Hey y’all Global UGRADs! I have been lucky enough to be one of four students from Georgia participating in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program from 2019-2020. During this experience, I had a chance to spend the 2020 spring semester at Presbyterian College located in the beautiful Palmetto State of South Carolina. Today, as an alumnus, I realize how much this program given to me, and it makes me happy. Firstly, it gifted me a lot of friends from all over the world and interaction with people from different backgrounds, which has helped me to realize the essence of the values which are common for all of us. Secondly, the semester in the United States and the experience I have gone through increased my motivation to serve the future of my country and community. In the other words, participating in the Global UGRAD Program was a great memory, a life-changing experience, and a source of inspiration to grow and serve with purpose.
After departing the United States a little earlier than planned due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I concluded my coursework virtually at Presbyterian College. I adapted back to my work in Georgia at the same time. Despite the worldwide pandemic significantly impacting personal interaction during my work or studies, I have to admit that the digitalization of the activities, which were carried out in person before, significantly increased the amount of projects I have participated in. From April 2020 until the end of the year, I worked at the NGO the Europe-Georgia Institute where I researched Russian disinformation in Georgia, digitally attended two civil-society forums managed by Goethe Institute Kyiv called “Civil Match” and “Civil Match Forum,” received the scholarship of “German Corporation for International Cooperation” for an internship in my local city hall in Gori, wrote a small research paper about citizen participation in local governance, and worked in cooperation with International Republican Institute (IRI) Office in Georgia to launch a large-scale “Get Out and Vote Campaign” and “Your Voice – Our Future” campaign preceding the parliamentary elections in Georgia in October. These campaigns encouraged citizens, specifically youth, to be actively engaged in electoral processes. Additionally, I attended online webinars with organizations such as “Swedish International Liberal Centre” and “Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty South Caucasus.” On the other hand, I also had a chance to enhance my knowledge in the area of active citizenship by way of attending a two-month program called the “Active Citizens Course”, as well as increased my awareness in terms of media literacy by joining another program called the “Myth Detector Laboratory” by the Media Development Foundation. One of the main highlights of the year was exactly related to the internship in the “Myth Detector Laboratory.” My article about anti-Western propaganda on the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic was shared on a local media outlet that helped me in winning a special prize on the topic of media literacy. This gave me another important opportunity to attend International Media Literacy Forum in Bonn, Germany.
My plans of the future are also related to continuing to contribute to society in terms of promoting active citizenship and at the same time growing personally and academically, which is crucial to make me more productive. In this regard, after finalizing my bachelor’s degree in 2021, I plan to continue with a master’s degree related to more specific area of international relations and politics, preferably regional studies related to Eastern Europe or the Southern Caucasus. I am happy and grateful that the Global UGRAD Program has played a crucial role and helped me in dedicating myself to the idea of “Being Inspired to Serve”, to serve my own country and better the future of our world.