Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Angelina Gennis

Shortly after commencement, Angelina Gennis began a heritage tour through her ancestral country. She talks about her experience.

Expectations: Three days after receiving my diploma, I was on a plane to Armenia without the faintest idea of what to expect. My mom, though Armenian, had grown up in Lebanon and never been to the motherland, but unlike me, her Armenian was flawless (I knew a total of 2 words).

Because I am an International Relations major, my uncle was trying to engage me in a political debate about Iranian-Armenian relations, but all I wanted to know is whether we would meet any distant relatives. We had no relatives in Armenia that he knew of, though he had done extensive research. We had recently met a relative in France whose father was the brother of my great-grandfather. The two brothers had parted ways during the genocide and assumed the other had not survived.

Survivors: Generations were born thinking they were the only survivors in the family, but thanks to the Internet, a simple Google search had added a whole new branch to our family. The regions my ancestors lived in are now part of present-day Turkey, what the diaspora refer to as Western Armenia.

Influences: Throughout my trip I would learn that many of the foods I eat at home, heavily influenced by Turkey, are different from the foods of present-day Armenia, which has a Russian influence. My mom would struggle to speak Eastern Armenian, a different grammar from Western Armenian that includes many Russian words she was not familiar with.

The arts, the warmth of the people and ancient history, however, would be distinctively Armenian and resonate throughout the West and the East.