AVC First Summer School Program Participants In Etchmiadzin 07/14/2012
Online university, distance education of Armenian studies and… warm friendly atmosphere. The opportunity to combine all these was created by the AGBU Armenian Virtual College (AVC), which organized the first summer cultural and educational program in Etchmiadzin. The program launched on 14th of July 2012, bringing together AVC students from all over the world to the spiritual city of Armenia. The program started with the historical overview of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and visit to the Cathedral. Students had the opportunity to view in person and have live footage of Etchmiadzin architectural monuments learned about during the AVC online classes, discover the ancient history of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, visit and explore its treasury-museum, the Door of King Tiridates, thus learning about many Armenian religious and historical art works, manuscripts, embroideries, as well as Armenian paintings, coins, and many other Armenian spiritual, historical, and cultural values. Another goal of the program was to bring together AVC students to personally meet and socialize with their teachers and peers around the world. When the tour to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin ended, the participants of the AVC summer school program headed to the Armenian Unity Cross Cultural Center in Etchmiadzin, the hospitable doors of which were open for them, revealing the Armenian traditional atmosphere full of flavor and odor, and which immediately captured the hearts of the visitors with its colors, traditions, art, food, and handicraft works. Together with AVC summer school program organizers, AVC students and teachers first headed to the traditional Tonir, where two Armenian women would teach them the secrets of making fresh and tasty Lavash. They gathered all together around the Tonir, carefully studied the process of making Lavash, and a bit farther the making of Armenian traditional dolma was organized by the Center. There, once again, the AVC students showed their talent, rolling the traditional dolma in grape-leaves, putting them one by one in the pot. The fragrance of Armenian harisa, greens, cheese, matsun (yogurt) were later added to the smell of lavash and dolma and… the traditional Armenian lunch was ready. The group members were socializing, exchanging their impressions and experiences with the newly acquired information, playing, singing while the hospitable table was getting ready and then waiting for them… then all these continued around the table while tasting the delicious and handmade Armenian traditional meals. Another exiting activity was programmed for the event participants – they yet had to get acquainted with pottery and carpet weaving mastery skills, as well as take part in a theatre performance, which was specially organized by the students of the Art Center. AVC students took part in these classes with great enthusiasm and interest. They prepared saltcellars, mugs and ornaments from wet clay, followed carefully the secrets of pottery, and took their handmade works with them as a memory of this special day. The time came for The Death of Kikos performance. AVC students headed to a small hall, where the stage; closed with red curtains suddenly opened and Toumanyan’s world with its tales penetrated into everybody’s hearts. The students of the center played with great courage and special talent, and at the end of the performance asked the AVC students to come to the stage and replace the main actors. AVC teachers joined their students to encourage them and AVC teachers and students’ version of ‘The Death of Kikos’’ began. The performance proved that the Art can unite and connect people, regardless of their place of birth and country, language, age, traditions, and customs. This one-day summer visit was coming to the end, but the warmth and pleasant atmosphere made everyone sit in that old Armenian yard to silently think and express their kindness towards each other, with hearts full of happiness and enthusiasm, as well as with hope and persistence to meet again. AVC first summer educational program was a great success, paving the way for the second, third, and many other Armenian identity preserving and uniting programs for the coming years. The Armenian Virtual College with its online courses and summer programs has an aim and power to bring together hundreds and thousands of Armenians and other nationalities interested in the Armenian studies.