June 25, 2014
AUCA welcomes 12 students from the United States who come to Bishkek as part of the AUCA-Bard Summer Internship Program. We’ve spoken with three of these students about their impressions so far of Bishkek and the summer program.
Roksana is a rising junior from Middlebury College. She is majoring in International and Global Studies with a focus on Russian and East European Studies and a major in political science.
Why did you decide to come to Bishkek?
I came to Kyrgyzstan to do many things—to sightsee, to meet new people, to eat amazing food, but most of all, to learn. I want to learn about Central Asia—a diverse and wonderful region that gave birth to me. Bishkek is a city full of different people and histories, which is why it’s a great place to learn about the whole Central Asian history and politics! My group and I sightsee and visit popular places here in Kyrgyzstan. Last weekend, for example, we went on an arduous but exciting hike at Ala Archa. Besides various trips, I take a seminar class here on post-Soviet development in the region and then take part in two internships—both with the Tian Shan Policy Center. They were kind enough to take me under their wings. Currently, I am researching about Central Asian migrants and trafficking.
What do you like about Bishkek?
I grew up in multicultural societies—first in Tashkent, then in Brooklyn, New York, and then in a small town called Monterey in California. I love culture and I love seeing different people come together and exchange ideas, food, and styles, which is why I like Bishkek. It has Uzbek, Uighur, Russian, Kyrgyz, and Korean restaurants. And while the marshrutkas (buses) scare me witless, I love the people here, who are helpful, trusting, and honest. Actually, a couple of days ago I ran out of smaller bills while getting food in the AUCA cafeteria. The kind cashier looked at me and took pity and told me to bring the 20 soms when I could. I kept my promise. Her trust warmed me to my toes.
What makes Bishkek interesting and different?
It is definitely its marshrutkas, at least, in my experience! Of course, the delicious food from various places is present here, too—one minute, I can be eating in a Uighur restaurant and the next I can be in Sierra Coffee Café. Definitely cannot forget about the milk used for coffee! It actually tastes like milk unlike the ones I had in the states. Furthermore, Bishkek has the blend of the old and the new; madrassas, mosques, Soviet-style buildings, and modern styles are all present here. You can imagine the bustling bazaars and people on horses riding by different stalls and while walking by certain government buildings and statues of Lenin, you can imagine what the Soviet times were like. History is documented here.
Where are you from and what exactly do you want to explore in Kyrgyzstan?
I mentioned that I am from the United States, specifically from California. Before living in U.S., I was born and raised in Tashkent until I was ten years old. My childhood was in Uzbekistan, whereas my intellectual upbringing takes place in the U.S. The last time I visited Central Asia was in 2005 and I was missing it, so after finding about the AUCA-Bard Summer Internship Program I applied immediately. I want to see how Central Asia has changed and how it remains the same. I am glad that my favorite childhood foods are offered here: Kinder eggs, shahlyks, Rossia chocolates, Bomba ice cream, and etc. I had to try gas water (soviet soda)! By eating these foods, I am finding out the precise changes here. I am also in Bishkek, which is saturated with politics, so I can learn about the latest intrigues and skirmishes. Due to the large number of NGOs in Bishkek, I can explore the topics I am interested in (migration and trafficking).
What do you like about the AUCA?
It is the fact that it exists. Without this institution, I would not have been here in Bishkek and I would not have met such wonderful people. The AUCA students seem top-notch and they are extremely helpful and nice. They go out of their way to help the students in our group and me. My host sister showed me AUCA’s Diversity Week, which I greatly appreciated. I am glad AUCA is committed to cultural diversity! I am grateful to Bard and AUCA for giving me this opportunity!
Haley Goss-Holmes is from the suburbs of Washington D.C. She studies at Bard College in New York.
Tell us please what classes do you take at AUCA?
I’m taking two classes, one in survival Russian and the other a cultural studies class of Central Asia, as well as working at an internship for developing a community indicators report for Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan as a whole.
What do you most like in Bishkek?
I love how walk-able the city is! The sidewalks are big and there are a lot of lovely parks. I also love the food and my host family. And how I can drink tea with every meal, even in the summer.
What is the most unique thing for you here in Kyrgyzstan?
Well, the language is completely new to me so that in itself is a huge difference. Babushka’s yelling at people to give up their seats on the marshruktas (buses) is also a completely new phenomenon. A lot of people squat instead of sitting on the ground, there is a high amount of high heel wearers, and, again, marshruktas…
What do you like about the AUCA?
I really like my teachers and the cafeteria has super yummy food. The physical building is also really pretty; I like the center outdoor sitting area for reading.
Charles Dobbins is from North Carolina, majoring in Russian Studies and minoring in Political Science at Drew University.
What are you doing here in Bishkek?
I am working at Tian Shan Policy Center and doing a seminar on Central Asia and International Relations. I also try to work on my Russian and a little on Kyrgyz.
How did you know about the summer school program in Bishkek?
My academic adviser at my university recommended me, because I already had an experience in studying abroad, I’ve already been to Russia, and I really wanted to go to a different place; that is why I chose Kyrgyzstan.
What do you most like in Bishkek?
The weather here is really nice, of course it is hot but in the US it is really humid which makes heat a thousand times worse. People here are very nice and it is much cheaper here than at home.
And what about some unique and wonderful places you have visited here?
We went to Ala-Archa Mountains. That was fantastic! It was a good hike and I have really enjoyed it. So far it is my favorite part of the trip, but it is still only the beginning.
Aside from your studies and internship, what do you do each day?
If I have time I go and explore Bishkek and hang out with my host family.