“Georgia? What, like, the state?” My Top Three Reasons for Volunteering in Georgia-the-Country-not-the-State

Posted on December 4, 2012 by

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A year ago, when I told people I was moving to Georgia to teach English, I was met with one of three reactions: a blank stare, a “What, you mean the state…?”, or, every so often, a “Wow, good for you! My [friend/relative/close acquaintance/person I met once at a dinner party and haven’t seen since] taught English in [insert anywhere-other-than-the-United-States here].” The next question that came up, inevitably—after my explaining Georgia’s geographic location—was “Why Georgia?”

Why did I come to Georgia? There are so many reasons! It’s something I’ve been reflecting a lot upon recently, now that my contract is nearly up. I’m not sure if these are really even my top three, but they’re close enough to the top.

1. I’m a writer, first and foremost, and writers need material. Ergo, travelling! But, I’m also interested in languages. The summer before I began university, I decided—completely arbitrarily—to learn Russian. That led to two and a half years of university Russian language classes, as many Russian literature and Eurasian culture courses as I could take, and the decision to eventually become a translator. When I first thought about coming to Georgia, I assumed I’d be speaking a lot more Russian than I actually do, and thus becoming fluent. Well, such is life. While that’s still a little frustrating at times, it’s turned out to be excellent. Georgia has a rich literary history, and not much Georgian literature is translated into English—so this is incentive for me to, hopefully, eventually master the language. (I’ll admit, though, it’s taking me a long time to learn Georgian. I blame it on my excellent host sister, who’s fluent in English.)

2. One of my first career goals when I was a very little girl was to be a teacher. Any kind of teacher. (I also wanted to be an author, an archaeologist, and a cultural anthropologist. I was all about professions beginning with the letter ‘A’.) After graduating university, I knew I wanted to spend time working with children—most of my prior volunteer work had involved working with children’s choirs and organizations, and it was something I really enjoyed. So, teaching abroad was perfect! Living and volunteering in Georgia has combined all of my interests—ancient history and culture, literature, travelling, really quiet places, and, of course, English.

3. Georgian culture—particularly traditional music and Eastern Orthodoxy—fascinates me. I didn’t know much about Georgia prior to learning about TLG and my subsequent moving here, but a quick skim of the country’s Wikipedia page immediately piqued my interest. (It was all I talked about for weeks; I’m sure I drove my friends absolutely crazy…) Even if I hadn’t decided to teach in Georgia, I definitely think I would have visited and eventually spent a good amount of time here. Now, I know I’ll be back.
Like I said above, there is a myriad of other reasons for my coming to Georgia to volunteer that I didn’t list. I’m getting sappy and sad about leaving, so I’ll wrap this up. But, I’ll leave you, dear readers, with this last cheesy line: Georgia’s truly changed my life for the better, regardless of my reasons for being here.