Agricultural Students from Armenia

Ag Students From Armenia Study for Semester

Hye Sharzhoom, March 2000, Vol. 21, No. 3 (69)

By Hasmik Khalachyan-Cañas

Staff Writer

After several years of preparation by a team consisting of the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA), Fresno State University, College of Agricultural Science and Technology, Armenian Agricultural Academy (AAA), and the Armenian Studies Program, two exchange students from Armenian are finally here at Fresno State participating in the Armenian Agricultural Exchange Program.

Mihran Movsissyan, 18, and Sona Vardanyan, 19, are the first students to participate in this program. They were selected for their outstanding academic achievements and their English proficiency and were approved by the AAA and the US Department of Agriculture.

The Armenian Agricultural Exchange Program is a campus partnership of the Armenian Studies Program, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and the International Programs office that is cooperating with the USDA to jointly sponsor these students. The aim is to expose students from Armenia on agricultural techniques and business so that they can take back to Armenia what they have learned and apply it. Fresno State was chosen to be involved in this exchange program because of the large Armenian community in the Central Valley and because it is in the center of the richest agricultural area in the world. In addition, a vibrant Armenian Studies Program with international ties is located at Fresno State.

Movsissyan and Vardanyan arrived in mid-January and will stay for a total of six months with all their expenses covered by the program. They are living in dormitories with non-Armenian roommates and are getting a real taste of American culture.

Vardanyan’s expectations were that the US would be a very modern country where everything is easy. So far she is pleasantly surprised how easily people communicate with each other.

They both have six classes and take most of the saem classes. They are taking Introduction to Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Business Computer Applications, Agricultural Export marketing, Introduction to Armenian Studies, English as a Second Language, and a one-unit class in Contemporary American Culture that is required for all foreign exchange students.

They are enjoying their stay in America and say that people are treating them very well. Vardanyan said that it was difficult at first and she did not talk much, but now she is more comfortable and is opening up to people.

They both miss their family and friends in Armenia. Movsissyan said that his father might come to visit him in one month.

Their air-fare, health insurance, and room and board are being paid for by the USDA. The University is providing tuition-wavers, while the College of Agricultural Science and Technology is paying all of their student fees and will attempt to find them summer jobs. The Armenian Studies Program is giving them each a scholarship that pays for books, supplies and miscellaneous living expenses.

Dr. William Rice of the Marketing Department at Fresno State headed the USDA-Fresno State-AAA project for nearly two years and was instrumental in the two students studying at Fresno State. From the time that the grant was first awarded, Professor Barlow Der Mugrdechian from the Armenian Studies Program and Professor John Shields from the Agricultural Economics department have been working closely with Dr. Rice to make this program successful. They have both made several trips to the AAA in Armenian in conjunction with the grant. The Student Exchange Program is initially depending on USDA grant money that in time will hopefully be replaced by an endowment to continue the program for many years.

Vardanyan plans to take the knowledge that she obtains in America back to Armenia, and would like graduate and work with food companies as a food economic manager.

Movsissyan is interested in intentional trade and wants to become an export marketer.

They are the first students to participate in this program, and the program has had an excellent beginning.

In the future the exchange program plans to overcome the language barrier and have students go from America to Armenia. They will be looking towards the large Fresno Armenian community for help.