "pigs" was the word used around me when I was growing up, but my family and I definitely do not feel that way anymore.

Until we left Armenia for Taiwan, I had no idea that anywhere else existed. I knew about Russia because we went there a lot, and Georgia (the one over there, not in the U. S. ) because my dad is from there and we went there too. Also Azerbaijan, because we were at war with them. That's pretty much what I thought the world consisted of. The first time I saw a colored person (in a Russian airport), I started to cry. I thought there was something wrong with his skin. I had no idea there were other types of people because I had not experienced other cultures. AsI learned about other cultures, I became really interested in them. I love learning about people and where they come from and what life is like there.



How has your opinion of America changed since you moved here?

It has changed a lot. I don't know if I actually had a clear picture of America when I was younger. I just remember hearing negative things about it. Now, when someone says something negative, I get mad. I have my own opinions about its politics, but America in general is a great place. You'll hear me complaining about the school system and politics, but I love living here and wouldn't change it for anything. I feel privileged to live here and have so many possibilities. I hate seeing kids who were born here take what they have for granted.



Tamy is in college and hopes to be an eye doctor when she grows up.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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