The FINANCIAL -- 22-year-old Georgian Tekla Iashagashvili is continuing her studies at the University of Cambridge in its Sociology Programme. When it comes to academic prestige, Cambridge can be called the Harvard of the UK. It is suitably difficult to get in due to it having one of the most demanding and rigorous enrolment processes. Here, the successful student shares with The FINANCIAL what brought her to this point, as well as her plans for the future.
Q. What was the path that took you to Cambridge?
A. In the 9th Grade I moved to the Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi and in my last year of school I sent out applications to different American colleges and universities. I got accepted at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and there I spent the past four years of my life studying business and sociology.
When I graduated from the American Academy, I did not plan on studying sociology. I was considering economics. Yet when I began my study of economics, I realized that it was not a field that I was particularly passionate about, or that I could see myself in. At the same time I took classes in sociology, started studying business and found what I loved studying and working with so in the end I completed my studies with these two majors.
I am glad that I was given an opportunity to try different social and natural sciences as well as humanities, before deciding on sociology and business. After successful completion of my second year, I was awarded USD 4,000 from the College to use for an academic or a community service project. I used this money to travel to Paris and Florence to study museums there. My research subsequently became one of the factors contributing to my acceptance at Cambridge.
Q. What experiences did you gain during your period of learning in the US that will contribute to your future?
A. I received an excellent education and my personality has changed a lot. I was also involved in a lot of clubs and organizations on campus and each of them taught me something about myself or about how to be a good leader and how to motivate people. I sat on several committees and was a vice-chair of a financial and advisory board for the campus clubs; I worked in the admissions office and conducted interviews with students. These experiences gave me communication and leadership skills, improved my work ethic and also helped me forge valuable connections all of which I think will help me in the future.
Additionally, when in college, I always felt support from my professors, my mentors and peers and their trust in my abilities to handle a variety of challenges in my academic and professional life. This trust was motivating and encouraging and it really made everyone feel more self-assured. It taught me how much the environment and peer support matter on one’s way to success.
Q. Tell us about your research
A. I wanted to know what stories museums tell their visitors, and how the narratives that they create can be shaped to serve particular purposes. Through public texts as well as with the general layout which is retraced by the visitors every museum tells its own story. We may not immediately understand what information we are receiving, and in most cases we do not think that a museum is deliberately telling us a story in a specific way. I was interested in the identities created through such narratives in public art museums. Therefore, I did research on the Louvre, its public texts and its layout. The conclusion of the research, in its simplest form, was that the Louvre is not an encyclopaedic museum, neutral with regard to all cultures; rather it is imperial and nationalistic in the way it depicts France as the pinnacle of the world civilizations.
Q. What are your expectations and plans for your time at Cambridge?
A. I am planning to continue this research that I have started. Beyond that, we will have to see. It is a new place and a new culture and I am excited to be exploring something different again.
Overall, I think planning for future is very important but if at any point you do not like where you’re going, you should be able to change direction and not be afraid to do so. There are so many external factors that affect our lives as well that I think one can never take full credit for everything that happens in one’s life. Cambridge was my dream, but four years ago I would not have imagined that I would be going to Cambridge for masters in sociology. My personal decisions as well as different events and factors in my life came together to put me on this path.
Q. Are you planning to return to Georgia after graduating?
A. I don’t know when, but I’m definitely going to return. I’ll come back once I confidently know that I have the necessary qualifications to create something valuable and contribute to my country’s development. Nowhere else is there the need to use this education more than in our country.
Q. What recommendations would you give to Georgian students?
A. I would recommend that they take advantage of all the chances and opportunities presented to them; to find a profession that they are interested in and to get pleasure from life. It is important to approach education seriously, because it is the main key to every door; to widen one’s worldview and develop both one’s personal and academic fronts. I think that an ambitious person will use all of the chances that life gives them. We should not be satisfied with what we have, we should constantly work on the development of our future, observing what is good and trying to adapt our knowledge and experiences to Georgia’s unique needs and conditions.
Written By Eva Bolkvadze