It is rainy and gloomy Monday in Glasgow, just an ordinary day for the city, apart from the fact that it is Bank holiday. Lasha Urushadze, 23 a full time student at Langside College in Glasgow is free from his studies, and stands with his mates outside of a student dormitory, waiting for Marilena Ireland, his English teacher, to give him a lift to a Barbeque party. Not the sort of holiday a Georgian student would expect when in his homeland.
When asked about differences between education in Glasgow and Tbilisi, Lasha says that it is difficult to make comparisons, as it is quite different, furthermore he studies in College here, while in Georgia he was a student of the State University.
“Today at the Barbeque party, and in general, I noticed that the interaction between lecturer and student is different than in Georgia, it is much more interactive and somehow free from psychological barriers. You attend classes and have regular interaction with your teacher, however even out of class your teachers are more neutral and somehow helpful, assisting you in getting acquainted with the culture and the country. You are free from the idea that teacher is someone unreachable, and this kind of simple relationship is really good,” Lasha says.
A Barbeque party is one of those events that are organized by the teachers of the college regularly, when being free from studies. Here you can find students, their lecturers and even their family members cooking food and enjoying conversations with each other. The culture is very eclectic and here one may discover the representatives of different ethnicities, such as Italian, Maltese, Spanish, Russian, Indian, and Iranian and Columbian, however the event unites them and makes them forget about cultural and ethnic differences.
“It is not difficult to get in touch with those from other countries, despite the fact that they are born and come from different origins, they are approximately the same age, in many cases they have different values, but still you can find a lot of things in common. I think that most of all what interests us about each other are the cultural, interesting and curious things about our countries,” Lasha explained.
Marilena, one of Lashas teachers, who has never met a Georgian student before, in describing him says the following: “He is what I would call a good student, he is interested, he participates very keenly, he usually has contributions to make to the class which they enjoy sharing, as a person I don’t really know him, I would be very hesitant to make a judgment, but obviously from what I know he is a very pleasant person and I know he has been introduced to other persons who have taken to him, and if all Georgian students are like him, it is fine by me, send them over.”
Not all of the people in Scotland who have met Lasha see Georgia as an independent state, and often get confused, which forces him to offer explanations.
“I got used to the fact that when I say that I am from Georgia, the next question that follows is, “That’s Russia, is not it?” Also, some tell me that it is Russian that we speak in Georgia. Then I have to explain to them the difference, that we have different alphabet, language, culture and so on. I think the reason for the misunderstanding is that more information comes out from Russia, than from Georgia, and they know it much more than Georgia. But later when they get to know that it is different they express interest in the history and nature, and all of those things which may interest foreigners.”
When explaining and telling people about Georgia, Lasha must have been successful; as his teacher, Liz Morrison views his behavior and interactions as a positive experience:
“It is giving me very positive experience of Georgian people, if they all are as friendly, polite, interested and attentive to others, then I would like to meet some more,” she said.
Massimo Dessanai, is Italian, Lasha’s college mate, with whom Lasha hangs out.
“He is a very friendly person, he is an easy person in all companies. He is especially good when we go out watching football matches. The first time I talked to him, we talked about Italian club Inter Milan, it is nice to meet someone with whom you may have a chat about common interests,” Massimo said.
It is the fourth month that Lasha is in Glasgow, he is good at studies, has fun occasionally and overall enjoys his time in Scotland, however, it is not always that simple for him, the feeling of nostalgia is often present.
“When I was coming here I did not think that I would have missed Georgia so much, but now I realize that it is not just missing Georgia as a country, but you do miss it as family, as the beginning of your memories, in Georgia you are seen as a part of that society, while abroad you have to prove some things, and if you don’t look after yourself nobody will. This may apply to Georgia as well, however, there is a love of relatives and this love is what I miss. I would also say that I miss the weather very much.”
The article was published as a free lance work for “Georgia Today,” May 8, 2009 issue.