One Month Down

When I first arrived in Tbilisi, I was stuck in a dream. It didn’t feel real. I have never been away from home before, and suddenly I was living in another country on another continent. And it was almost unfathomable.

Public art statue in Georgia

The first few days, I explored the city with my roommate. The city wasn’t exactly how I expected it to be. You can feel the culture difference.

People on the streets don’t smile at you, but they stare for a long time. In restaurants, you don’t give your waiter a tip. When they give you your change, they put it on tiny plates on the counter, as if to avoid direct contact with you. I am required pay in order to use the elevator in my apartment. (Only 10 tetri, which is equivalent to about four pennies.) I rarely took public transportation back at home. Now I take the bus every day and have even had my first strange interaction. An older man tried flirting with me because he knew I was a foreigner. With each new day, I feel myself being pulled from this dream that became a sudden reality.

It wasn’t until after my first two weeks here that I finally begin to feel homesick. It hit me that everyone I was close with was half a world away. And it hurt. I began to sleep more, because my mind started to feel sad realizing how long it would be before I can see my family again. It was easier to sleep instead of feeling that pain.

Then, I found things to fill that void. I made new friends. They are different than what I am used to, but they are helping me expand my surroundings and learn more about the world I wasn’t used to. I began volunteering at a local animal shelter.

Arianna Ruiz and her shelter dog, Suzi

While there, I happened to have fallen in love with a three-legged pointer mix named Suzi. I decided I would do anything to bring her back to America with me. Two days out of the week, I get to visit her and take her to the park to play. She only understands Georgian, but she is starting to understand my gestures as commands. And I visited the U.S. Embassy here in Tbilisi. They offered me many opportunities to get involved in the community and teach English to elementary school students.

Being abroad has been a bit of a shock. So far, it has had many downs. But it always finds its way back up in the end. It has only been a month. I am excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me.


Arianna Ruiz is a third-year biochemistry major studying abroad in Tbilisi, the capital city of the Republic of Georgia. This is her first time leaving the boundaries of California. 

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