How I ended up in Belgium: Leaving orthodox Georgia to chase opportunities

| Dit artikel past in een opdracht voor studenten uit het eerste jaar met als onderwerp cmp - international programme.

Elene Sainishvili, a 19 year old woman is posing in front of some plants.

Elene moved from Georgia to Belgium to study engineering, hoping for a better future /Credit: Evy Coeckelbergs


When I was eight, I knew I wanted to leave the country. The typical Georgian life – study, marry, work, die – is not made for me. I wanted more than the average Georgian.

I knew I wanted to leave the country from a young age because my ideas didn’t align with those of the church and some of my friends. Whereas I love learning new things and talking about different people’s perspectives, my friends weren’t as open-minded and followed the stereotypical Georgian path. I couldn’t express my feelings and opinions, which felt suffocating. In a period of self-exploration, I became agnostic. Although my parents didn’t penalize me, I felt extremely judged. Every fault I made was because I didn’t believe in God. My mom can’t accept me for who I am and still thinks that I will eventually change my mind again.

How can I call a country my home when it doesn’t even accept me for who I am? It tells me to hate parts of myself that I love.


Likewise, my parents would never accept my unconventional lifestyle. That’s why I decided I would carry this huge burden by myself. The church and the government work closely together and spread orthodox propaganda. How can I call a country my home when it doesn’t even accept me for who I am? It tells me to hate parts of myself that I love.

My dream of moving abroad came true when I left Georgia a few months ago in search of a better education. Belgium offers a high-quality education that is equal for men and women. I’ve learnt more in Belgium in the past few months than in Georgia my whole life. I learned more not only in school but also about life and the world. As a nineteen-year-old, I learned to do my own administration and care for myself.

Although Belgium is not as perfect as portrayed, it’s the country where I felt safe for the first time in my life. I can walk home during the night on my own and I can ask for help without being judged. People have a completely different mindset than I was used to. How people behave and even dress shows a huge difference between Belgium and Georgia. I see professors on bikes and people dressed casually and smiling on the streets. It’s something that would never happen in a country where everybody sees each other as competitors, where everything is about money and the mindset is materialistic.

For example, in my country, the doctor’s profession is elite. The idea of being one has always been romanticized by my parents, who are both doctors. As I grew older, I realized I didn’t want to live my parents’ life. The wages are horrible, they’re treated badly, and the degree is not recognized by the European Union or the United States. I liked science, but I decided I found myself more in engineering, although I was being pushed into medicine. My mom, disappointed that I wouldn’t continue their legacy, was still very supportive.

I couldn’t be happier to get out of the country but moving to Belgium came with a lot of doubt and confusion.


It was a culture shock for me to discover that certain countries are not as magical as what has been told. I couldn’t be happier to get out of the country, but moving to Belgium came with much doubt and confusion. Did I make the right decision? Living here is lonely and difficult. I finally found some like-minded friends, but despite that, I would go insane if I had to stay here alone for the rest of my life. The Georgian songs, the food and my family are some things that I miss, but my future is still undecided. I might move to Germany. I might move to Singapore. I have no idea.

We’re ‘the one generation’ to change Georgia, but you’re not able to change the system if you stay there, so my move was for the better. There is a constant fear of war, and everyone is armed and scared. I want to be a bigger part of the change in Georgia and eventually go back. The government needs to listen to the people and go in the direction of the West instead of turning towards Russia. I participated in protests in fear for my own life and education. We were being gasbombed in an attempt to make a difference. But with the current government, there is no hope for a better future. No hope for me to return to Georgia.

De auteur

Evy Coeckelbergs

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Student international journalism, passionate about photography and exploring the world!