A fantastic year with Georgian xalxi, sachmeli, and kultura! Past Review

By (International Affairs, Geography, Florida State University) - abroad from 08/26/2015 to 05/22/2015 with

American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes! I feel very connected to academic resources in Georgia and prominent linguists in the country. I also had a great time with my host family.

Review Photos

American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) Photo American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) Photo American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) Photo American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) Photo American Councils (ACTR): Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP) Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

ACTR's program in Tbilisi, Georgia is partnered with a local language school through which the coursework is offered. I had a fantastic experience with them! The director is a Georgian philology professor of University of Georgia (a prestigious, private university in Tbilisi). She writes the coursebooks herself and hires individual private instructors. The only concern that I had was one of my private instructors was not as well trained as a teacher. However, I took it as a challenge to be more independent with my lessons and to achieve getting the most I could out of our private sessions. She was also my conversational teacher, so I felt it appropriate that she reflected the more average Georgian person, not ones as young and well-versed in Georgian language instruction as my other two. It was a nice contrast. Honestly, instruction of Georgian language is quite limited, and from every foreigner I met, I heard of no program better than this school. It was a very impressive small business.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

ACTR Tbilisi has helped me numerous times while I've been in Georgia, even when I was not a part of their program. They were extremely supportive in always providing the resources I needed, flexible in accommodating my circumstances (concerning visa, funding, paperwork, etc.), and sought my feedback on everything through the year.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I honestly could not have had a better host family. They were kind, generous people who treated me as a member of the family in many ways. However, they always gave me the space I needed, knowing that I was a U.S. student. I had my own room to work in, with internet and all basic living amenities that not every Georgian is privileged to. They were inquisitive about my background, but they always put the emphasis on my Georgian studies, knowing I was not there as an English tutor. I was prepared in case this came up, but they were well informed of what I was there for and the expectations of my program.

* Food:

I think it's not even necessary to discuss food when I lived in Tbilisi. Georgian food is absolutely delicious! I can't even think of any diet restrictions that would be too inconvenient, since there are plenty of vegan/vegetarian options, and a placement with a particular family could be made if you only eat Kosher. Gluten-free would be the only diet concern if you go to Georgia because of all the bread thrown at you at every meal. Even then, I don't think it's a real issue if you explain yourself from the beginning. Concerning whatever you can't eat though, I would probably just explain as you're "allergic" to avoid offending anyone.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had a few close Georgian friends, avoided the expat circle as much as possible, traveled when possible, traversed Tbilisi, and was involved in holiday celebrations with my host family. I think it was a great experience overall. However, I do wish there was a better way to socialize and meet random Georgians. This seems to generally be difficult without being in a university and having coursemates in your study area. This wasn't a downfall of the program really. It's simple the reality of being in a developing country. Please note though that there were still many ways to outreach to people- it's just that it can't be compared to a U.S. state university environment.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Luckily there were no serious incidents. My health care would have proven fine if so based on the details I read of it. However, my experience in the past is that the Georgian healthcare administrators will not understand what the insurance is and you will have to therefore pay upfront and be reimbursed later. Also, it can be frustrating how many medicines they may try to prescribe, especially when they are often from Russia and I do not know Russian language. I have full confidence though that in terms of the program, my program director would have recommended a better hospital than what I've been to in the past and would have sorted out any issues for me. Therefore, the program insurance and in-country support is invaluable in this sense.

* Safety:

I never had any issues. Georgia is a relatively safe country, except for late at night or out on the highways (no surprises). Here are my main pieces of advice: 1) don't go hitchhiking, especially as a foreign female. There have been recent incidents if you want to look them up 2) do not walk home along late at night and only take official taxis (call the company or at least check out the sign on top of the car and the driver before getting in!; also, you could have them drop you off in a well-lit area close to where you live instead of directly at it to be extra safe, 3) don't open the door to random strangers- it sounds obvious, but it's not always when you think you might recognize a friend of the host family and you don't want to be rude, 4) have a good cell phone with a charged battery in addition to having everyone's phone number written down and stored somewhere on your body- what if happens if your purse is stolen with your phone or you lose it?)

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

It is extremely cheap to travel and eat in Georgia. However, come with a warm winter coat! That would be extremely expensive to buy.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Less than 30 lari (approximately $12-18 depending on exchange rate)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? When not traveling on program funds, take the marshutka, travel with Georgian friends, and stay in hostels. It will save you SO much money. You can ask friends who have been there for advice. Also, don't get ripped off by taxis by finding out ahead of time how much it will cost.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I did not complete a language course.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Speak to the host family as much as possible. Make Georgian friends who do not speak English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Other
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host Family
  • Language Partner
  • Coursebooks
* What could be improved?
  • Pre-approval of private instructors by ACTR
  • Perhaps providing outside resources in Georgian language in a more official/standardized manner
  • N/A
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I only wish I had brought more interesting gifts and trinkets for people (e.g. taco seasoning to make food, honeys or jams, scarves, decks of U.S. cards for host brother). Luckily, a friend brought some more when she traveled to Georgia just before I left.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'