I want to contribute to my country with the knowledge I have acquired
‘My dream is to mount a Research Master’s program in my country, Georgia, as soon as I have finished my thesis (on methodology) and successfully complete my studies. The knowledge I have acquired here in the past few years is so useful for me and for my country! The way social sciences in my country are taught and studied is really outdated and aimed mainly at reproduction. Methodology and statistics are not very well developed and lag behind current advances in technology, and that is where I want to make a difference.'
‘I have always felt very committed to society. When I was 18 years old, I demonstrated together with students in Georgia for better and freely accessible education for everybody. Education has become a privilege in Georgia while it should be a right. There is a lot of poverty and social inequality. In the soviet system, we had a welfare state offering free education and health care for all, but now state welfare support has become marginal. The tuition fees charged now are exorbitant. Equal education is a crucial component in the development of a country. The (neo-liberal) government also wanted to privatize universities, and that is what we were demonstrating against. Yes, I was quite indefatigable at the time. We went round to every university, we organized all kinds campaigns and demonstrations. I even postponed getting my Master’s degree. We managed to get eight Schools to offer free education, which was a victory, but it is not nearly enough. That is why I want to make myself useful when I go back.’
‘I was made aware of the importance of education from a very early age. My mother is a teacher and my parents have high hopes for me. The urge to develop yourself, to keep on learning new things, is something I got from them. Sometimes I am so anxious to learn that I can hardly breathe! And I just have to fill the gaps in my knowledge straight away!’
Making yourself strong for society
‘And I also noticed that there is a lack of knowledge in my country in the field of sociology and demography. There is no well-developed methodology and research to analyze data, and scientist are not keeping up. That is why I wanted to make a contribution specifically in this area; I began to look for an institution that could develop my research skills in statistical methodology. I wanted to find out what would be the best place for me to study, and that is how I wound up in Tilburg. One of the things about Tilburg that appealed to me is that most universities are very market-oriented, while Tilburg University puts society first, as is apparent also in its signature slogan ‘Understanding Society’. A university is a place to discover the truth, and armed with that you can improve society.
The Educational Profile with the pillars of Knowledge, Skills, and Character also appealed to me. Studying is more than merely acquiring knowledge; it is also about making choices, and being aware that you need to make a contribution to society. My expectations were fulfilled, I feel blessed in having the best teachers, open to discussion, and prepared to tackle any problems. We talk about things like ethics, for example. Nothing is impossible for them, they challenge me. Their dedication makes you conquer your fear when you’re thinking ‘I am no good at this.’ I was afraid of figures and math, I had a really tough time coming to grips with that, but in the past two years my teachers took ample time to help me there, and thanks to them I managed to overcome my mental obstacles.
I am bursting with confidence now, my knowledge is more up to date than it is in my country, and I really have this university to thank for that, and the teachers who keep on renewing themselves, and introduce their students to the latest skills.’
Interview with Tea Kipshidze, Sociology Research Master’s student. Tea is studying on a grant from the Tilburg University Fund.