International Voices: Hesou Zetelian ’26 Fearlessly Jumped Into the Unknown and Discovered His Passions at APU

Jumping into the unknown can stir a range of emotions, from excitement for a fresh start, to confusion about where decisions will lead. For Hesou Zetelian ’26, diving into change has produced a domino effect of finding his passions, community, and faith.

Born in Lebanon, Zetelian’s ethnically Armenian family moved to Canada when he was only one month old. They lived there for eight years before moving to Spain to pursue missionary work, where he spent the next nine years. Zetalian recalls his mom packing his toys and selling items at yard sales, feeling like his life was being given away. Fortunately, despite sleeping on floor mattresses for the first few weeks in his new home in Madrid, he grew to admire the land and culture that would influence some of his most formative years.

One of the things Zetelian struggled with most while transitioning was finding the balance between his personal and social life. Growing up in an Armenian community in Canada made nearly every aspect of his life merge together, but in Spain he attended an American school, and sought to understand his peers’ culture better. “I was my Armenian self at home, but I needed to learn Spanish and interact with Spaniards how they would. At the same time I was navigating a new school and trying to learn pop culture references that were new to me,” he said. This mixing of different cultures that were so prevalent in Zetelian’s life led him to wonder which box he fit into culturally, and how to embrace all aspects of his identity.

Living in Spain led Zetelian to admire and incorporate their culture in his life. “Spain is made by its warm people. They’re laid back, easy going, and respect others’ rest and space,” he said. His favorite memories include family gatherings on Sundays, as many eat outside together on the patios and children play late into the night.

When Zetelian found out about Azusa Pacific University through a friend who applied during his senior year of high school, he was uncertain about whether or not he’d be able to afford college and move to another country again. He took a leap of faith, and trusted God through every part of the process. “The biggest reason I came to APU was because I felt like the people wanted me to be here as much as I did,” he said. Having become adaptable through changes in life, Zetelian jumped into the unknown again and started his freshman year in Fall 2022.

Zetelian studied allied health during his first semester, but quickly learned it was not where his heart was at. He tried liberal studies for a while before switching to psychology, but he still felt like something was missing. Last fall, he decided to study cinematic arts, and it was the perfect fit. “I fell in love with film. It’s so life giving. I don’t see it as school because I’m learning what I love. I trust that God put this passion on my heart for a reason,” he said. Zetalian is now earning a BFA in cinematic arts with a minor in psychology and honors humanities. Zetelian hopes to become a director and create cross cultural films that speak to different backgrounds and ethnicities.

“I want to tell stories that are meaningful and unheard of, like being a third culture kid.”

The people Zetelian has met and built connections with at APU so far has led him to realize that being a part of many cultures is a strength, something that allows him to connect and relate to a variety of people. “Every new opportunity has broadened my mind about the world. I’ve learned that I can make others feel seen and heard while getting to know their backgrounds and appreciating the story they have to tell,” he said. Zetelian loves celebrating diversity through his studies in film and immersion in APU’s community, full of many international students like himself. “At the end of the day we’re all just people. Traveling and being at APU has taught me that our differences don’t have to separate us. We all fit into God’s picture.”

Zetelian aims to represent all aspects of the cultures that make him who he is. He hopes to implement Spanish culture through personability. “My experience in Spain taught me to have a lighthearted demeanor when interacting with others, and to find joy in each other’s company.” His Armenian and Lebanese cultures have taught Zetelian to spread hospitality, which he often does through his role as a resident advisor in Engstrom hall.

Faith has played a vital role in Zetelian’s life and growth. “When everything else is uncertain, faith is the one thing that is stable,” he said. Zetelian values gratitude, pausing to thank God for the view of the mountains when walking between campuses every day. He was baptized last year and enjoys worshiping in ways that are new to him through chapel.

“There is so much beauty in coming together to praise God, and realizing that there’s more than one way to glorify Him.”

Looking back on his time at APU, Zetelian is glad he took chances and tried new things, such as joining the Third Culture Kids club, which he is now the president of, and working on campus with the Spiritual Life team creating videos for chapel. “The community here is so intentional about making everyone feel welcomed. They never saw me as some foreigner, but instead showed interest in who I am and shared who they are,” he said. Getting to welcome others through TCK and his job as an RA have allowed Zetelian to play a role in the domino effect that led him to discover community and his passions at APU. He is a light to everyone he encounters, serving as a testament to wholeheartedly jumping headfirst into the unknown and finding joy while doing it.