Wilkinson staff member and graduate student Ashley Liberio will be heading to Eastern Europe this week to participate in an MBA travel course put on by Dr. Jim Coyle of the MAIS program.  The course will last three weeks and will take her to Tbilisi, Georgia and Baku, Azerbaijan where she will study the geopolitics of the Caspian and Black Sea region.  While she is gone she will be periodically blogging her journey.  Stay tuned to hear what kind of interesting experiences she happens upon along the way!

Monday, June 18, 2012:

One thing is certain: Georgia is a country in transition.  A member of the US Embassy appropriately described Georgia as “a small country in a bad neighborhood.”  As a Post-Soviet nation, Georgia has done quite well in taking steps toward creating a western style democracy and sees NATO ascension as an important and positive step towards aligning itself with western powers. Currently, Georgia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the war in Afghanistan and generally promotes international policies that align it with the west. The country’s location also makes it an important player in international trade.  Georgia is located in an oil and natural gas rich region and is an important transit country for major pipelines including the one that runs from Azerbaijan, through Georgia and into Turkey.  In short, Georgia is small, but its moves toward democracy and alliance with western powers is still very important.

Changes in the country are not only echoed in critical political moves toward a democratic state but also in the reconstruction efforts that are happening around the country.  Though I cannot say firsthand, I have been told that, had I walked out of a hotel in Tbilisi at night a mere decade ago, I would have been greeted only by darkness.  This is hard to imagine considering what I see when I explore the city in the evening.  One adventurous night I hiked to the top of Narikala fortress after dark to enjoy the high vantage point.  What I saw when I looked out over the city was not simply a capital covered in standard city lights.  I saw a culture proudly displayed with bright lights highlighting monasteries like a stage lit for an orchestra.  I saw the Bridge of Peace flowing lights like an ocean wave and a radio tower at the top of the city sparkling like the Eiffel Tower.  This city is as alive and as vibrant as its people and wants you to see how beautiful it is, even after the sun has gone down.

So far this experience has been overwhelming in the best way.  Hopefully this gives you a small taste of what has been a life-changing experience, and it’s not even halfway over!