From Shy Guy to Student Leader: How Valencia Changed His Life

Giorgi Beraushvili may be a big man on campus today, but when he started his first semester at Valencia College, he was shy and introverted.

“For most of my first semester, I was coming to classes, going home, studying and, in my free time, watching TV shows,” says Giorgi, 19, an international student from Eastern Europe. “I didn’t talk to anyone. I was even afraid to ask questions at the information desk.”

But after several months – without any friends or family in the U.S. – he decided something had to change. “I didn’t like my life and I knew I had to change it,” says Giorgi.

So Giorgi remembered a club that he’d heard about at orientation – the Valencia International Club – and started attending their meetings. At first, it was a little awkward because so many students were from Latin America that nearly everyone in the room spoke Spanish. But Giorgi, who is from Georgia (no, not Atlanta, the Georgia in Eastern Europe), kept going.

Soon, he was attending events and even helping put them on. By the end of the semester, he’d befriended the president of the club and decided that he wanted to run for president the next year.  Along the way, one of his international student friends suggested Giorgi apply for a job with Valencia’s Student Development team – and today, he’s a Wellness Ambassador.

“I love this job – it’s more than a job for me. It’s windows of opportunity – because we plan events and we meet with other student groups to help them plan events,” says Giorgi. Today, he’s on campus about 12 hours a day, and knows hundreds of students and employees.

Giorgi, a political science major, came to the United States for an education because a degree from an American college or university is more highly valued than one from a Georgian college. Although he was offered a full scholarship at one of Georgia’s top universities, he instead began researching community colleges in the U.S. – and when he learned that Valencia won the Aspen Prize and was named the best community college in the nation in 2012, he was sold.

After he graduates in May 2018, Giorgi plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida and earn a bachelor’s degree in international relations.

But for now, he’s relishing his time at Valencia – and making the most of it, from helping to organize Spirit Day and Spirit Week activities to preparing to go with other Wellness Ambassadors to a conference in Denver.

“Leadership changes people,” says Giorgi. “Last year, I could never imagine being the host of an event, but this year, I hosted a big talent show here on campus. Valencia has really changed my life.”

“I have made many good decisions in my life,” he says, “but the best decision was coming to Valencia. Now I tell all my friends in Georgia that they should come here.”