By Mariam Matevosyan

The night I arrived from North Carolina, I already knew I liked Washington, DC and that I could succeed here.

The first thing I remember is stepping out of the cab and ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Director Tereza Yerimyan greeting me with open arms and making sure I felt comfortable at the ANCA’s Aramian House – a veritable home-away-from-home located in the heart of DC, made possible through a generous donation by our “patron saints” – sisters Sue, the late Margo, and the late Martha.

The second thing I remember is a well-mannered, gently smiling young man, who immediately reminded me of my brother back in Armenia, appearing at the door and offering to help with my excessively heavy suitcases full of unnecessary things that helped me survive the hardships of graduate school at Duke University.

From that moment on Tereza and the rest of the Aramian House family would do everything to facilitate my smooth transition to DC. I quickly discovered how effective, generous and determined the Capital Gateway Program staff and Advisory Committee – all alumni – are to ensuring our success. Program fellows receive help navigating DC’s competitive job market via rigorous and intensive training in the application and interview process, professional communication and ethics, along with personal introductions to local industry leaders. And these are not generic trainings but dynamic one-on-one sessions tailored to the specific needs of the program fellow. I found safety, warmth and much needed stability at the critical juncture of my career when the future was as yet uncertain. I truly felt at home, thousands of miles away from family, friends as I embarked on the quest to take my career in international development to the next level.

Before my studies at Duke University, I worked on grassroots youth programs for more than six years – running them and coordinating efforts with like-minded groups. I had never seen such a classic example of a bottom-up, dynamic, capacity development program as the ANCA’s Gateway Program. There is not an ounce of artificiality, so common in many other development and civil society programs. The ANCA staff often jokes that the program started with recent graduates staying on their living room couches at night as they searched for jobs from the offce during the day. With the help of the Saghdejian family and a growing community of donors, the ANCA institutionalized what was already a full-scale operating program. And, with Tereza’s thoughtful leadership, the CGP Advisory Committee and the vibrant network of dedicated alumni, the program is constantly expanding both in numbers and professional development offerings.

It’s that 15 years of dedicated service that led to me securing my dream job in international development within 7 weeks of moving to Washington, DC. And, it will be my honor to pay it forward, as a proud alumna of the program, when the next group of fellows arrives in January, for the 2019 session.

Mariam Matevosyan is a graduate of Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy and recently started as a Program Officer at an international think tank in DC. Among other things,  her direct duties will include assisting democracy and institution building programs in Armenia and in the region.

Click here to learn more about the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.