Lalith is 21 years old. He moved to Kutaisi, Georgia in 2019 to study medicine at Akaki Tsereteli State University.
Lalith did not have much information about Georgia prior to his arrival. His focus was to receive a good education and achieve his childhood dream of becoming a surgeon. He did expect though that more Georgians would speak English but found out, that few do so in Kutaisi. Lalith was also hoping that there would be some jobs available for students, which did not turn out to be the case due to challenging economic climate and pandemic in 2019. Therefore, he still must rely on his parents for financial support – to cover rent and bills. After finishing his studies in Georgia, Lalith plans to return home to India.
To support foreign students’ adaptation, the university offers a 1-year Georgian language course for beginners, and like other students Lalith also followed the programme, hoping to learn the basics as soon as possible. Unfortunately, with the start of COVID-19 pandemic and the world switching to online mode, he found it a bit difficult to learn a foreign language.
“I feel like a part of community when I go to the university because teachers treat us like friends and even invite us to their houses on holidays,” says Lalith. Unfortunately, he does not have local friends here due to the language barrier and he is able to communicate mostly with the children as they are more interested in learning English than others, but he made friends with Japanese and Israeli students.
Lalith tries to put maximum effort into his studies, but he also loves spending free time with friends – going to the market, shopping, wandering around the city or in the park. On Sundays he attends the service in the local catholic church. Besides multiple obstacles, Lalith tries to enjoy his life in Georgia – he loves the nature in the country and often goes hiking to various locations in western Georgia.
Lalith says that it is difficult for foreign nationals to receive news updates as everything is in Georgian. This leaves them with a narrow choice of Georgian news agencies with online editions in English. He recalls that the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was the most challenging time in Georgia, when he and his friends felt isolated, as there were few updates in English, when this would have been particularly useful.
Photo by Eric Gourlan