Georgia’s PM: “University of Illinois changed my life”

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili visited the University of Illinois where he received his Master’s degree in 1998. Photo by the Prime Minister’s webpage., 28 Apr 2016 - 12:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

Almost two decades have passed since Giorgi Kvirikashvili was a student at the University of Illinois but this week he returned to his former University and spoke about his time there and how he went on to become Prime Minister of Georgia.

Prime Minister Kvirikashvili received his Master’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois, in the United States (US), in 1998.

Today he met University staff and students, as well as some of his old Professors, and delivered a speech that revealed some interesting moments of his time as a student.

Kvirikashvili said the decision to study in the US was a hard one to make because at the time he had a wife and three children and a year of separation lay ahead while he pursued his degree, but his commitment to education paid off.

He also added it was practically impossible for Georgians in the 1990s to gain an education at leading American universities.

I had a big chance and the chance was provided by a Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program financed by the US Department of State,” Kvirikashvili said.

Georgia’s Prime Minister stressed his year at the University of Illinois played a "crucial role” in his life as it set him up for his future success.

Kvirikashvili received his Master's degree in 1998. Photo by the Prime Minister's webpage.

Here I became a big fan of soccer and of the jazz festivals that were held in parks. Of course I remember well the friendly attitude of locals in Urbana-Champaign,” Kvirikashvili said.

He added Georgians who received an education abroad were "cultural ambassadors” of their homeland and as a way to honour and respect his heritage he introduced his American friends to Georgia’s unique culture so they too could enjoy it.

Kvirikashvili recalled one instance when he purchased tickets to a US performance by Georgian folk group Sukhishvilebi for 16 of his friends. He didn’t have enough money to pay for the tickets outright so took out a loan and remembered it took quite a long time to repay the debt.

The PM made a speech at Illinois University. Photo by the Prime Minister's webpage.

Since his return to Georgia, Kvirikashvili the country has progressed immensely, particularly in the past four years, said Kvirikashvili. He spoke about Georgia’s future intentions and the current Government’s plans, as well as about the benefits Georgia had because of its geographic location.

He especially stressed the importance of the New Silk Road route and Georgia’s capability to link Europe with Asia. He also spoke candidly about the Georgia-US friendly and strategic relations.

Georgia is a loyal friend of the US, a stable geopolitical ally and a strategic partner,” Kvirikashvili said.

At the end of his speech the PM said he hoped those in the audience now had a clearer understanding of Georgia and the importance of Georgia-US ties for regional and world stability.

He also hoped many would visit Georgia.

Kvirikashvili met the University staff. Photo by the Prime Minister's webpage.

I may be partial but Georgia is an amazing place with its picturesque mountains, amazing coastal lines and unique historic monuments. Our people are famous for their hospitality and our cuisine and wine are just divine,” he said.

Kvirikashvili then answered questions about Georgia-Russia relations, Georgia’s democratic reforms and the country’s investment potential, as well as about Georgia’s transformation process from the Soviet country into modern European state.

The final question was asked by the PM’s former Professor, who asked him whether any of his children intended to study in the US when they were older. To this Kvirikashvili said the University of Illinois was a great learning institution and he hoped his youngest son would study there.