My Alternative Muskie Story: Where is home?

Anzhelika Gyulumyan, 2022 Muskie fellow from Armenia. Photo credit: Anzhelika Gyulumyan

It all began with me boarding the plane in Armenia a year ago to come to the US as a Fulbright student. Filled with energy and expectations, I was not bothered by the mundane. Who cares that I don’t know anyone there and have no place to live in? I will figure it out…

Leaving everything loved and familiar behind, I landed in Norfolk, VA, about 24 hours after my departure from Yerevan — tired, hungry, and hopeful. The next weeks, and even months, I spent rebuilding my life from scratch. The introverted me had to go out to events to meet many people just to befriend a few, stop complaining about the taste of water, and finally admit that wearing leggings and a hoody to school is… tolerable. Everything that I knew changed. And I had to re-learn to live in a new country and re-create my comfort zone. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t feel the roots under my feet connecting me to the land.

When I received an email from the Muskie program, I had to truly think. Not that I got attached to where I was, but the idea of leaving again into the unknown scared me. So, I decided not to apply. And I didn’t. Until the application deadline day, when I realized that I was rejecting an opportunity, not even trying to take it. On that Saturday night, I sat outside the Old Dominion University’s library and wrote my application. This was my way of kicking the ball to the other side of the field. And my journey began.

Very soon after the interview, I learned that I had been selected as a Muskie finalist, and with the help of my amazing advisor — eventually found a dream internship.

2022 fellows of the Muskie Professional Fellowship Program gather in Washington, D.C. for the orientation event. Photo: Muskie program


Of course, accepting or declining the offer was absolutely up to me. And a part of me was excited to work in consulting and move to another state and face another challenge, but the other part of me wanted to hug everyone in Norfolk, who made that city home and never let them go. Moving again seemed like jumping into the unknown… and with 2 big suitcases, which is what I did.

At Norfolk train station I was crying and hugging people who were strangers to me 9 months ago. Who would have thought? And a day after that I was completely consumed by meaningful conversations with Muskie fellows, the Muskie team, and guests. I was amazed by the intelligence and deep thoughts of other fellows, and if I am honest, I could feel the imposter syndrome staring at me from across the room. During the two days of orientation, I met amazing people who care deeply about what they do and live impactful lives. That reminded me of who I was and why I was in that room.

Very soon it was time to move on to the next stage and finally arrive at my new “home” for the next 3 months. Again, a place where I know no one. Just me and my 2 suitcases.

I have been here for a little bit over a month now. I will move back to Norfolk in 2 months. I don’t have a place to live there. And I will have to move again in 9 months after that. Where? Into the unknown. Hating, resisting, and avoiding change all my life, now I accept it, talk to it, pack it in my suitcase, and take it with me…

And if you are like me, considering if you should write that application, then stop thinking right there and just write it. Sometimes you have to leave home to find it inside you. Because as the audio on Instagram says “You will never be home again. That’s what you get for finding happiness in more than one place.”

Until the next unknown!


Anzhelika Gyulumyan, a 2022 Muskie fellow from Armenia, graduated from Old Dominion University – Graduate School with a degree in education and interned at MATC Group Inc. over the summer.

Note: This blog post was originally created in June 2022 as part of the Muskie Social Media Contest, in which Anzhelika was one of the three winners.