J-Term Trip to Tbilisi, Georgia

Harvard students are welcome to apply for the opportunity to visit the country of Georgia in January 2024 on a two-week, non-credit J-term trip.

The Davis Center's J-term program in Georgia is a unique opportunity for Harvard students (undergraduates and graduates) to explore the history, arts, and culture of Georgia.

A Brief Introduction to Georgia

Georgia is an ancient country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Its northern border is formed by the Caucasus mountains, which stretch from the Black Sea to the Caspian. To Georgia’s south are Armenia and Turkey, to the east Azerbaijan, and to the north Russia. Georgia has been fought over by empires for millennia — from the Roman and Byzantine to the Ottoman and Russian. As a result, Georgia is home to peoples and languages from all over the world. The distinctive Georgian language has its own alphabet and is linguistically unique. Georgian traditions of poetry, dance, and hospitality have always attracted European poets and writers. Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin, Alexandre Dumas, Knut Hamsun, and John Steinbeck have all written about their journeys to Georgia.

After over a hundred years in the Russian Empire and another 70 in the USSR, Georgia regained its independence in 1991. Since then, Georgia has been struggling to build a new system of democratic governance and satisfy the requirements of EU membership. Georgia’s strategic location between Russia and Europe has enhanced its geopolitical importance since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.


The capital city of Tbilisi was established over 1,500 years ago and is one of the great architectural gems of the Caucasus. With a population of over a million, the city has all the modern attractions of a great city: diverse architecture, art galleries, street cafes, parks, dance clubs, concert halls, and jazz venues. Georgian food is spectacular with influences from the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. Tbilisi is safe and transport is easy by subway, bus, taxi, and BOLT, Europe’s equivalent to Uber.

The Program

This two-week, non-credit course is designed for undergraduate and graduate Harvard students from any discipline or department. The program will be led by Professor Stephen Jones, director of the Program on Georgian Studies, and Mzia Shanava, Georgian language teaching assistant at Harvard. There is no language requirement, although Ms. Shanava will provide lessons “on the road” to teach elementary conversational Georgian.

There will be lectures on Georgian history and politics by Professor Jones and local professors. The lectures will explore state-building in the South Caucasus, Georgian-Russian relations, civil society and the environment, and Georgian art and culture. Participating students will also visit the Foreign Ministry, the Presidential Office, the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts, and tour Tbilisi to explore its Soviet past. There will be weekend excursions outside the capital to historical and archeological sites.

Upon your return, you will be expected to write a short essay reflecting on your experience in Tbilisi.  

Program Logistics

Program participants will depart from Boston Logan Airport on/about January 4, 2024, and return to Boston on/about January 19 (exact dates are dependent on flight availability).

Participating students must hold a valid passport. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Georgia.

  • Check here to confirm if your citizenship qualifies for visa-free entry to Georgia.
  • Information about travel and safety in Georgia can be found at the U.S. State Department Travel.State.Gov website.

Hotel accommodations, all international and in-country travel costs including excursions, and meals will be covered by the Program on Georgian Studies at the Davis Center.

Required Readings will be provided and must be read prior to departure.


Applications for the January term trip to Georgia are due October 25, 2023. Offers of admission will be made in early November, and students will have one week from date of notification to accept the offer.

The application must include:

  • Your Harvard transcript 
  • Your resume 
  • One letter of recommendation from a Harvard professor 
  • A 300-500 word statement of purpose. Your statement should address your interest in traveling to Georgia and how the trip will advance your academic studies at Harvard.

Application materials should be submitted via CARAT where you will be required to submit the information of a professor from the university to write a letter of recommendation for you. Students who are in their first term of enrollment at Harvard may instead submit a recommendation from a recent non-Harvard instructor. If you are a first year graduate student please submit your college transcript and if you are a first year undergraduate please submit your unofficial transcript.Shortlisted candidates may be asked to participate in a brief interview with Stephen Jones as part of the application process.

An orientation program for participating students will be held in December 2023.


Please reach out by email to Allison Hart, Program Coordinator: ahart@fas.harvard.edu