Why did you want to study in Germany?
Elisabed: At school, we learned German as our first foreign language. So, I have had contact with the language since I was a child. I have always made a lot of music, and there it was always about Germany and German or Austrian composers, too. That’s why I wanted my future to involve Germany in some way. If you are familiar with a country’s music, and speak its language, then you already know quite a lot about that country’s culture. So, I was expecting to feel comfortable living in Germany – and I was right.
Why did you choose Mannheim?
Elisabed: I came across Mannheim by chance really. I didn’t really know very much about the university, but I did some research and found out that it’s one of the best higher education institutions for Business Administration. I read a lot about the university and the fields of research that the professors are active in, and thought it all sounded really interesting. I also read that it often combines research with practice, and that it is a renowned institution worldwide. That’s when I said to myself: if I’m going to study in Germany, then it has to be at the University of Mannheim. I don’t come from Europe, and so I had to go to school in Heidelberg to get my university entrance qualification before I could start studying. I still live in Heidelberg now, and commute to Mannheim for my lectures.
Before you started studying, you were a professional pianist. Can you tell us a little bit about your musical career?
Elisabed: I went to two schools in Georgia – a “normal” school and a school of music. I’ve always played the piano and started composing my own music at an early age. By the time I was nine or ten, I had composed around 30 pieces. But I was still improvising then, and I realized that I was missing a lot of technical knowledge. That’s why I decided to start learning to play really well. I spent hours practicing. If I had a concert coming up, I’d sometimes spend up to seven or eight hours a day practicing. I got to travel a lot and took part in competitions and festivals. I also gave concerts. I went to Denmark when I was twelve – that was the first time I traveled alone. Looking back, these experiences really helped me to become independent and get used to things in Europe, like public transport. I’m never really nervous before I take exams anymore because I learned how to deal with nerves and pressure. My life was very busy and I had very little free time. But that was my decision and I was happy that I could go on stage and play.
What was it like swapping your career in music for a degree program? And why did you decide to study Business Administration?
Elisabed: Before I came to Germany, I spent a semester studying music at Zurich University of the Arts. But I was having problems with my hand and was constantly in a lot of pain. And it wasn’t until I was just making music that I noticed something was missing. I started thinking about studying Business Administration as it is a subject that combines different areas, and also involves some math, which I have always liked doing. When I think about it, I say to myself that everything happens for a good reason, and then I feel happy about my decision.
What do you do in your spare time?
Elisabed: I still spend a lot of time playing piano. The first thing I did when I moved to Germany was look for an e-piano. I spend a lot of time and money on going to concerts, museums and things. I rarely miss the opportunity to go to things like that. I’ve even been to concerts in Baden-Baden and Frankfurt. I also really enjoy traveling. I’m trying to explore as much of the local area as possible. For example, I’ve been to Strasbourg and Basel, and visited a lot of the smaller towns and cities in Baden-Württemberg.
What do you miss about Georgia?
Elisabed: Of course, I miss my family and friends the most. Georgia is a very traditional country, and family is the most important thing. But apart from that, I miss the food. Georgian food is very good. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Georgian restaurants around here. You can’t cook all the food at home either because some of the ingredients are very specific and you can’t get them in Germany. I also miss the mountains, even though Germany has mountains too. But I miss going skiing with my friends in Georgia. I also miss my favorite cafés and clubs.
Is there something in particular that you really like here?
Elisabed: There are a lot of things. I’m very happy with my degree program and my life in Germany overall. I worked as a tutor for a while and really enjoyed it. I put a lot of effort into preparing tutorials and explaining the background which wasn’t included in the lecture script. I got a lot of positive feedback at the end. I do fun things in my spare time. There’s a classical festival in Heidelberg that I really like called the Heidelberger Frühling. I went to it every day it was on and have some really happy memories. I felt like I was part of the creative, musical environment and that was such a special experience.
Do you know what you want to do after you finish your bachelor's program?
Elisabed: I’d like to do a master’s in Germany but that depends on the cost. Now that students from countries outside of the EU have to pay tuition fees, I hope I can still afford to study here. Once I’ve finished studying, I would like to stay in Germany for a year or two to get some work experience. Although I am very grateful to Germany for enabling me to get such a good degree, I want to return to Georgia in the long term. Ideally, I’d like to work for a German company in Georgia so that I can help strengthen the relationship between Germany and Georgia, and give something back to both countries.
Interview: Kathrin Holstein | February 2018