Photo courtesy of Sandro Chumashivili

By: Kelsey Chase ’24 (she/her)

We Are Wildcats is a human-interest column which aims to share the extraordinary within the ordinary at Davidson College and to showcase the inspiring things that make each and every Wildcat unique. If you wish to be featured or feel someone’s story needs to be heard, please feel free to contact wearewildcatsDC@gmail.com! Stay tuned for future stories!

Sandro Chumashivili ‘24 (he/him) on coming to Davidson as an international student from Georgia and how his upbringing shaped his goals and interests. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is your name, graduation year, and hometown?

A: My name is Sandro Chumashivili, I’m from Georgia, and my hometown is Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia. My graduation year is 2024; I’m a freshman.

Q: So what is your favorite spot to hang out and around campus?

A: Well, I really love my room when there are no restrictions, because I feel like I made it pretty cozy with all the lights with good music, and some good puffy chairs. But then during the restrictions, when we’re not allowed to have people in our rooms, I really enjoy Union by the pool place. I also enjoy the library, I spend a lot of time in the library on the first floor. It’s a good place to both work and also to talk with people. 

Q: Tell me a quick background about yourself.

A: Well, I am from Georgia; I’m an international student.  For 11 year, from K to 10 I went to private school in Tbilisi. Then I got accepted to a very high-quality international high school called UWC in Armenia. They are like an international chain, they have colleges in 18 different countries. There were 234 students from 84 different countries, so it was extremely multi-national and multicultural. And I got an IB Diploma, which actually prepared me a lot for college academics, even for such difficult programs like Davidson, and most importantly, it help[ed] me to get to know different people’s points of views. For example, I would go to one room, and there is, like, people from very politically conflicted countries like Israel and Palestine, then there is also Georgia and Russia and Japanese or American or Vietnamese best friends.  So it actually shows you that… there are many misunderstandings and problems when people start talking and communicating, it’s actually much simpler and possible to solve this problem. So there are no problems between people and speaking politics.

Q: So, how’s the transition to living in the United States after living internationally?

A: Well, it was challenging in the first month, because the country is totally different. The simplest example would be that when you guys talk about shows. Most of the shows and series that I watched were either in Georgian or Russian. So I was like, “What are you talking about?,” and they would explain the importance. So, it was slightly hard to make connections to people because of differences in backgrounds, but otherwise people here have been very welcoming. I believe I was very open for the new connections as well. After the first month, it got easier and easier, and I now feel like a part of this country.

Q: What’s made you feel most at home here?

A: Well, people, mostly people, because most of them have been very welcoming and very warm and very supportive. Especially a few of upperclassmen who already had set roads here, so they were very open to answering questions, supporting me, and also the college as well. They have made some very important steps to help international students. For example, host family programs, like I got so close that I spent the whole winter break with them. We traveled together to Florida, we spent Christmas together. So, in general, the environment has been very friendly most of the time.

Q: How has integrating into the Davidson community been with regard to the pandemic affecting social life on campus? 

A: I deliberated a lot about how to deal with balancing the academic, social life and extracurriculars. So, when I thought about it, I realized that there’s no better time for me to focus on my academics, extracurriculars, and career-related things than this year. So this is the advantage of a lack of social life. I tried to fill it up with professional goals, which actually worked out amazing; not only did it help me to push myself forward on a professional scale, but also allowed me to meet a lot of people. Because during the times of pandemic, when the fun stuff is relatively not happening, professional meetings are very active. Most of the people that I know that I’m friends with, they are from either my jobs or SGA or different projects that I’ve been handling this semester. Yeah, so I believe it’s worked out well. 

Q: How has your upbringing and background influenced your academic interests?

A: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I am very interested in economics and finance. I didn’t study economics before I went to Armenia to UWC college, but then I fell in love with it. Because the more I studied, the more I understood how messed up the economics of my country is, like, how many problems or how little people know. Then, when I started digging deeper and deeper into the theory of economics, I realized that it’s not actually just an isolated part of the world. It’s interconnected with everything people do from the social perspective. Just for example, if you want to be a doctor or if you want to own a hospital or something like that, you need to know how it works, where to get funds from how the government can support you, what incentives to give to make it happen, or when it comes to the salaries. It’s all the consequences of the economic theories. So I believe that the more I dig deeper into it, the more positive impact I can make, whether it’s in the U.S. or in Georgia.

Q: What made you want to run for SGA? How have you been enjoying it so far?

A: Well, when I came here in September, I started talking with people about the problems that Davidson is facing, mostly first years; then I also got in touch with sophomores, juniors and seniors. The question that I always ask is, if there is a problem, how can it be solved? Why do we not try to solve it, because it’s very difficult to come up with a small-scale problem that literally anybody cannot solve? Like, for example, I see a problem that mental health counselors are messing up, which makes people unhappy. Then I realized, look, there is no way of keeping them accountable. There is no way of maybe some negative feedback form, or maybe there is a problem in the management, right? There’s always something you can improve. Yeah, that’s one of my latest projects as well. And then SGA was pretty good, especially for the first few months, because I gained a voice, and I gained the connections, and I got to know who to go to. Right now, I have a very strong feeling that everything I do as a class president, I can do as an individual. 

Q: What are your future aspirations?

A: Well, for the short term, I have some startups, which I want to kick off. I also want to learn more about the field; I’m interested in economics and finance and potentially short-term getting a good job in the field of finance. In the long, long, term, like in 2042, when I’m forty years old, I really want to go back to Georgia as an influential person and gain power and then make good things. For example, either as a member of the government or as the head of the government, because I believe that Georgia has a lot of potential, which can be used if a group of smart people get empowered.

Q: Do you have any tips for future freshmen?

A: Yes. First and foremost, reach out to as many people and professors as you can. The biggest blessing, which has been keeping me strong this year, was me having a startup idea when I was in quarantine. I just emailed a few professors who had no idea who I was. One of them is now my advisor. [The] second is now my employer. [The] third is a very good friend of mine with whom I have lunch like every week, and who actually helped me a lot and helped me a lot to integrate into the society. So, professors or friends, talk with them. And there is nothing you cannot change because you’re freshman, like when you’re freshman, you mean as much to this college as people who have been here for four years. Plus freshmen have an advantage. The older you get, the more you tend to close your eyes upon some problems. As a freshman, you can see everything. You can see every disadvantage, and you have the power to change it.