UWSP graduate headed for her next adventure
Growing up in the Republic of Georgia (a former country of the Soviet Union that borders the Black Sea and Turkey), Darina Markozashvili began dreaming of studying abroad when she was nine and met an American Peace Corp worker.
Her dream became a reality when she was selected as one of 50 students of the former Soviet Union to study in an American high school for one year. Five days after her 16th birthday, she began a new adventure by flying alone to Wisconsin to live at the Wisconsin Rapids home of Bob and Rachel Lent, MS-HCR ’91, and attend Lincoln High School, where Rachel taught.
Six years later, Darina has made Central Wisconsin her home away from home and Rachel’s alma mater her own. On May 19, she graduated from UWSP as her host parents and her parents, Manana and Elguja Markozashvili, who traveled from Georgia for the ceremony, looked on with pride.
“Good things just keep happening,” said Darina, an international studies and business major. She will begin a new adventure this fall as a graduate student at Syracuse University in New York, where she earned an international studies fellowship with the help of History Professor Sally Kent.
It was due to the help of her host parents and Brad Van Den Elzen, director of the Foreign Student Office at UWSP, that she decided to stay in Wisconsin to attend college. She even lived with her host family and commuted to Stevens Point for her first three years.
"The people here really changed my life," she said.  Darina, "I have been given so many opportunities that I am thankful for.”
“UWSP is not too small or too big,” she added. “Everyone knows everyone. It’s friendly, it’s comfortable. It grows on you. It becomes like home. Now my host family is my family here.”
Darina has also made a mark at UWSP. She served as president and publicity director of the International Club and helped with the Portage County Cultural Festival and Festival of India. She also held several jobs, working as an admissions tour guide and for the Multicultural Resource Center, Diversity and College Access office, UWSP Foundation and Tutoring-Learning Center.
She was named a Chancellor's Leadership Award winner and also won the campus' highest honor, the Albertson Medallion. (Pictured right, with Chancellor Bernie Patterson at the Albertson Award ceremony.)
Each summer, she returns to her hometown of Kurdgelauri, which is just outside Telavi in Georgia, which she describes as a really old country the size of South Carolina—full of mountains and hospitable people.
As she looks forward to working in international relations or as a Georgian ambassador, she encourages students from all countries to study abroad.
“It’s an eye-opening experience,” she said. “You learn by being in a place, about yourself and others, all while making friendships. It’s fun and exciting. You will be amazed at what you can do. I’ve realized just how small the world is.”