Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Last week, I was notified that my application for admission to Tbilisi State Medical University had finally been approved (this is after attending classes for 10+weeks) by the Ministry of Education ("Everyone was approved") and that now I could sign the contract and pay tuition. This was the first time I had been presented with a choice of whether or not I wanted to be a student. Which got me to think about my reasons for attending the university in the first place, which was not to learn medicine, but rather to:

1)Learn Georgian
2)Meet and make friends with other international students
3)Not lose, and perhaps gain, my pre-medical education from Chicago

The Georgian professor at TSMU, upon realizing that my knowledge of Georgian far exceeds that of any of my classmates, was good enough to challenge me by asking me to memorize extra vocabulary, but this was all that my Georgian class amounted to. In addition, the class only meets once a week for 1.5 hours, hardly enough time for a language class. Meanwhile, at my private lessons I've managed to continue going full steam ahead and within a couple of weeks I will have learned all of Georgian grammar (a scary thought).

During my three months at TSMU as a "free listener," I've been lucky to make friends with some of the other international students (primarily Turks and Indians). For those friendships which aren't limited to the classroom, I have no fear that I won't be able to maintain them outside the university.

If you've followed my previous posts on TSMU, you will know that for the most part, my classes have not been well taught. In fact, some classes almost amounted to torture. I have not gained anything from my classes except for in anatomy. Perhaps my negative impression of the classes has been exacerbated by the academic rigors of the University of Chicago, but even my classmates agree with me that this was worse than they had expected. I've been told that the classes get better in the upper years, but as I'm neither here to learn medicine nor to stay here beyond one year, I could care less.

I've also discovered that there is a dirty business behind the enrollment of most of the students. Almost all of the Indian students came to TSMU through contractors. The contractor guarantees prospective students that they will be admitted (not a hard promise to keep when you're dealing with a university that accepts anyone and everyone) and agrees to process all paperwork for them. The cost for such peace of mind: $5,000. Tuition at TSMU is only $2,000. To top it off, the students are bound to live in a hostel managed by the contractors at a rate of $170/month...

The university itself has some questionable practices which I won't get into here. Both because I've not managed to achieve my goals (except for making friends) and because I don't want my status as an American citizen to help advertise the university, I've decided to cease being a student at the university. Who knew that the bureaucracy surroundinig my admission would actually turn out to be a blessing?

Now I have much more free time which I plan to spend by:

1) Learning Russian. Yesterday, I met with my new Russian tutor and I left quite excited. I will have lessons 4 times a week (like Georgian). Hopefully, my year of Russian back in college will come back to me quickly and in a matter of a couple of months, my Russian will be on par with my Georgian. A long term goal for me is to go to Russia this summer and then take the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Beijing...

2) Increasing my time at Ghudushauri National Medical Center. I know I will know much more about what being a doctor is really like from being with doctors than "studying" at a medical school. Expect more posts soon about my experiences at the hospital.

3) Continuing to teach English. I've added another private student and I may be getting another one soon. I find teaching to be a very pleasant experience and a great opportunity to meet people (for example, I would have never done the Natakhtari commercial if it weren't for my student).

4) Seeing more of Georgia.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a good plan, Xiao Ma. Merry Christmas! -Auntie Mandy

Anonymous said...

Hi Xiaoma,
This is Grandma, and i've just read your latest post. It sounds like a really good decision. Did you see my last email? Just wondering if you check your email or it is better to post comments.
I'm also wondering what the weather is like there in the winter.
I'm about to go take Maggie to get her security clearance at the hospital. She's almost ready to start her volunteer work, and she was about the only junior (high school) volunteer in her orientation group of some 50 students. The others were mostly from Cal.
Take care,

Anonymous said...

A blessed and joyous Christmas season to you!

Christ is Born!