University of Southern California

A Time of Transformation
December 9, 2011 • by Liya Vanyan

I grew up in Yerevn, Armenia, during the war with Azerbaijan. We had no electricity, no running water, and I studied by candlelight. It was challenging, but my country survived because Armenia always goes through transformations. I'm like Amenia in that way.

After high school, I wanted to continue my studies in America, even though I knew no English. I was the first child in my family to even think about going to college. Armenia is a very traditional culture – typically a daughter lives with her parents until she is married. But my parents believed in my dream and I left for America. It has now been six years since I saw them.

Along the way, I lived in Baltimore and San Francisco, working as a housekeeper in hotels, learning English at night in community colleges. I later moved to San Diego, took my first accounting and business classes and knew I'd like to go to school at USC. My advisor told me that USC was full of students from affluent families, and it would be impossible to pay for. Something inside me said if I really want to do this, I can do it. I applied, and received a scholarship to the USC Marshall School of Business.

I recently traveled with the Women's Leadership China Delegation where I became friends with other students from Marshall and met many women executives and entrepreneurs. I learned that everyone has a different story, with a different challenge. It taught me never to be discouraged.

I understand what it is like to feel alone at Christmas. My family can't get a visa to come to America from Armenia, and I can't afford to fly home. My dream is to open a family restaurant which provides special holiday dinners for people who can't travel home to their families. My restaurant will be a chance to give back to the community by helping families who can't afford to be together.

Marshall taught me to believe in my ideas and to welcome challenges. I hope you will give back to the school that has given so much to so many.

Fight On!

Liya Vanyan
USC Marshall School of Business, Class of 2012