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


   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

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

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

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

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?

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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