Blogs From Abroad

What is day-to-day life like on the ground for our participants? In these blog entries, they candidly share their thoughts and experiences about life across Eurasia as study abroad students.

Finding and Escaping Normalization in Tbilisi

You find what you’re made of when you go solo on a program. Over one year ago, I decided that Eurasian Regional Language Program was best to pair with my Boren Scholarship application, because of the intensive 15+ hours of language lessons each week. I felt that this was what I needed to reach my linguistic goals. However, I also knew that transitioning from my multitasking lifestyle to devoting so much of my attention to Georgian language would be the most difficult aspect of life here.

I could not have been more wrong. With a host family, a superb language partner, multiple Georgian friends, and fantastic private teachers, it’s impossible not to succeed if you have any sense of motivation. Living with a Georgian family is definitely a lifestyle I have had to adjust to, given that I don’t even live with my own family in the U.S. However, it makes my language learning so much more rewarding when I come back every single day able to communicate new concepts to them. The timing of our conversations always makes me laugh. After studying food, my Georgian grandmother and I had a long conversation about recipes. After learning how to express my travel plans, my host brother asked me more about where I was going during my holiday breaks. Likewise, my language partner is excellent at assessing my new skills each week and leading me to talk about a difficult, but possible, subject.

Based on these circumstances, I’ve really tried to analyze what is most demanding about a program such as ERLP. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am my own challenge. I am the only program student in Tbilisi this semester and perhaps, during the next as well. This is fantastic in that I can build a network of Georgian friends and acquaintances, rather than living an expat-style life. I leave my apartment every day feeling like a Georgian girl, speaking to passer-bys, going to events and shows around the city, and spending many evenings with Georgian family and friends.

However, I am also the only one accountable for me.

I’ve realized that 3 hours of language study each day is nothing when I’m in charge of the other 12 hours. I have so many obligations and relationships in the U.S. that keep me occupied every day of my life. Here, I am building something new for myself; I am the designer. You really find out what kind of person you are. I think you know when you go from being a tourist to a resident of a country when your mindset is not that you only have to “live” with something until your departure date and when you feel that your life is a little too normal. Georgia may be another country, but it is not another world. I have my good days, my bad days, my busy days, and my slow days. I enjoy every single one of them, but my life is not a fantasy of taking pictures in front of Sameba Cathedral and Mtatsminda Ferris Wheel. My experience is much more special than a collection of Kodak moments.

Most importantly, my time here in the Republic of Georgia is teaching me what normal means to me. When I stepped foot last month into my one course at Ilia State University, I recognized instantly what I was missing. The community environment and niche I have at my own university in Florida is something that is hard to compete with here. I have so much in Tallahassee- my friends from all over the world, professors with open office doors, organizations excited to welcome newcomers, and most importantly, safe places where I can always go to study and meet people. My university is my home away from home. I see now that if I want this in Tbilisi, I must create that network for myself. Every day, I strive towards this vision, knowing that upon leaving next summer, I will be as grateful for my home here in Georgia.

Posted by Paige Dabney / 11.03.2014

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