Ketevan Chincharadze (‘19): “My personal and professional development happened at AUBG”
Meet Ketevan Chincharadze ('19) from Georgia — the first AUBG student to graduate in Psychology, a major that was only introduced last fall. At the time, Ketevan was pursuing a Self-Designed major in Psychology, has worked on establishing the AUBG Psychology Club and has completed an exchange program in the States where she focused on taking courses in psychology. Ketevan’s dedication, hard work and trailblazing role in the introduction of the major earned her the Outstanding Achievement in Psychology Award at the 26th Honors Convocation. In addition to Psychology, Ketevan also graduated with a major in Politics. She was an active member of several AUBG student clubs, including the Broadway Performance Club, the Rock Jamming Club, and the European Society Club.
Why did you decide to study psychology?
I have a background in psychology: I joined a psychology club back in Tbilisi as a teenager. There, I learned so much about the different personalities and the fact that we need to respect everybody’s opinions because we are all different. When I came to AUBG I missed this environment and I had the idea of creating a psychology club. I got all the documentation ready and the club got approved. We have recruited a lot of people to the club and I hope that the tradition is going to continue in the years to come. When we first decided to create the club, psychology professor Ronald Harvey was really supportive: he was interested in creating the psychology program and so were we, and it all happened through our mutual efforts.
I started studying Economics at AUBG at first but then realized that it is not for me. I talked to Professor Harvey and to professor Sardamov, who comes from the Department of Politics and is interested in political psychology, and they suggested that I do a Self-Designed major in Psychology. I started taking classes at AUBG and also went to an exchange program in the United States. I studied at Lake Forest College in Chicago where they had great classes in psychology. All the credits that I had there, I dedicated to studying psychology. When I came back I just had a couple of more classes to take to complete the major. Last year we still didn’t have a psychology major at AUBG but by the time we had designed the self-designed major for me, the psychology major got accredited. It was just pure, pure luck. It is a miracle that I have completed the required courses and that the major was ready to launch at the same time.
What are your plans for the future?
I am going to find a Master’s program in the U.S. and devote next year to studying for the GRE exam and applying to schools, that’s my priority now. When it comes to psychology, I want to combine it with my other major in Politics. There are political psychology programs such as Psychological Research of Political Behavior, and I find it super interesting, investigating the personalities of the political leaders, the logic behind the laws and the ways that they affect people.
Also, I like volunteering and I believe that once I complete a Master’s in the United States I am going to do some volunteering as well.
What experience do you have with volunteering and student clubs at AUBG?
I have been a part of many student clubs at AUBG. When I was a freshman, I was part of the European Society Club -- the club that organizes the Model European Union conferences. Then, I joined the musical (Broadway Performance Club) and the Rock Jamming Club.
Have you done volunteering outside of AUBG?
Yes. When we have big events in Georgia such as the European Youth Olympics, I would always go there as a volunteer. Last year I also went to Moscow for a volunteers’ gathering. I just like volunteering, whenever I have the chance to contribute to a cause and help someone, why not?
How do you feel about AUBG now that you are graduating?
I really loved my four years at AUBG with all its ups and downs, with everything. I made amazing friends. The professors that I had have been more than professors. We are friends, we help each other. I just love this cooperation between students and professors here. Also, the student clubs -- I learned so much there by doing all these practical things with my friends. It is amazing, especially the Broadway Performance Club and the Rock Jamming Club where we can actually perform to live music. Performing to live music is a big thing even for already successful musicians and we have all of this here at AUBG. The sports facilities, the classes, the number of conferences that we have on campus, even the university staff is so friendly here. AUBG has given me so much that I feel really nostalgic now that I’m graduating. Four years is not a short period of time. I grew up here. My personal and professional development happened at AUBG. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity. I think prospective students should know that this is a great place where they can make a lot of friends from all around the world. I have friends from so many nationalities, and I think that’s something that AUBG should be proud of: bringing together 40 different nationalities and creating a friendly environment for them all.
Did you find it scary to move to a foreign country four years ago? What would you tell international prospective students who want to apply to AUBG and wonder what’s it like to live in Bulgaria and Blagoevgrad?
I wasn’t scared because I did such good research prior to coming here. I was so excited when I got accepted. I also had friends here from the Georgian community. Once we [the current students] know that someone from Georgia is accepted, we answer their questions and get them excited as well.
Blagoevgrad is a city that has so many benefits — it is so safe, it is so student-friendly, the prices are excellent, you can have lots of fun. I think it is a really good place for the university to be. This is what you need as a student — to have time to study and at the same time live in a nice city. What do we want? We want fun and we want to have a safe environment. This city has both. I’d also tell prospective students that if they had made up their minds to become international students they should be absolutely confident that they will make it and that they will be able to live without their parents here. For a couple of months, you miss your friends and you miss your family but afterwards, when you build your family here, build your friendships here, it just becomes absolutely natural. That’s what happened in my case. I have my friends back home; I also have my best friends here at AUBG.
AUBG changes people a lot. That’s the purpose of education, right? You want education to change you and help you realize some things. I know many of the students come from conservative countries and I would suggest that when coming to AUBG they have an open mind and question themselves. And when it comes to choosing majors—it is absolutely fine to change your mind, as it happened in my case. That’s the whole beauty of the liberal arts system. As far as you study and as far as you stay involved with the community, everything will be fine. There’s one more thing—if you get the most out of AUBG, you should also give back. You should be active and engage in different clubs in order to feel the value of AUBG.
Interview by Dimana Doneva