Throughout its history, Georgia has been a land at the crossroads. Walking along the streets, it is easy to see the influence that different empires and cultures that have had on her. I took some time during my first few days in Tbilisi to explore the city, to try to get off the beaten path. Very quickly, I began to notice just how much there was to the place. In addition to Georgian, it is very easy to hear Russian, Turkish, Armenian, Azeri, and other languages being spoken. Tbilisi is a very cosmopolitan city, truly the center of the Caucasus.
It was for this reason that I wanted to study here. As a life-long history nerd with a particular fascination with the Middle East and Eurasia, I wanted to visit a place that served as the crossroads between them. Tbilisi was a perfect match. Its rich history, dynamic politics, and America-friendly atmosphere has a great appeal, and is a place I highly recommend more American students visit.
When you first come to the city, I encourage you to explore the Rustaveli and Freedom Squares. These are located at the heart of the city, and many important sights of interest are available from there. Just a short walk away are numerous museums, monuments, restaurants/bars of many different nationalities, and of course, historic Churches. And for my more adventurous readers, great hiking trails are also nearby, with a spectacular view which is truly worth the struggle.
Reflecting at the end of my first week, I really am amazed just how much I was able to see and do. From the moment I arrived at the Tbilisi airport, there has never been a dull moment. Don’t let fear or anxiety get in your way. If you love history, language, and adventure as much as I do, you won’t regret coming here for a second.
The “Peace and Security in the South Caucasus” program offered by American Councils is truly one of a kind. If you want to get acquainted with the region, there is no better way to do it. Not only is the academic content top-notch, but the staff are knowledgeable to an extent that continues to amaze me. Not only are they truly are experts in their field, they are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. I would like to address each of them, but have limited space in which to write. The program also offers day-trips throughout Tbilisi and the surrounding countryside. In only our first week, we managed to visit the Museum of Soviet Occupation, meet with US Embassy staff, attend a lecture on NATO-Georgia relations, hike a mountain overlooking the city, and visit several Georgian restaurants.
To summarize, Georgia is a country truly unique to the world. Its rich history, world-class cuisine, beautiful landscapes, and friendly people make for a truly great experience. If you are even remotely interested in the Caucasus, this is the place to be. Or, if you are a nerd like me, it can make for a life-changing experience.
By: Steven Luber
Term: Summer 2015