- Stories of Alumni
Read the story of our alumna Liza Tabliashvili (Georgia, UWCD’18) about her life-changing experience of living and studying in Dilijan, about the obstacles which turned into valuable life lessons and how the high standard academics of UWC have led her to the big city of Berlin.
"When my parents first dropped me off in front of Riverside - student residences at UWCD, situated next to the river Aghstev in 2016, they told me I was in for a lifelong adventure. I did not realize what they meant until much later in life. My life has been divided into the pre- and post- UWC stages. Years later, I am still noticing the ways in which attending UWC shaped me, academically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, etc. It steered me into a certain direction in life, one of self-acceptance and open-mindedness. It was the first and the most pivotal stop on an ongoing adventure and my journey would not have been the same without it.
Living in an international and diverse environment during my teenage years was formative. Beyond the impressive numbers of nationalities and colorful flags, each of my peers’ cultures turned into a tangible and lived experience. I learned far more from people, their stories, and memories than I could have ever read online. Without traveling to the farthest places, I was transferred to the past and the present of different countries. I was encouraged to simultaneously discover myself, question and unlearn my own belief systems, and open my mind to new knowledge from all around the world.
The beauty of the UWC Dilijan experience was not that it was free of obstacles, but that every obstacle turned into a life lesson. At times, I was overwhelmed with juggling academics and social life and found myself prioritizing one over the other. There was so much going on constantly, that it felt difficult to take a break. It was hard to take a step back and not immerse myself in the beautiful chaos of the everyday. Achieving that perfect balance between the academic and social lives was not easy, but at the end of the day, it taught me the value of both and the significance of managing my time properly.
In Dilijan, I learned that teachers can be your mentors, guiding you on your academic journey and encouraging you to pursue your talents. My teachers believed in me when I did not believe in myself and gave me space, time, and opportunity to grow as an individual. They were supportive, rather than punitive figures; a relationship that I was not used to, but quickly grew grateful for.
Living away from home was not easy in the beginning. I remember being lost in the novelty of every day and longing for a sense of familiarity. However, I quickly got accustomed to the new environment and the challenge became navigating the sense of belonging in two places, Georgia and UWCD. Being split into two is both a blessing and a curse. It means you feel similarly at home in different places of the world, but your heart is always missing a piece. Attending UWCD started that process in me, and since then, different places all constitute missing parts of one big puzzle.
When we returned from the winter break to campus in the second year, we all knew there would be no next time. In the last semester, every event suddenly became “the last one.” The glooming sense that everything was coming to an end lurked in the background and each smile had a hint of sadness. In the last weeks, one of my teachers kept the countdown until graduation on the board. Every morning, I would be reminded of our helplessness against time and our inevitable separation. But now I think the countdown was good. The constant reminder that time was running out helped me appreciate every moment more deeply, feel emotions that I would be scared of otherwise, take risks and realize that I was so full of life.
It was difficult realizing that the rest of the world is not like UWC. I tried to prepare for this in my last year there, but sometimes, you can’t know it all until you experience it first-hand. UWC set a high standard for academics, community life, and care for each other. And while it is hard to navigate life with such expectations, it is also a blessing and a constant reminder that I am lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity to set my standards so high. By inspiring me to seek more and not settle for less than the absolute best, UWC is still shaping my life every day.
Despite having graduated from UWCD, I am still living the UWC experience because it is all around me. In Berlin, where I am currently studying and working, the UWC network is strong. It is a helpful community of alumni that I can rely on, or simply connect with via social media and gatherings. It is comforting to know that you can have an immediate connection with strangers only because they went to the same high school as you, especially in a city as big as Berlin. I constantly find myself trying to assist young people on their journey to UWC. I volunteered to be a selection assessor in my National Committee and helped choose the next generation of Georgian UWCers and I facilitated a UWC Germany summer course. I hope to be of service in the future too, and help in providing the same chances as I had, to more motivated students around the world.
No thank you will ever do justice to the life-changing experience that UWCD has been for me, or to its teachers, staff, the always smiling cafeteria team, the medical center, and doctor Nara, and the beautiful local community of Dilijan. So if you are now in our collective home, in our Dilijan, I encourage you to take a look around and take it in. Take it all in, because such immense beauty is hard to come across and you are blessed to be living in it."
- Liza Tabliashvili(Georgia, UWCD’18) -