The journey from Moscow to Southern California was one filled with excitement for Mikhail Elerdashvili. This, however, was not his first experience abroad in the United States.
“I was in the United States as a tourist before and I absolutely could imagine myself studying here,” said Elerdashvili.
He believed that studying abroad in California would be the perfect opportunity to test his knowledge of the English language, a subject which he has been learning since the second grade.
Elerdashvili shared that Moscow was both the city in which he was born and raised in. It’s a metropolis that he considers home.“It’s a large city, it’s like New York, I would say. Everyone is using the subway. It’s busy but really beautiful there,” he said.
Elerdashvili finished his high school degree in his home city of Moscow but is now part of a four-year program to finish his university studies as a Chemistry major at CSUSM.
Elerdashvili also shared the goals that he hopes to achieve as part of this international experience. He said, “Here I want to get my degree, of course, and then hopefully find myself in the industry or teaching.”
He further expressed that these possible career paths embody what he fully believes in, “ I believe that teaching is… one of the most important jobs in the world. Basically, a teacher’s job is to find talents in each person and develop it. Personally I believe that every person has talent.”
This he came to realize from both his academic experience at home and abroad. Elerdashvili stated that he had inspiring teachers, who in turn inspired him to carve out his own career path.
For Elerdashvili, American culture was not completely a foreign concept. “As you know with the Soviet Union, everything from the West was restricted or in very low quantities. But after the Soviet Union fell, a large flow of Western culture came to Russia. It wasn’t a cultural shock for me to live here.”
He remembers drinking Coca-Cola back home and watching Quentin Tarantino films.
Currently, Elerdashvili has finished two years of his abroad academic experience and during those two years, he has developed an affinity for the local cuisine. When asked about his favorite foods abroad, he shared that Mexican food was his favorite. “We have something quite similar, but here it just tastes so good!”
Despite the smooth transition of living here in Southern California and enjoying the local foods, Elerdashvili said that there are still some challenges, “I don’t know a lot of stuff that locals know. Like roads or even some words… it’s incredibly hard to accumulate all culture in such a small period of time.”
Elerdashvili shared that aside from these challenges, this experience abroad has also been one of personal development. He’s learned to live a balance of two cultures: his home culture and the one he is learning.
He nurtures this growth by trying to be engaged as much as possible with the campus community, such as the Campus Rec and Outdoor Adventures. “One year ago I went to Campus Rec for the first time for a backpacking trip to the Sierras… and it was one of the best few days that I had in my life. It was mind-blowing.”
This experience of engaging with the community is one that Elerdashvili recommends for both locals and international students. It’s not only a chance for personal growth but also to meet people and connect.
“Everyone’s experience is unique…One of my experiences in American university is this incredible connection with people from different countries,” said Elerdashvili.