A large number of Indian students come to Georgia every year to study at Tbilisi State Medical University. OC Media talked to a number of them about why they come and their lives in Georgia, including the discrimination they face.
A majority of foreign students studying in Georgia’s higher education institutions come from India — followed by Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Kazakhstan.
The vast majority of Indians in Georgia study at Tbilisi State Medical University (TSMU), in English. They explain that medicine is really valued in India, but that it is popular as well, and they are able to get good quality medical education in Georgia for a lower price.
According to data provided by TSMU, there are 1,918 foreign students studying at the university right now; of these, 1,131 are citizens of India.
Harry Muhammed is a third year medical student at TSMU. He decided to study in Georgia because the fee for a medical education in India was too high for him
‘Indians can do their undergraduate course here but I don't think they have PHD courses’, he told us.
‘When I go back, first I will have to pass an exam. The exam is required either if I plan to do a PHD or start working’.
The reason is the colour of his skin
Harry remarks that he sometimes encounters problems with discrimination in Georgia. He thinks that people’s attitudes towards him generally fall into one of two categories. Some become his friends or are good to him, while others are aggressive. He believes the reason for the latter is the colour of his skin.
‘When I was in second year, they threw a beer bottle at my head, they were playing football and one of the guys asked me to dribble through, but I couldn’t, so when I turned around he threw a beer bottle at me — so we had this guy kicked out of football’, he remembers.
Harry says that mostly Indian men face challenges because of their skin colour.
‘I’ve never heard that any girl had the same problem, but it is really frequent for boys.’
Shiva is in her first year at TSMU. She says that she has not faced discrimination so far and she has not had any problems making friends; she ‘feels at home’.
‘I was searching for a good university with affordable prices, so I thought this option in Georgia would be fine. Also, it is a very safe country, that was the most important priority for my parents. There's no racism here, I have no problems and for students it's really safe’, Shiva told OC Media.
He explains that with a Georgian medical education it is possible to get a job in India, as well as in Europe or the US.
A small Indian restaurant in Georgia
It’s been a year since Shahid, 22, and Rahil, 23, opened a small Indian restaurant in Georgia. Most of their clients are Indian students. The large number of Indian students in Georgia was the major motivation for starting the business.
‘At first we planned to start a business in Dubai, but in the end we decided to do it here. This business will work until there are Indians studying here’, he said adding that soon they plan to expand to Batumi, a city in Western Georgia on the Black Sea coast.
Rahil remarks that people don’t know much about Indian cuisine in Georgia, and he is sure that if more
people learn about Indian dishes they will love it just like in the US, where Indian food is one of the most popular foreign cuisines.
‘We have very few Georgian customers here so far. If they knew more about it we would have more Georgians’, he says.
TSMU first accepted foreign students in 1998 and accepted its first student from India in 2003.
In the 2016–2017 academic year, 366 students from India enrolled at TSMU.