By Mariam Tsitskishvili (2009-2010; Georgia/Missouri)
There is a common, very widespread saying that “time flies”. I couldn’t agree more… It feels like I just finished my exchange year in the United States, but realistically it was 6-7 years ago. Let me take you back in time…
Living and studying in the United States was my childhood dream. Fortunately, it came true and I became an exchange program (GHSEP – Georgia High School Exchange Program) finalist in 2009. Right before my flight, more specifically, 5 days before, I found out I was placed in Missouri, a state which was not very familiar to me. I had mixed feelings; I did not know where exactly I was going, but backing down was not going to happen.
Missouri soon became my second home. I lived in a very small town called Luray with the St. Clair family. I went to Clark County High School. My host family and friends made my exchange year unforgettable. An additional positive asset to all those was my placement organization – World Link – the best organization with the best people. I learned a lot of new things, I experienced a whole different (active) life where I became an independent, goal-oriented young achiever. There is another good saying that “Exchange is not a year in your life, it is a life in a year”. This is exactly what happened. My American experience became a bridge towards my future success.
Right after I came back to Georgia, I started working as a City Representative at American Councils’ Georgia Office. I still had two more years of high school. Along with these, I took part in various school projects and soon became the President of the South Caucasus Youth Parliament. After that, I passed national exams with high scores and became fully-funded student of International Relations at Tbilisi State University. My active lifestyle has not hindered since then. I joined “Young Diplomats’ Club of Georgia” and right now I am a board member of this non-governmental organization which organizes many events including modeling of parliaments, hosting public lectures by Ambassadors and Diplomats from different countries like the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, Lithuania, Estonia, etc. During my junior year at university, I started working as an executive office Intern at Peace Corps. After finishing this internship, I became a finalist of another exchange program (Tbilisi State University Exchange Program) and moved to Slovakia for an academic semester. I studied European Studies at Comenius University in Bratislava.
Right now I am finishing my bachelor’s studies. At the same time, I am an intern at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. I work for Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). I am very concentrated on both – my work and studies. I plan to continue to graduate school and get a Master’s Degree(s) in International Politics and Security Studies.
To sum up, I would say that my exchange year in the States benefited not only my personal growth, but the growth of my country, which has clearly taken a ‘western’ route and needs strong, knowledgeable youth who will take charge of leading in the near future.