"Karen Mkhitaryan faced many hardships when he left Armenia at the age of 22. However, neither the fact of being in a foreign land, nor the lack of French language knowledge could stop him from realizing his goal.
“I left Armenia in 1999 in pursuit of a better life and a career in a profession I liked," he explained. My educational background was in law and I did have a job but what really fascinated me was electronics engineering technology – a field I wanted to master.”
Mkhitaryan's journey began in Germany and continued in Beligum before he ended up in France in 2000.
“I faced many hardships as a refugee in Germany and Belgium," he recounted. "I was missing the warm human relations I would eventually find in France.”
But his first few weeks in France were also an ordeal, as he lived in the streets without food and shelter.
“I knew no one and had no relatives there," he recalled. "After the terrible first weeks, I was moved to a dormitory. My first interaction with the French people was very positive. They treated me as an equal, with not a trace of prejudice. On the contrary, I was very impressed with their kindness and humane attitude toward me.”
Karen Mkhitaryan started learning French from the very beginning of his stay in France, realizing that it was the first important step towards achieving his goal. “My priority was learning the profession I loved and working in that field. I did not want to depend on the social support services and remain a refugee.”
In the period from 2001-2007, he studied at different universities in France, where he first mastered electronics and later went on to specialize in medical device engineering.
“In the beginning of my studies, I did not have a scholarship so I took a job as a dishwasher at the university cafeteria. I spent six years that way,” Mkhitaryan said.
Thanks to his diligence and determination, he acquired a master’s degree and completed a number of internship programs at various university hospitals in France. He went on to work as a magnetic resonance tomography engineer in the French scientific research center (CNRS). Mkhitaryan now works for the Siemens Company as a clinical scientist, and is one of the leading specialists in the sphere of magnetic resonance imaging. He is responsible for the exchange and development projects in the area of clinical research.
“When Siemens develops new software solutions and launches new features, we test them for clinical validation after which Siemens proceeds to introduce the new products around the globe,” said Mkhitaryan, who managed to acquire French citizenship after having lived and worked in France for 18 years.
In 2008, nine years after achieving his goals, Mkhitaryan visited Armenia. Starting in 2013, he started using the experience and knowledge gained during the past years in his homeland as well, by cooperating with various hospitals and conducting trainings for students of Yerevan State Medical University.
He confessed that while he had many ideas for cooperation projects with Armenia, he would continue to live in France.
“Today, when I look back at the many challenges I faced and the tough days I lived through as a refugee, I realize that the rough journey was worth it to achieve my goal," he concluded. "Many people in France have helped me become successful. One of the qualities I most appreciate in the French people is their humanity and the ability to reach out to the person in need. I also appreciated the fairness of the French education system with the lecturers supporting, counseling and encouraging me. Now, when I ask them how I can return their favor, they always tell me – by helping others.”