As the Class of 2020 mourns the loss of their Senior Spring and spends time in social isolation rather than celebrating with champagne, The Argus remains committed to highlighting the accomplishments of those graduating during this frightening and uncertain time. To do so, we will keep publishing WesCelebs, and we are continuing to take nominations. Nominate on, and we’ll continue to confer members of the Class of 2020 to eternal Argus glory.
Have you ever been walking through campus, maybe to a class or back to your dorm, and suddenly wondered why the Baltic region was strangely devoid of violence during the collapse of the Soviet Union? If you have, Lucine Poturyan is the one to talk to. Lucine—who sometimes goes by Lucy—is a true Renaissance woman of Wesleyan. Mock Trial, bellydancing, working four jobs—she’s done it all. The Argus called up Lucy to talk to her about her time in college, both at Wes and abroad.
The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated?
Lucine Poturyan: I don’t know, I like to think it’s because I’m just absolutely hilarious. It’s hard to say because you don’t see what your friends see in you. I think it’s because I care for the people around me, and the communities I’m in. I think because I do care about the people in my life, other people value that I guess and are like ‘‘hey this is a really nice quality.’’ I don’t know, I’m just going to chalk it up to me being funny and good friends.
A: So you said you’re part of a lot of different communities, and your nomination mentioned Mock Trial and the Middle Eastern Student Union. Could you talk a little bit about that?
LP: So, my freshman year actually was rough because I think adjusting to college was just very difficult on a lot of levels. And I wasn’t that social. And my sophomore year I was like ‘‘I’m going to bounce back from that absolutely.’’ So I tried out for the Mock Trial team my sophomore year and it was great. I did it for two years but stopped senior year because of thesis and whatnot. But Mock Trial was honestly a very important part of my college career, and it taught me a lot about myself and about public speaking. It taught me literally how to speak up for myself and how to think critically on my feet, which is a very good quality to have discovered early on in college. What was important to me throughout Wesleyan was me finding my voice, and growing into who I am, and Mock Trial really helped with that. And it also helped because I made a lot of friends! My best friends on campus are my Mock friends. Going off of that, Middle Eastern Student Union came in because of my heritage. I’m Armenian, and me figuring out who I am as an Armenian in the U.S. has been confusing. The Middle Eastern Student Union was a good way to figure out my cultural background as well, and getting in touch in the region that my family is from. Then belly dance—I did Armenian dance for ten years actually and then had to quit doing Armenian dance when I came to college. But a ten year streak is hard to let go, so belly dance was a natural way for me to get back into what I loved, and I also made a lot of friends that I’m very close to. Belly dance has also been a very good way for me to connect with who I was/am when I’m back home with my Armenian community and all my friends and family who have known me my whole life, while also building onto that at Wesleyan. Also I want to add, I was on the WSA [Wesleyan Student Assembly] my junior year. Talking about community, I served on the SBC [Student Budgets Committee] in the fall and then I served on Community Committee in the spring. That was really crazy because it showed me two sides to campus life and how clubs perceive a body that is adjacent to the administration and how that body interacts with clubs. I’m really happy I got to do that junior year because I was helping facilitate the growth of communities on campus besides just doing that within my own organizations.
A: So jobs: your nomination mentioned that you had four jobs and were considering a fifth? Your nomination reads: “She’s the epitome of hard working, and the rule of 7 is but a joke to her (lets be real, its the rule of 20 in this case).”
LP: Honestly, my senior spring has been the hardest semester of my life. It was at a point where it was too much for me. But yeah, I work four jobs. I’m a first-gen low-income student so having a job is second nature, like duh, I have to have one. But basically, I work at Olin circulation. I got that job the end of my freshman year. I started working at ’Swings [WesWings] the end of my freshman year as well. Junior year I found out about a position at the government department office. I’m a government major so I was like, duh I’m gonna work there. My fourth job was the beginning of junior year as well, I’m a college mentor for students in Florida. They do it virtually. It’s a company called Prepory and they’re based in Florida. Every other week I actually Zoom my students—I’ve been doing it a year and a half before it became necessary to functioning life! I virtually share about college. Those four jobs have been my rotation for the past three years. It’s hard. It’s definitely hard. There were moments where I was just like I’m working too much and I forget that I’m a student, but there’s also the fact that I need to help my family back home. I have my own stuff to pay. I can’t not be self-sufficient in having my work study jobs. A potential fifth job—I was interested in the WMP, the Wesleyan Media Project. Not because of the money, I thought it was cool, especially as a government major it would be nice to have that experience.
A: It says that you won the Wesleyan Scott Prize in Russian. What’s all that about?
LP: Fun story. So literally two weeks ago I was cleaning my kitchen and I come upstairs to my room and look at my phone and I got an email that I had won the Scott Prize in Russian. I was literally like what is this, I’ve never heard of this. It was a very fun surprise. It’s basically an award the Russian department gives to students they view as really contributing to the department and learn Russian and excel in it proficiently. Although I wouldn’t say I’m good at Russian per se, I’ve learned it in the past three years at Wesleyan. It was a nice surprise, seeing the department give me a thumbs up.
A: You also mentioned you were writing a thesis, could you tell me a little more?
LP: I’m a government and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies major. My thesis is basically looking at the collapse of the Soviet Union and trying to analyze why there wasn’t violence in one region, the Baltic region, and why there was in the Caucuses. So I’m looking at Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia and Armenia, and trying to analyze that. I’m basically just focusing on what factors contributed to proliferation of violence in one region and not the other. I feel like my conclusion could definitely hint at ‘‘hey maybe this could be an explanatory factor as to how experiences during the formative experiences at the creation of a state influence the type of regime or governance it takes on afterwards.’’ What is special to me about my thesis is that it’s very personal. Two years ago, Armenia underwent a revolution. People called it the Velvet Revolution. And basically it got rid of someone who was in power for almost 20 years. It was very undemocratic, his stay in power. It was a peaceful revolution that happened in the course of a month and a half. There’s been extreme change in the country in a very positive way. It took my people almost 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union to make a huge pivot to democracy, democratization. But the Baltics, for example, were the earliest states to join the E.U. and democratize. So like why are we behind? It’s actually been really cool seeing the results of that revolution. I was in Armenia this past fall when I was abroad, because yes going abroad as a senior is not a crazy idea. When I visited this past fall, I could see changes in the country in person. My cousins were telling me their first-hand experiences but the people definitely seemed more hopeful and expressed positive sentiments generally to the government. Which, my whole life, I had known the opposite when it came to the government and how it was treating its people.
A: So you went abroad your senior year—where did you go abroad and how did you decide to do it first semester senior year?
LP: Wow, I think about how I went abroad last semester, and I’m happy I did it when I did. I remember, it was January 2019, I had just gotten back on campus, I was going to my High Rise, and I hadn’t gone abroad the fall of junior year. Most of my friends were gone, it was cold on campus, it was snowy, and I was like f*** this I don’t want to be at Wesleyan, I want to go abroad, and I don’t care if it is next semester. Honestly, it did take a lot of thinking. I talked to literally all of my senior friends to get their opinions. But listen, when am I going to get a chance to study in a different country, travel nearby, while I’m a college student, while Wesleyan is helping me out financially? Especially as a low-income student, this is an opportunity I can’t miss. I was actually debating between going to Prague and Amsterdam. As a Russian major, they encourage you to study abroad in Russia, or at least an Eastern European country. But, to be honest, I had been taking Russian classes since my first semester at Wesleyan, I have grown up with Soviet parents…by junior spring, I had had enough. So Prague was a serious consideration, but I eventually went with Amsterdam because I realized that I had never formally studied Europe in college. I felt like I couldn’t be a Russian or Government major without having done that. Also, to be honest, I had worked hard these past three years. I wanted to go somewhere where I could have fun.
I’m sorry, I’m being super vague. When I read WesCeleb interviews, there’s always a line that makes me chuckle. I’m not sure I’m going to give you that line that’s going to make you chuckle!
A: I think that was your line right there. Anyways, thinking about the past four years, what’s your favorite memory from Wes?
LP: That’s a hard question…I’m not going to be basic and say Spring Fling. Although, I will say that freshman year, eating Domino’s in my fourth floor Butts A single while I could hear Spring Fling happening in the distance because I was too scared to go there by myself…that was an experience! But my favorite one, wow…to be honest it’s an amalgamation. I cherish the random friendships that have sprouted up throughout campus. A conversation that just sparks up in the PAC elevator, banter that develops into friendship after spending many hours in the computer science tutor lab, joking about a busted up ID card while checking out books at Olin—moments like that have resulted in unexpected friendships, and I guess those are what constitute my favorite Wesleyan “memory.” I walk through campus now and I remember those instances all around me, friendships and connections that sprouted up in otherwise unassuming or ordinary contexts/locations. I think that speaks to the idea that I would hear a lot my freshman year, that the people here are what make Wes Wes. The openness with which you can approach peers on this campus is remarkable to me, and that’s something I’m going to miss very much.
A: The last question I had was if there was anything you would want to say to your freshman self?
LP: Boy, is there a lot I have to tell her! I want to say this in general: don’t be afraid to go abroad your senior year! It’s so worth it. I learned about myself in a different context. I learned how to grow and be myself while I wasn’t here. I had this rush of feeling like “I am a new person.” That was a really important experience to have. In senior year, it brought me back to campus with a new way of looking at things. I came back, and all the seniors were like, “fall sucked, the parties were lame, it was really sad on campus,” and I was here like a new person.
So what I’m getting at is that that process already helped me reflect about my experiences in college. I came here ready to go forward with this new understanding of who I am, and how it’s okay to be who you are.
So what would I tell my freshman self? Well, when I came to Wes, I was in a new location. I didn’t know anyone. I would tell my freshman self to not be afraid of the fact that you don’t know anyone, because the other frosh are also in the same situation as you. I would tell myself to get out of my Butts A single and to stop talking to my friends back home. Pining that went to UCLA or whatever does not do justice to what Wesleyan is. At the core of what Wesleyan is is to go out there and meet new people, don’t be afraid to join all of the clubs, and talk to your professors! I’m mad that I was so shy. I feel like I wasted time freshman year, because the rest of my college experience was aggressively catching up!
What I’m trying to say is appreciate what you have, at Wesleyan or in life. The experiences that you have freshman year are special, and something that you’ll probably remember as you go through life. Wishing that you were somewhere else, wishing that you were someone else, does not do justice to you. Instead, going out there and working on yourself and meeting people and learning, and growing, and going through pain and mistakes, all of that is so valuable. Start sooner rather than later, because there’s a lot you can learn throughout life.
A:…That was great. That was beautiful. Beautifully said.
LP: (laughs). Thank you! Also, I went to Summies for a week straight freshman year and didn’t go back until sophomore year. But now I’m a senior who’s craving a Summies burrito bowl. With no cheese or sour cream.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Drew Kushnir can be reached at email@example.com
Hannah Docter-Loeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org