Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea in the west, by Turkey and Armenia in the south, by Azerbaijan in the east, and Russia in the north. The republic also includes the Abkhazia and Ajara autonomous republics and South Ossetia. In 2007 Georgia's real GDP growth rate reached 12%, making Georgia one of the fastest growing economies in Eastern Europe. The World Bank dubbed Georgia "the number one economic reformer in the world" because it has in one year improved from rank 112th to 18th in terms of ease of doing business.
An independent country for the past twenty years, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia offers a rich history and culture in the Caucasus region. Bordered by the Black Sea, Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the country is home to approximately 4.5 million people. Although it experienced a period of unrest and economic problems following the immediate collapse of the USSR through most of the 1990s, following the Rose Revolution in 2003, it has largely achieved stability and now governs itself as a semi-presidential republic. It is a member of the Council of Europe and is said to be aspiring to membership in both NATO and the European Union. Interestingly, the language of Georgia is unrelated to most other languages throughout the region, as it is a member of the Kartvelian language family.
Georgia captured the attention of many people worldwide during the brief military action against Russia during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia still continues to view the regions as part of their sovereign territory with Russia occupying them with military rule.
Georgia is known worldwide for its rich wine making history. It is one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world, with some archeologists believing that the fertile valleys of the South Caucasus region are the site of the first grape cultivation and wine production over 8,000 years ago. While the grape are not as widely known in the Western hemisphere, they are highly regarded and sought after throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Georgia also attracts a number of tourists for its variety of mineral spring resorts and four World Heritage Sites. Many people throughout the world are coming to appreciate the beauty and rich culture the country has to offer.
Practical Information about Georgia
One of the biggest culture shocks that many coming in from Western nations may experience is the prevalence of religion in common society. Most of the nation describes itself as Eastern Orthodox, belonging to the Georgian Orthodox Church, though numbers of regular liturgy attendees are substantially lower. The constitution does allow for religious freedom, and several religious minorities, such as Roman Catholics and Jews, have lived alongside the Georgian Orthodox for centuries with few problems. Georgia is also known for its local love of music and the use of food to facilitate social gatherings. Georgians tend to be a very hospitable people and often welcome people with food and drink.
The climate in Georgia is divided into two main zones. Western Georgia is considerably wetter, with annual precipitation ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 mm. While the flatlands of the region tend to be mildly warm throughout the year, the more mountainous regions experience cooler weather, including snowy winters. Eastern Georgia tends to experience more warmer summers and cooler winters.
Students coming to Georgia tend to be responsible for their own health insurance, with many choosing to enter the country with their own international policies. Students from the European Union, United States, and several other countries are able to remain in the country up to 360 days without a visa.
Many students find the cost of living in Georgia to be lower than what they are accustomed to in their native country. Typically, people can get by comfortably on about 100-200 USD per week. Students should note, however, that many ATMs do not accept foreign cards and cash is typically the preferred method of payment.
Study in Georgia
Higher Education in Georgia
For Georgian students, the education system underwent a massive overhaul in 2004, which was widely controversial. Currently, local students can enter the system of accredited higher education through passing their Unified National Exams. The higher education system consists of three cycles. The bachelor’s degree cycle is worth 240 credits, followed by the second cycle, or master’s degree cycle of 120 credits, and finally the third cycle, or doctor’s degree of 180 credits. Within this overall system, there are certain unique degree programs that work slightly outside the regular path. For example, dental, medical, and veterinary degrees all comprise of 300-360 credits from the beginning, and graduates finish with their master’s degree. It is also possible to become a Certified Specialist, which consists of only 180 credits of the first degree cycle.
Colleges are typically for those who are pursuing first cycle, or bachelor’s degree programs. A teaching university is typically used to achieve a second cycle, or master’s degree. Finally, a university will offer all three levels of higher education, which is especially useful for those who wish to pursue the highest cycle. There are 25 universities, 27 teaching universities, and 5 colleges that are accredited within the country.
Tuition at Georgia institutes of higher education tends to be significantly cheaper than many American Universities and is more comparable to other European Universities. Many programs require less than 2,000 USD per academic year. Students should expect to be required to find their own housing and food while studying in Georgia, although there may be exceptions to this. In general, those interested in studying in Georgia should speak directly with their university or college to learn about tuition and living arrangements.
The academic year at Georgian schools tends to be divided into two semesters, a fall semester and a spring semester. There are also some universities and colleges where instruction is offered in languages other than Georgian, such as English, with the International Black Sea University serving as a good example. Marketing, international relations, and other global fields tend to be popular subjects of study. Studying in Georgia will allow students to have a unique perspective on the emerging nations of the Caucasus region and the former USSR, which in turn can help them understand current European politics at a much deeper level.
Students hoping to study in the country are expected to submit all transcripts as well as descriptions of their programs and written authorization from their current college or university. Many schools also require health records and related information. The information should also be translated into Georgian and notarized.