Mrs. Ghaplanyan has quite a few hobbies extremely different from each other one of which is wine tasting.
“My love affair with wine started when I was 22. I was studying in the Diplomatic Academy of London and I got a full scholarship. However, In London it always feels like you never have enough money to enjoy the city. So, I started working as a waitress and reading about how to get better positions in various restaurants. I decided to take an exam, which was called “wine service exam.” And to tell you the truth, I loved it. Shortly after I started working for a company that would organize lunches and dinners for top CEOs. I started serving for these particular occasions and in most cases I had to spend a lot of time with the chef who’d prepare the meal to know for sure what wine will go better with to serve. I lost the count how many times I tried spectacular wines which I probably would never have a chance to, since a bottle of each costs around $500 if not more. Wine became a lifestyle for me. I decided to take it to a more institutional level and received 2-advanced level certificate. Later when I was in Cambridge, I became a member of Cambridge wine society.
“Wine is a lifestyle. People use tools to disconnect from reality. Some paint, some do music. I do wine.”
When I came to Armenia I started trying local wines and I came across very interesting professionals in that field. I worked here for two years consulting various wineries for marketing issues; I was a judge in wine competitions. It’s been fun so far. This year I decided to take it even further and created my own brand with a small production.
It is made of indigenous grape varieties and innovative technology is used. It’s a blend of Areni from Vayots Dzor and Khndoghni from Karabakh. Our winemaker is brilliant. He understands the advantages of each grape. I have only 1000 bottles so far but I hope to produce more next year. Now it is available in many local restaurants.”
“I started cross-country running when I was 14, during my exchange year in the US. I fell in love with this sport ever since. For me, it is a way to mediate, to brainstorm. When I returned to Armenia I discovered that cross-country running is not very developed in here, but it did and does not mean that we do not have talents. I met with number of runners who just did not see the growth potential. So, along with them we started “Armenian Runners Club” NGO. One of our goals is to increase awareness about healthy lifestyle among young population in Armenia.
In April we are starting a few teams for beginners and medium level athletes. We will be doing regular trainings. Also, we might peer up with TriClub Yerevan, as they already have the experience of organizing sport events. We also want to engage schools and universities. What is good about running is that you can motivate yourself to continue as you can have very good results in a quite short period of time. You just put on your running shoes and you are off to go.”
Irina Ghaplanyan has defended her Doctoral Thesis on political leadership at the University of Cambridge. She has worked in a number of think tanks and international organizations to include Eurasia Foundation, UNDP, Georgetown University and others. Mrs Ghaplanyan has also been a catalyst for change in the field of sustainable business and social entrepreneurship in Armenia. She is working as an instructor in the undergraduate program at AUA. Currently, she teaches Political Science at AUA.
“My most memorable experience with teaching was in South Korea. I taught there for a couple of months and loved every second of it. There is a huge value placed on education.
Because of our very recent soviet history most of students take education for granted. In foreign cultures higher education is a privilege. However when I come across students who really care, I can say for sure that they give 120 percent of themselves.”
“When I was working in Washington DC I used to talk lot about Armenia. I recall one of my colleagues say “You are lucky to be Armenian. You are different, there is so much history and cultural heritage to your people. I wish I had that.”
It really hit a very raw nerve with me. Very often Armenians are focused on the negative. We do not appreciate what we carry as our heritage. One of the reasons I returned to Armenia was that I felt I am lucky to be born who I am. I want to be with my people. Coming back to what motivates me I think it is safe to say that Armenia has a huge potential, and I only wish to contribute as much as I can in every field that I feel passionate about. Maybe it is a selfish desire to have positive impact but it is definitely something that gets me up in the morning.”
Mrs Ghaplanyan shares some of the difficulties that have arisen on her way to success and gives an a advice to those who are going to start their professional life.
“Most of us know that it can get really tough when you are doing business, or if you are studying, etc. But everything comes down to you. It is about how you perceive everyday challenges. You choose whether to victimize yourself or to learn another lesson. No matter how hard it gets, the bottom-line is the choice you are willing to make. You decide whether the obstacles will cause pessimism or will challenge you and let you grow both as an individual and as a professional.
I would advice to disconnect from daily challenging activities of student life and try to understand what drives you as an individual, what you feel passionate about. Don’t be afraid if you find out it is not what you are studying for. Be driven by something that deeply inspires you, because you are choosing a life path where most of the hours of the day you will spend doing that. Make sure you enjoy your work.”