The summer of 1993 marked the first time a dream had come true for me. With about $140 in my pocket, I boarded the plane to come to America, young but serious about my goals and my responsibility to help my family. Even if I couldn’t help, at least I did not want to be a burden, another stomach to feed. I was leaving the frozen hell where even my name was completely misspelled on my passport. “That was the French transcription…” was the excuse given.
After overnight stays in Paris and Philadelphia, we arrived at Bentley. Who would have thought at the time that five years later I would graduate from this great institution with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance? The three-week immersion program was perfect for a novice English learner like me. But the amazing part of it was the chain of events it triggered which in hindsight seem surreal. Perhaps the lives of others are also chains of interconnected, interrelated events but looking back, to this day I am amazed and consider these to be God’s expressions.
There were seven of us Armenians from the group of thirty-two who were advised to attend the program. I don’t remember exactly the order of events but upon hearing about our arrival, one of the local Armenian priests who lived five minutes from the school came to visit and let us know that if we needed anything, he was there to help. Years later, the same beloved priest conducted our wedding ceremony, then years later christened both our children. He had also conducted the wedding of my wife’s parents a few decades before and had christened my wife. However, the day we met him, I simply knew that it was wonderful to find a reassuring person in a foreign country who shared our Armenian heritage.
On one of the hot summer days during the three weeks, we went on a boat trip to George’s Island. On the boat, I heard some folks speaking the beautiful western Armenian dialect, approached them and started talking to them. I had no clue that I was talking with my future family. The nice man who is now my friend and my father-in-law said that an Armenian picnic was coming up and he’d like to take us there. A few days later, he pulled up in his stretch limousine (years later I drove that car to ear a few dollars) to pick us up. I remember the faces of the other students in the program when the Armenian kids were being picked up in a limo.
My English certainly improved noticeably during the program. With so many new fond memories, impressions of Boston and Cambridge, new Armenian friends, further cultural awareness, I thought that the three weeks flew by quicker than three seconds. The honeymoon period of standard culture shock was well underway as I arrived at my final destination (temporarily final) in southern Florida, the sub-tropical state where nothing from humidity, atmospheric pressure to people and their culture was anything I had ever experienced before.