Ioseb “Soso” Gabelaia ’10 is originally from the Republic of Georgia. He was born in Sukhumi but raised in Batumi because of the dangers of war.
On a whim during his first year in college in Georgia, Soso filled out an application to study in the United States. It was sort of an afterthought, however, and the night before it was due, he realized he needed to turn in three essays with his application. Without the time to complete them, Soso got creative and a little spirited. In place of the essays, he wrote on his application that the judges would never be able to know him in three essays, and that they should invite him to interview as a semifinalist in order to learn more about him. It worked.
That same creative and spirited personality no doubt came through in the semifinals process, which included an interview with, among others, a representative from Graceland University. This was the first time Soso had heard fluent English and, even so, he passed his English test and won the chance to study in the U.S.
It was the fear of telling his mom that hit him first. She had had to give up her goal of completing her PhD due to the country’s war state and had hopes for her children to do more. So, knowing it would just be a year, she gave her blessing, and Soso began to prepare for his journey, although he did not yet know where he would study. Finally, he learned that Graceland University had chosen him.
Soso spent seven weeks in Washington, D.C., before coming to Iowa, and, with expectations of the America he had seen in the media – Los Angeles and New York City – Lamoni was even more of a shock then he anticipated. In order to take his mind off the longing to be home, he soon began taking on every new opportunity he could find.
When his year was over, he went home to his family, but something was missing. He had made a home in Lamoni and missed the people. So again, with his mother’s blessing, Soso prepared to return to the U.S. But this time, Soso chose Graceland.
Once back on campus, Soso thrived. He was named president of International Club, and worked as a student caller for Admissions as a junior and senior, which led to a position as an Admissions intern after graduation. Working in a comfort niche with international students, when he was offered the west coast territory as a full-time admissions counselor, he was more than a little nervous. However, not one to shy away from a challenge, Soso got creative and a little spirited, accepted the position and continued to grow.
Through hard work and commitment to success, Soso enjoys being the first face of Graceland for people who are nervously approaching a new phase in their lives; whether it be as a new college student or the parent of a new college student. His job is more than a paycheck – he has a passion for assisting the next generation and he believes in the values of Graceland University. “When you’re talking to families,” he says, “you have to believe what you’re selling.”
Soso believes in the Graceland experience. He has lived it. Even now, when he talks to other alumni, especially international graduates, he says they joke about this crazy place where, once you step foot on campus, something will always pull you back. He believes it’s mostly the people, and he’s busy creating new generations of alumni who he believes will one day feel the same.
“It was the best choice I made to come back to Graceland,” he says. “I’ll always be proud that I’m here and that I call myself a Yellowjacket.”
“Soso is one of those individuals who has realized that life is full of opportunities and excitement,” says Kevin Brown, Director of Graceland University Admissions. “Admissions was not just about getting a job for Soso; it was about getting the chance to give back to the school he grew to love and make a difference. It’s not just a job, it's his life.”
Now the Associate Director of Admissions at Graceland University, Soso has started his eighth recruiting class. He completed a Master of Education in Instructional Leadership from Graceland in December and has made a promise to his mom that he will reach his next goal of achieving her dream of a PhD.