This year marks the 5th anniversary of TUMO Stepanakert. So to celebrate this occasion, we searched for one of the students who was there when the center opened and who’s been to TUMO from day one in order to find out where their journey has taken them while reflecting on the old TUMO days. We stumbled upon 19-year-old Laura Avetisyan, who showed up at TUMO five years ago with bright, eager eyes and is currently studying at University College London.
Despite being so far away from TUMO, Laura still keeps in touch and even reaches out to her former trainers when she needs advice with choosing a new profession. “I learned so much at TUMO, from music to new media, but there’s one workshop that I’ll never forget. In 2016, photographer Scout Tufankjian and I toured the communities in Artsakh where HALO Trust was performing demining operations and photographed them and the residents in the communities. Our work then became an exhibition and was used for fundraising efforts in the United States. I used to hear about the danger, but only from a distance. But now, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
“I learned something else from Scout, too,” Laura continues. “I decided that I wouldn’t think too deeply about choosing a profession. Rather, I’d listen to my inner voice. After all, I can change course whenever I want, just like Scout did. In fact, we both studied political science, but he became a photographer. So who knows? Maybe I’ll become a professional musician, or even a lawyer. Wait, I just came up with a new motto. ‘Take it easy and don’t worry too much about the future.’”
At University College London (or UCL), where Laura received a scholarship by being one of the best students at UWC school, she is most amazed by the library and all of the opportunities it provides. “In general, I was lucky to experience an unconventional educational path. There were no grades at TUMO or at UWC Thailand, not to mention the ethnic diversity of my classmates at the latter. The same goes at university. There are no compulsory subjects, we choose what we want to take ourselves. There are almost no grades, and the lecturers, instead of asking you to regurgitate information actually help you do research. After everything I’ve been through, my desire to learn will never die,” Laura laughs.
The young student’s future goals are even stranger than her educational path. She is dabbling in music and dreams of releasing an album. We’ll let her tell you about the other one. “Operating an airport in Stepanakert. What? I’ve thought so much about it that it’s become a vivid dream. Artsakh is so cut off from the rest of the world. It affects people’s mental and emotional and, even, physical health. I want to see how I can use my knowledge of political science for that project. There are a lot of political and diplomatic challenges involved, which I love,” says Laura proudly.