Winter Retreat for Returning AUA Veterans
In the aftermath of the 2020 Artsakh War, AUA veteran students went through transformative experiences that posed innumerable new and unexplored challenges for them, personally and academically. To address these specific needs, the AUA Office of Student Affairs and its Counseling Services arm came up with a number of initiatives to foster a support system for veteran students, within the AUA community and beyond.
As part of the efforts to provide timely and targeted support, a Winter Retreat for Returning AUA Soldiers was held in December 2021 thanks to the generosity of one of our magnanimous donors, Ms. Joanne Peterson. The event brought together veteran students in an organized program intended to better integrate them into the AUA community. The first half of the program was dedicated to a formal training of social skills development, followed by an informal social gathering that brought the participants closer together through games, music, and other fun activities.
Since the veteran students came from different academic majors and cohorts, the event was aimed at giving them the opportunity to get acquainted, socialize in a non-formal setting, and build strong connections with one another. Having served in the army and participated in the war creates a unique, yet shared, experience that is easier to navigate with the help of peers. Creating a mutually supportive environment is believed to strengthen resilience, as well as improve emotional and social well-being, which are crucial factors to enhancing their academic and personal achievements.
Student responses from the event were very positive. One of the participants shared, “I got onto a bus full of unfamiliar faces. A conversation sparked up reminiscing the days of war, and pervaded throughout the day. We shared our thoughts and feelings over food and games, and in the evening, I got off the bus full of love and support — I witnessed the creation of a beautiful community.”
Another student shared a similar sentiment: “The trip was wonderful. I discovered amazing people I didn’t know before, and some of them became my friends. I had a lot of fun when we played games and did activities together. It was one of the most unique days of 2021 for me. I was truly happy, and for that I’m very thankful.”
After the event, AUA Counseling Services has and continues to stay in touch and periodically monitor the progress of the students attending the event, as well as the general veteran student population at AUA, helping them feel better empowered in pursuing their personal and academic goals, and mitigating the psychological and physical effects that may otherwise pose hindrances to their success.