For the past six years, 27-year old Raj has lived in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi with two of her brothers, who also came here to study medicine. One of them has since graduated and returned to India. After six years of living in Georgia, Raj is also preparing to go back home to Hyderabad. She never felt she would spend her entire life in Georgia, but nevertheless feels very sad about finally leaving the country.
Stories like Raj’s are becoming more common; over recent years, more and more students are opting to study abroad. According to UNESCO, over the past eight years the total number of international students rose by nearly 80% worldwide; by 2015 it had risen by more than 4.1 million. Georgia is no exception; students from overseas have become a familiar sight on the streets of the capital Tbilisi. According to the data provided by the National Statistics Office of Georgia, more than 10,000 foreign students are studying in the country today. The largest group of them (about 4,000) are Indians, the majority of whom study medicine.
Most Indian students come to Georgia thanks to OM Consultants, a company based in Chennai which manages study programmes in Europe. The responsibilities of such organisations vary, but their role is mostly taking care of the paperwork for visas and university enrollment. OM has already helped more than 2,000 Indian Students to come to Georgia, mostly to Tbilisi State Medical University.
But why would a young student from India travel nearly 4,000 kilometres to study medicine in distant Georgia? It’s not as unusual a choice as it might sound. The main reasons Indian students give are Georgia’s affordable prices and relative safety when compared to other countries.
One of them is 24-year old Anooj Vijayaraj. His parents decided that he should study medicine, and he did so to make them happy. Anooj says he first considered studying in India, but according to him the Indian educational system is corrupt; a bribe is needed in order to access university, which his family couldn’t afford to pay. While searching for alternative options, Anooj came across Georgia. He felt it was better than other countries; he rejected Russia, having heard about the racism in the country. To study in China he needed to learn Chinese, and Anook says he usually finds it very difficult to learn a new language. So Georgia it was.
Another is 27-year old Febian. He’s lived in Georgia for four years already and likes the country, which he first heard about from a friend. Febian was a third year dental student in India when he quit, as he wanted to become a doctor instead.
Living in a new country isn’t always easy. According to Febian, there is racism all over the world and Georgia is not an exception. He’s met some people who treat him like their own relative. But on the metro, some people do not even want to sit next to him. “If I sit in the metro, Georgians wouldn’t come and sit next to me. I don’t know the reason… Maybe they think that we have some special disease… it’s the same blood. We all have blood right? We all breathe the same air. Where is the difference?”