By Stephanie Malench
During the 2021-2022 school year, the Times-Tribune will feature a monthly column from Mari Chokheli, 17, an exchange student from Georgia attending Triad High School as a senior and living in St. Jacob with Raymond and Trina Muniz.
Chokheli comes from Gori, Georgia, which has a population of approximately 45,557 and is located an hour from the country’s capital, Tbilisi (population one million). Georgia is approximately the size of Tennessee (26,000 square miles) and has a population of approximately four million.
Georgia has its own language (Georgian) and alphabet of 33 letters. Approximately 20% of the country is still occupied by Russia, mostly the northern region.
Back in Georgia, Chokheli’s mother serves as the athletic director for a sports school and her father is a police chief. She also has a 14-year-old brother and two cats.
Chokheli’s hobbies include listening to American music, going the movies in Tbilisi or watching them at friends’ houses, making jewelry, and walking around Gori with her friends.
Chokheli chose to come to the United States as an exchange student because she has always been interested in America through her exposure to it through YouTube, TicToc, and other popular media such as music and movies (Tom Hiddleston is her favorite celebrity).
The youth in Georgia speak English, while their parents and grandparents speak Georgian and Russian.
The biggest difference for Chokheli at school is that at Triad she gets to choose six classes at a time, whereas in Georgia all students take the same 13 classes (including Georgian, Russian, English, history, geography, math, environmental science, biology, chemistry, physical education, and others).
Chokheli and the Muniz family did not find out that they had been matched up for this year until July 27. Their first video chat was on July 29 and Chokheli began her trip to the United States on August 3, arriving in St. Jacob on August 4.
In future columns, Chokheli will write about various experiences she has in the United States and her thoughts. Below is a message to the readers written in Georgian and English.