Meet my friend Sofiya, from Kazakhstan
The blog I am presenting this time is a little different. This is an interview with my coursemate from Kazakhstan. While talking to her, I thought it would be a good idea to interview her for my blog and this way introduce her to a wider audience. So here is my first interview with my friend Sofiya Bashkirtseva.
- Sofiya, thank you for the interview, can you tell us how did you end up in Georgia?
- I have always had a strong desire to travel and to get to know different cultures. Ever since I have been a child I feel like people, while communicating with them, fill me with emotions the most. I was always curious about foreign people and their lifestyles. Apart from this, I was always aspired to study foreign languages for which I thought changing the environment and moving into some culturally interesting country would be the best idea. After discussing my thoughts with my parents, I understood I had to take the next step, choose a country to go to. My friends who lived in Georgia told me a lot about the country, so I was able to make a decision immediately – Georgia it was!
- Do you remember the first impression that you had when you came to Georgia?
- I remember the very first impression pretty well. I was stunned because I encountered many differences as well as similarities between Georgia and Kazakhstan. In the differences, I mostly mean the different mentality of Georgian people and their attitude towards each other. Georgian people are warm, supportive, and friendly. Even my landlady is so considerate and kind to me. It is worth mentioning Georgian food that made an incredible impression on me. Now I understand why Georgian cuisine is so popular and widespread on social media. As for Tbilisi, I firmly say that this is a must-see city for everyone. Architecture, old buildings clearly show Georgia’s unique culture and its connection with Europe. I instantly noticed the similar hospitality in Georgian people like in my home country. This is the characteristic that mainly brings these two different cultures together.
- Please tell us how did you find about the university and then how did you decide to study here?
- The last years of school were the period when I actively started thinking about the university I would study at in the future. The British education system was the most attractive for me, but unfortunately studying there plus covering other expenses turned out financially impossible for my family. I was really upset at first, but as my friend told me about the British University in Georgia I thought there was a chance for me. This university is connected to the University of Buckingham, thus providing a British education. The university diploma which is validated by the University of Buckingham was the most compelling and persuasive for me to study here. This is the diploma that increases the value and reputation of the university on the international market. The idea of the diploma is contributive in terms of studying abroad, as the credits collected through the process are validated by the University of Buckingham. Not only this, in my opinion, high-quality education in English is one of the crucial elements to attain success. Therefore, studying here was like the biggest opportunity for me as I would get a quality education and would also have the ability to travel to the countries I wanted to see so much.
- Every student goes through the mentorship program at the university. Can you tell us more about your mentor and coursemates as well?
- I have to admit that I got lucky in terms of being around these people. Academic personnel and coursemates are supportive and they help me in everything at the university and outside of it. My mentor always shares useful information about events taking place in Tbilisi. He guides me through my personal growth and carrier development as an artist, and studying here helps me to spend some time on myself as well. As for my coursemates, I feel like they have already become my Georgian family. From the beginning, I was nervous about building relationships, making friends, I did not know if soon I figured out there was nothing to worry about. We frequently meet up outside the university and have fun, and I am really glad that the University, besides other good things, gave me a chance to meet such wonderful people around me.
- As it’s already well-known, the British University in Georgia has established the Vazha-Pshavela foundation that provides financial support for students. Did the University offer you the scholarship and how do you feel about that?
- In my case, it is not the university fee only that I need to cover, there are other expenses related to housing, transportation, etc. The logistics were not easy to handle on my own. So, hearing about the foundation, made me extremely happy. The scholarship made it possible for me to manage all together and even save some money for my personal development.
Currently, I am working on my portfolio for which I constantly need some art supplies. Therefore, the foundation not only helped me to gain a quality education but also allowed me to pursue my passion and do the work that brings me joy the most.
- The academic environment and learning process in the university is interesting. How interesting do you find the subjects we study, and what do you think about the teachers?
- I like diversity. We have a teacher from America who helps us improve our English skills. I would say economics seemed a little hard for me at the beginning that got me worried.
However, good thing is, the University gives a chance to students to have extra time with teachers to overcome difficulties through the programme. It is also great that the teachers in politics turned out inspiring for me. Despite I am less interested in politics, the class held in the occupation museum of Kaspi was really interesting. Currently, we are planning to organise a visit to the Parliament of Georgia, which is a really exciting process.
- As it seems the trips that were organised by the university are pretty memorable for you. What was your impression after Kakheti trip?
- We are involved in the Japanese-Georgian project, which was also suggested by the university. That is why we went on a two-day trip to Kakheti, a winemaking region of Georgia. The wineries and the traditional cellars were really special for me. Also, I think everyone would agree that such trips create the possibility to get to know each other better and learn a lot. This particular trip introduced me to the culture of Kakheti, its traditions, and wonderful gastronomy.
- I have information, that the university offered you to be the host of the game Quidditch. Can you tell us more about this activity?
- Quidditch is an intellectual game that is based on the contents of different kinds of movies and books. For instance, on Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, etc. Playing this game with kids is interesting for me since I always learn something new from them. Quidditch also helps me to improve my English skills. Not only this but being part of Quidditch is also my financial source of income. Our University helps every student to get the experience of internship according to their interests and aspires. I think having such an opportunity in the very first year makes this university special. It is good that every student has a chance to make some extra money for personal use. So that’s why I agreed to participate in the Quidditch challenge – learn a lot, meet interesting people and make some extra money.
- It still might be really hard to live alone, especially in another country. What are the boundaries that you have faced in this regard?
Moving to a foreign country is connected to some challenges. The time when I felt alone the most was when I realized I had to buy groceries and all the stuff for domestic necessities by myself. It was stressful realizing I had to decide everything independently, but I have to admit that the people I am surrounded by are so kind and warm that I don’t feel alone. Also, I think being alone teaches you a lot about yourself. During this time, I had the chance to deepen my interests and passions. I feel like this is one of the biggest experiences of my life and I am glad that the country where I started living independently is this beautiful Georgia.
- What would be your recommendation for other international students, what makes Georgia and this university interesting for Kazakh youth?
- According to my experience, I would strongly advise my Kazakh friends to come to Georgia, because this is a country where starting student life is super convenient. I feel safe in Tbilisi and communicating with Georgians is so easy that I no longer feel that I am a foreigner. This type of warmth and affection of Georgian people is part of their culture. As for the university, I can proudly say that it actively works in terms of attracting international students. This is a place of unlimited opportunities, which does its maximum to help you achieve your purpose. The perception and the fact that our university is wide-open towards the universities outside the country is really important. This allows us to travel around the world as well as get a high-quality education. I think the British University in Georgia is the best alternative especially for the students who want to learn in Western Europe and the UK but are not able to. Not only that, every student’s interests are considered in this university. Academic personal offers us more and more activities and projects to get involved which will be beneficial for our future carrier. Currently, we only have two BA major programmes - business and management, and political science, but as we know from the administration, the university is planning to add more programmes in partnership with international partners. I am pretty sure that there are even more exciting events ahead of us.
I am grateful that my interviewee has shared the best of her experience about Georgia and the British University in Georgia from a different perspective. Stay tuned for my next blogs. I will be sharing even more interesting stories with you soon.