Six years, dozens of speakers, hundreds of attendees and just one country- these numbers represent a project called Suitcase Stories in Georgia. Tracking down its history goes back to 2013 when FLEX Alumni Coordinator of Georgia, Marika Kurdadze ’09 (Akhaltsikhe, Georgia/ Roscommon, MI), launched this brand-new initiative for her alumni community. The first Suitcase Stories event took place on February 12, 2013 and opened with this mission statement: “This project aims to invite speakers who have interesting, funny, creative, unbelievable, and inspiring stories to share with young people. Our guests will be famous figures, people who traveled to exotic places, have different experiences, and are eager to share them with our alumni.”
To this day, the mission and format of the event series has not changed: alumni still gather at the same table where the Suitcase Stories project was born. This project has hosted speakers such as Mark Mullen, former Chairman of the Board at GeoCapital, co-founder of Radarami, and owner of multiple businesses in Georgia; Maura Fulton, Senior Advisor to the Director of Peace Corps Georgia; and Julius Tsai, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy Georgia. Many successful senior FLEX alumni have also spoken at the event including Giorgi Akhalkatsi ’01, Ketevan Bochorishvili ’98, Giorgi Chaladze ’03, and Teona Mikadze ’97.
On June 18, alumni gathered around the table to meet Amaris Wade, a motivated, passionate and inspirational young professional who had many unique stories to tell. After Amaris graduated from the University of Kentucky, she received a 2019-2020 Fulbright Research Grant to China and a Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA) for Mandarin studies. Amaris currently serves as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.
This particular Suitcase Stories event was special because it was the first event for the newly returned FLEX alumni. The alumni asked interesting questions and after the session was over they stayed to chat with Amaris. That day, alumni of 2019 began to fully grasp the importance of the Suitcase Stories tradition, and, more importantly, the history of the alumni community in Georgia. Before leaving, they said that they finally felt at home again.
Written by Tea Mikadze ‘16