Ayla Akhmedova was born and raised in Baku, Azerbaijan, and has always dreamt of getting an international education.
As the saying goes, ‘seek and you shall find’ – in 2018 she came across an announcement on social media that the new Eastern Partnership European School in Tbilisi, Georgia, was open for admissions. What instantly drew Ayla’s attention were the school’s international programme and free tuition for students from the six Eastern partner countries.
The girl sent her application in the spring of 2019, and after a rigorous admission process she was eventually enrolled in the school. Today, 17-year-old Ayla is in the 11th grade and has a promising future ahead.
“I have never thought my life would change so quickly,” she says.
The EU-funded school offers a two-year academic programme based on the European School system. Graduates receive an International Baccalaureate diploma with a focus on European studies. The EU covers Ayla’s accommodation, bus fare, two trips home a year, and even participation in summer school programmes and conferences.
Studying under the International Baccalaureate programme is not a walk in the park. Ayla’s school schedule is quite different from that of her peers back home. While Azerbaijan has double shift schools – meaning that one group of students attends in the morning and the other group in the afternoon – classes at the Eastern Partnership European School start early in the morning and run until 4pm, with breaks for rest, breakfast and lunch.
“Our teachers are great. I have never met such friendly educators,” the young student says. “They all have different cultural backgrounds and teaching methods. My classes are taught by teachers from Georgia, the USA and Spain.”
In addition to doing well at school, students should also take part in extracurricular activities – a requirement for getting a diploma. This can include theatre performances, participating in summer school programmes or conferences, or developing social projects.
“This is necessary so that students not only learn information, but also develop their communication and presentation skills, as well as their creativity. The school wants to ensure that every graduate comes out a well-rounded individual,” explains Ayla.
Looking forward, Ayla wants to be a child psychologist.
“My dream is to work with children. Childhood plays a crucial part in our development. Early life trauma can shape a person's behaviour, making them bitter and cruel. I want to help children and make the world a better place.”
Ayla’s advice to her peers is: “Believe in your strength, do what inspires you and follow your dreams! You are capable of many things if you are serious in your field. And of course, it is important to love yourself – love is a powerful emotion with a lot of potential.”
New school admissions started in January 2020. The school will select 35 of the best-performing candidates, aged 16–17, from the six Eastern partner countries. The selection process will consist of written tests and an interview. Admissions are open until 28 March 2020.
Author: Elena Ostapenko