Name / Department / Graduation year Maksad Donayorov / Software Engineering / 2013
What is the most interesting thing that you remember about being AUCA student?
It’s a bit hard to state a specific interesting entity that I remember about AUCA, since there were many of them, but relaying on the memories and happy time I could say that it was initiation ceremony where I participated during my freshman year. The highlights are about the people who were involved in that event and made it unforgettable.
Tell us about your career path?
Taking into consideration my academic life in AUCA, my career path started in December 2009, when I started to work as a waiter in International Restaurant L'Azzurro. Unlike, the other students from Tajikistan who had financial support, I needed to work to cover my living expenses. After six months of experience as a waiter I finally was appointed be the host manager and subsequently got the administrator position of the mentioned restaurant, in addition to Café Eldon owned by the same owner. Despite the fact that I was studying software engineering, it took me three years to be involved in restaurant business.
When applying to software engineering I was not sure that it was a right direction for me, thus I tried different positions in various companies later on. After the restaurant I got a job as a PR manager and web developer at Decor-Profi Company, holding that position for about a year.
After my graduation I was still on my journey of finding a right job as well as a direction that I could spend lifetime on. Consequently, I accepted the offer from the general director of Decor-Profi Company to be a Chief Executive Office of the company’s new branch in Astana. That step was a critical for me, since it would diversify my experience in the field that I graduated. Spending one year in Astana, I developed my organization management skills as well learning more about the internal structure of how company works, in addition to the goods import-export process and price policies on the market. Holding a CEO position for almost a year I decided that it’s not for me and I would like to return to software engineering environment. Therefore, I applied for a web developer position in Fast Monkeys Company in Espoo, Finland, that I found through AIESEC global organization’s platform. Currently, I am working as a full-stack developer in Fast Monkeys and can state that it is a job that I was looking for a long time.
Favorite thing about your job?
My current job is full of surprises and wonderful people, who are willing to help and teach anytime if there is a need. The company that I am working in has a great-elaborated structure and policies for its employees, mainly, the freedom of speech, participation and flexibility. Since software engineering is about cognitive ability, constant thinking and a sharp focus, creating a working atmosphere is significant and Fast Monkeys does it noticeably. Precisely, when it comes to traditional approach of management. The illustration can be argued by the idea that small things make big changes. To demonstrate, Fast Monkeys administration pay specific attention to small details such as an employee can enjoy video games during the work or do other chilling things.
Do you plan to go back to your motherland and contribute to its development? Why is it important for you?
Since my motherland – Tajikistan is a new developing country it needs experts in almost all areas and information technology is one of them. My contribution on its developing can be a meaningful after being fully qualified the mentioned area. In fact, my nearest future plan is to apply for master degree in computer science and continue working in Fast Monkeys, despite the desire of entrepreneurship in my motherland.
Happiest/proudest moment of your life?
Happiest moments were the first time I arrived to Bishkek and started to explore Kyrgyzstan. Specifically, orientation week was the most memorable and happy moment in AUCA life.
What are some tips that you would like to share with current AUCA students?
There is no special tip that I may share with current AUCA student, but I would rather recommend a bestseller book by Josh Kaufman “The First 20 Hours. How to Learn Anything... Fast!” which can be significant for any student. The main reason to endorse the mentioned book is that it is simple and has an ordinary pattern to guide the reader, while keeping focus on the significant issues to be solved.
What do you miss the most about AUCA?
There are lots of things that I missed about AUCA, but keeping it in the frame of academic life are conversations with professor Lance Tillman. He is one of the professors who impacted on my critical thinking and always had answers to my questions that most professors would just skip.
What are the most important things you liked about AUCA?
The diversity and freedom.
Your message to fellow classmates, alumni and professors
I would like to wish great luck for fellow classmates and confess that I missed alumni students with whom I studied. Finally, express my gratitude to all professors who contributed and facilitated me during my academic life. Specifically, FuMing, who played a significant role in my web development career; Dr. Karim Zerhouni, a professor who taught us to combine information technology and business world with the new approach of teaching, by motivating and guiding; professor Lance Tillman, who was always ready to help and spend his valuable time on advices and instructions; professor Makhinur Mamatova, who enlarged my knowledge and enhanced my interest about psychology with her unique approach of teaching; Dr. Skliar Sergey Nikolaevich for his patience in terms of teaching complex mathematical subjects and contribution; as well the entire software engineering department for support and instructing me during my education at AUCA.
Kubat Alymkulov, Business Administration’05, magna cum laude,
Audit Director and Equity Partner in Baker Tilly Bishkek
Started in KPMG, work for Deloitte and Touche Kyrgyzstan, Aiten Consulting Group, established local audit firm which subsequently joint global network Baker Tilly International. Baker Tilly International is the world’s 8th largest audit network which unites 26,000 people in 131 countries with Head office in London. As of today Baker Tilly Bishkek originated two more Baker Tilly offices in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan; provide audit, tax, accounting advisory, valuation and IT audit services throughout the region.
Professional certificates: ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Great Britain), CAP (Certified Accountant Practitioner, CIPA-EN), Certified Auditor of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The environment and technical base in University provide students all they need to realize potential and be prepared for success in long term.
Being employer for three countries of the region I can compare the quality of students we hire to our offices. AUCA annually provides hundreds of English speaking professionals which makes hiring process much easier in Kyrgyzstan. It is a great team of professors and students joint efforts of which provide strong base for success. Thank you, AUCA! You make our society and economy much better!
Канимет Исабеков - выпускник АУЦА 2014 года. После окончания учебы на факультете экономики, Канимет продолжил обучение в Центрально-Европейском Университете (CEU) в Будапеште. В данное время подходит к концу первый год его обучения. Канимет поделился с нами впечатлениями о своем новом опыте и полученных знаниях.
Каким был процесс поступления и почему ты выбрал Central European University (CEU)?
Процесс поступления был довольно простым, отчасти благодаря АУЦА. Мне не пришлось сдавать TOEFL, так как официальный язык преподавания АУЦА – английский, и поэтому я получил освобождение. Я написал Statement of Purpose на 500 слов в последнюю ночь перед дэдлайном, наверное, многие студенты меня поймут.
Особо запомнился процесс получения рекомендательных писем: 2 преподавателя, у которых я просил письма, должны были самостоятельно зайти в онлайн платформу CEU под определёнными логинами и паролями, получив их по ссылке, которую предоставил им я - в общем, процесс был очень нудный. Я боялся, что не получу писем ввиду такой непростой процедуры, но нет – особое спасибо Эльмире Мусуралиевой и Нургуль Укуевой за их поддержку. Немножко настораживало то, что нужно было заплатить 40$ за подачу заявления, но я всё же инвестировал эти деньги в себя и вот я здесь, в CEU.
Наверное, не я выбрал CEU, а СЕU выбрал меня. Спасибо АУЦА и кафедре экономики особенно. Подавал я всего в 3 места: Германия (ДААД), Россия (Высшая школа экономики) и Венгрия (CEU). Я выбрал СЕU по двум причинам: репутация и финансовая поддержка.
Во-первых, СЕU имеет очень хорошую репутацию среди Graduate Schools, что говорит о хорошем качестве образования. На данный момент CEU входит в рейтинг 100 лучших университетов по гуманитарным наукам. Также в АУЦА очень много преподавателей окончивших СEU, что является хорошей доверительной рекламой для студентов. Во-вторых, СEU даёт шанс студентам получить полноценную финансовую поддержку: я получаю ежемесячную стипендию, мед. страховку, бесплатное жильё и полностью покрытый контракт за обучение. Благодаря этому я могу сконцентрироваться на учёбе на все 100 и выжимать максимум из этого.
Как проходит процесс обучения?
Прежде, я никогда не был погружен в учёбу как сейчас. Процесс обучения в целом такой же, как и в АУЦА: онлайн регистрация, add/drop периоды, лекции, семинары и всё такое. Уровень нагрузки очень высокий. Очень много различных заданий и презентаций. В среднем студенты здесь спят по 5-7 часов и не обязательно ночью. Все студенты в классе очень мотивированы, активно участвуют в классовых обсуждениях, многие выходят за пределы классного материала и углубляются. Здесь все пользуются различными электронными календарями и планируют каждый день, так как на Masters без хорошего тайм менеджмента просто не выжить. Занятия проходят в очень свободной обстановке: в любой момент можно останавливать преподавателей и задавать вопрос - они уважают любую точку зрения студента. Уровень конкуренции в университете очень высокий: ведётся рейтинг по GPA, который отображается в транскрипте. Студенты здесь редко делятся домашними заданиями или своими оценками.
Что ты можешь сказать о первом годе обучения?
Первый год был очень продуктивный, насыщенный и вдохновляющий. Я познакомился со множеством людей с разных стран мира: у всех разные взгляды на вещи и мнения. Здесь практически каждый старше меня на 3-4 года. Общаясь с людьми старше своего возраста, становишься серьёзней. В процессе учёбы я стал намного ответственнее в отношении к жизни. Я значительно расширил свои знания в сфере экономики, а также понял, что интересует меня больше всего. Я действительно осознал, что хочу набраться профессионального опыта и применять его, вернувшись в Кыргызстан через некоторое время. Также я повидал множество красивых мест, как в городе, так и за его пределами. Этот год был для меня годом академического, культурного и, в какой-то степени, духовного обогащения.
Насколько тяжело было поступать сразу после окончания университета?
Лично мне было совсем не тяжело, так как я полностью осознавал, что ещё не совсем определился со своим будущим в плане карьеры, и нужно время, чтобы подумать, а заодно расширить свои знания во время учёбы в СЕU. Процесс поступления занял у меня не больше 10 дней.
Как тебе жизнь в новом городе, насколько тебе удобно?
Будапешт - очень красивый, интересный и оживлённый город. Первый месяц был для меня адаптационным, и было не очень легко. Но как только я привык, я осознал, что жизнь в этом городе чрезвычайно комфортна: транспорт здесь ходит по чёткому графику, ночью ходят ночные автобусы; цены такие же как в Бишкеке, сравнительно недорогие для уровня жизни Европы; люди дружелюбные, культурные и уважают закон. По выходным улицы города особо забитые – люди здесь очень любят отдых и вечеринки. Касательно английского языка: многие может и не знают его идеально, но учат, так что с английским здесь не пропадёшь.
Чем ты занимаешься помимо учебы?
Я учусь на двухгодичной программе, и на данный момент моя основная цель - это по максимуму разгрузить второй год, чтобы начать работать. Поэтому, помимо учёбы я в основном занимаюсь учёбой. В свободное время занимаюсь спортом и читаю русскую художественную литературу. Иногда хожу в кино и гуляю по городу.
Насколько образование в АУЦА отличается от образования в CEU?
Система образования в обоих местах идентична. Думаю, различия только в двух аспектах: уровень нагрузки и уровень ответственности, возлагаемой на студента. Вот несколько различий, которые я успел разглядеть на данный момент: пары здесь идут 110 мин, С+ здесь - это минимальная оценка, дальше идёт F; экзамены идут 2,5-3 часа; очень часто конечную оценку за курс определяет один финальный экзамен, который весит 80-100 % оценки; нет ограничения на количество кредитов за семестр - можно брать неограниченное число курсов, главное не завалить.
Твои пожелания студентам.
В первую очередь я бы посоветовал хорошенько подумать, зачем вам нужна магистратура. Если нужна, то СЕU - это отличный вариант. В СЕU есть множество одногодичных и двухгодичных программ. Помимо высококачественного образования, европейского диплома, подкреплённого американской аккредитацией, у студентов также появляется возможность попробовать себя на европейском рынке труда, пройти практику в интернациональных компаниях и действительно стать сильными специалистами в той или иной сфере. Вдобавок, Мастерс в СЕU - это отличная школа подготовки для тех, кто желает подавать на PhD в будущем. Выпускники СЕU проходят на PhD как в сам СЕU, так и в другие престижные университеты, такие как London School of Economics и Ivy League Schools, например.
Хочу пожелать студентам всегда следовать своей дорогой и планировать всё наперёд. Если картина будущего ещё не ясна, возможно, нужно просто больше времени, чтобы всё подумать и понять для себя, а не просто идти и делать что-то, что делают другие. Когда я поступал в СЕU, мой GPA был 3,2 - что не есть outstanding. Но, думаю, отборочной комиссии понравились мой Statement of Purpose и то, что думали обо мне мои преподаватели в рекомендациях. Очень часто важна не только оценка, но и другие факторы в совокупности. К примеру, какой опыт был у студента во внеучебной деятельности, где и сколько практик он проходил. Так что, будьте активнее, верьте в себя, ну и, конечно же, удачи!
Originally coming from Samarkand I moved to Bishkek in 2003 and graduated in 2006. I studied International and Comparative Politics and did minor in International Law.
Right after graduation I moved to Almaty, where I live now. I began as Logistics coordinator at the International Relations Department of one of the biggest banks in Kazakhstan at that time, Alliance Bank. I moved to the International Republican Institute (IRI) as a project manager when they reopened their office in Kazakhstan in 2008. After more than two years of working with political parties and NGOs in Kazakhstan I got a scholarship from Open Society Foundations and French Embassy and went to France where I got my MA degree in International project management. As a part of my MA programme I had a four-month internship at the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva.
Nowadays I work for the Transboundary Water Management project at the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC). The project is sponsored by European Commission and is implemented by GIZ and CAREC.
I think majority of AUCA graduates will laugh remembering sleepless nights of writing term papers when eyelids weigh more than a laptop and fingers are glued to the keyboard by transparency of thoughts and ideas. For me AUCA was not only a school of academic learning, it taught me to survive, to strive and finally to achieve. It was not always easy, especially in the beginning, but definitely it was worth it.
Those great teachers and good friends that I met at AUCA became very dear to me, and I am very thankful that I have such people as my friends.
European Studies (2012) & International and Business Law (2013)
Diyora Rafieva graduated from AUCA in two majors: European Studies (2012) and International and Business Law (2013). She shares the challenges while graduating and how much the sacrifices were worth it at the end. After successfully completing the dual degree Diyora now works for NATO and recently became a mother, which is the happiest and proudest moment of her life.
Can you tell us about your high school years?
Living in a family hotel in Samarkand, I was brought up in a truly international environment. Every day in the courtyard of our guesthouse, I would learn about a diversity of countries, languages, cultures and personalities. I grew up exposed to a great variety of professionals. A few times together with my mom, a guide-interpreter, I helped a journalist and moviemaker in producing articles, book and a documentary about my homeland for a European media. I routinely participated in discussions with UN officers and diplomats about political, security, human rights situation in the region and beyond.
In my middle and high school years, I was involved in theatre and acting, private classes in history, English and French languages. I enjoyed literature and absolutely loved evening shooting classes. Becoming a FLEX finalist in high school was a turning point in my life. I spent a year in the best US state ever: California.
You decided to do double major, why?
I can’t really point out why and when exactly I decided to do double major. I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunities offered at AUCA, I guess.… But to make the long story short, I entered AUCA as a freshman after two years in another university I didn’t like. A double major seemed to be unrealistic at first. When I started to take law courses, I became more and more attracted to international law, and decided to do minor in it. In my sophomore year, it was clear for me that I wanted to specialize in law.
What were the main challenges while doing two majors?
You really have to plan it! I practically lived and slept with requirements and deadlines from both departments. What even further complicated the situation was the change to Bard diplomas which added some more required courses. I was also furious to find out that one of the courses I took was not required anymore and that I had used up my credit limit. The double major is like a double trouble. Although you are more experienced the second time, a senior thesis is a senior thesis, defence is a defence and state exams are state exams.
Last but not least, I started wearing glasses. My sight went down. So, yes, the second major and US accredited diploma imply major stress, little sleep, less hangouts but still absolutely worth it. I almost forgot to mention, that while doing my double major I was also dating my now husband and working part time.
What did you liked the most about your education and your departments?
In European Studies, I enjoyed the multidisciplinary courses and the fact that I improved my French. To study one of the most developed (if not the most developed) system of the world was fascinating. By ‘multidisciplinary’ and ‘system’ I mean politics, economics, law, history etc. Our educational trip to the EU institutions in Brussels and Germany during my senior year was like and icing on a cake. I grew up with pieces of European culture at my home; it’s more me. I also have a deep respect and gratitude towards the head of the European Studies department, Lyubov Anatolyevna Jdanova, for her immense support, sincere and individual approach to the students.
The International Business Law appears to me more concrete and practical (even though my current profession is more connected to European Studies). I liked classes in international private and public law, human rights, and contracts. I appreciated professors of our department. To be honest, it was more challenging for me to obtain this degree. But paradoxically, my transcript is better in this major.
I also hope to combine my two degrees in my MA in the future.
Despite all the challenges, would you advise students to do double majoring at AUCA?
Of course, although the registrar’s office won’t like me for that… I used to give them hard times with my questions and needs. But obviously, this will open up more opportunities for graduates. You have a greater personal development.
The only negative thing is that you are restricted because of the requirements from both departments. You can’t take interesting elective courses just for fun or raise the GPA with easy classes. Other point some might consider not desirable – extra year at least you have to stay in the university. But despite the additional time, I personally enjoyed the overall process and the outcome a lot.
Did your two majors help you find the job of your dream?
Yes, I confirm with confidence that the education received in AUCA and my two majors were one of the main reasons for my current employer to hire me.
I am now working in NATO regional office as an administrative assistant. It was the first job I applied to while finishing up my degree. I went through a tough competition process and was shortlisted, but I didn’t have enough experience and wasn’t accepted at first. After graduation I applied to over 15 positions and found a decent job. The NATO contacted me six months later with a new offer.
Any personal tips you would like to share with current AUCA students?
Keep your eyes and minds open and use as many opportunities as you can!
And any additional message to fellow classmates, alumni and professors…
Alumni, thanks for the fun times we had. Professors, thank you for your knowledge and instructions. I miss you guys!
2. Tell us about your career path, and where you work now.
Before emigrating to Australia in 2004, I worked for ACCELS/USAID's National Testing Initiative project (Общереспубликанское Тестирование) for three years as a National Testing Administrator. My current career is in the investments industry. I work in Client Relations of Asset Servicing, which is one of the departments in National Australia Bank (publicly listed company, not to confuse with the Reserve Bank of Australia). NAB is one of the largest banks in Australia and has one of the highest ratings in the world. Asset Servicing manages investments for large pension funds and investment funds. I have been with NAB for over seven years.
3. What is the most interesting thing that you remember about being AUCA student?
For me, the most interesting thing was the number of fellow ACCELS high school exchange alumni. It helped us carry on our optimism about changing things for the better and join and multiply our efforts.
4. What are some tips that you would like to share with prospective and current students?
In Australia, there is a rite of passage: a lot of young people go travelling around the world on a working holiday before they start serious work and building their career. I would suggest AUCA students to start the same tradition.
5. Say few words to your fellow classmates and faculty.
I would like to thank the faculty for their great work! I am proud of many of my classmates for their outstanding contribution to Kyrgyzstan's development and wish them further success! Thanks to the world wide web, we are always in touch.
Cholponbek Jumashukurov: How a school boy from Cholpon-Ata became the first Kyrgyzstani with an MBA degree from Harvard
The interview of Cholponbek Jumashukurov has gained “wow” effect. Our new hero belongs to the category of a self-made men and women who fought their way to the top and shaped their own fate. Some of his secret to success is perseverance and diligence, not social origins or bank account. Cholponbek is the first Kyrgyzstani to hold a MBA degree from Harvard. From 2006 to 2008, this young professional studied at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Eight years later, he came back home – he always longed for his homeland. Today, Cholponbek Jumashukurov works for an investment fund and is actively involved in public activities – with his team, he supervises several schools, donates scholarships for the best school-leavers and shares his experience on how to enroll into MA courses of the world’s top universities.
MBA – Master of Business Administration – is a professional degree in management. MBA is great investment of time and resources; it requires persistence and thirst for knowledge. Cholponbek, alumnus of Harvard Business School convinced us about it.
“Hi, I’m Cholponbek!” – The young businessman welcomes us with a smile. He leads the way to his office, a small luminous room with two desks and one bookshelf with professional literature in English. Working zones are arranged in open space mode. Cholponbek and his assistant work together in one office. Our hero sits down at the worktable.
Please, tell us about your childhood.
I was born and raised in Cholpon-Ata, a beautiful resort town in Issyk-Kul region. I am the eldest of three siblings. For my parents, education was a priority. My dad worked as a civil engineer, my mom was a school teacher. She taught mathematics. In Soviet times, dad mainly worked in constructions. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he lost his job and started a small business. When I graduated from the university in Bishkek and truly established myself as a professional in auditing company, dad became the mayor of our hometown. My mom worked 33 years as a teacher. Now, my parents are retired and live in Bishkek. They always prioritize on our education and insisted us to learn English. I started to improve my English skills when an American volunteer from Peace Corps came to teach English at our school.
I think the upbringing of my parents deeply influenced my personality. I also liked to explore the world, read various books. Our home was always full of books. One of my favorite writers is Dale Carnegie.
Was it the library of your father?
Yes, my father loved reading all kinds of books, including fictions; I read a lot of them too. It was fascinating.
How well did you do at school?
My parents were very strict. I had to study very well and to get “A’s”. I always got high marks on all subjects. Only in music and drawing, I had “B’s”. There was nothing I could do about it. I was just not gifted (he smiles).
But your talent is definitely in a different area…
Obviously, yes. I remember, if I had “B”, my parents would not let me in (smile). As I said before, our family was very strict on education.
The ACCELS program also played a key role in my life. In my 11th grade at school, I received full scholarship to study in the United States for one year. I had heard about the program for the first time when I was in 8th grade. I always wanted to participate. But it was quite difficult. Too many talented and gifted children dreamed about it too. I tried my luck in my 9th grade. Even though I passed the first round I failed because my English was not good enough. I learned my lesson. I studied harder. Every day, I learned 10 new words, and banned radio and TV. As a result, I increased my vocabulary, and in 10th grade, I submitted my application again and won a scholarship. I moved to Montgomery, in Alabama.
When I came back home, I had learned English; seen the world; and felt more confident about myself. I entered AUK – American University of Kyrgyzstan, the former name of AUCA.
What lessons did you learn from your trip to the United States?
When I moved there, I was only 15 years old. There, I learned how to speak English fluently, and returned home as a more independent person. I lived one year far away from my family, and had to make decisions on my own. I became a young man, who knows what he wants in life. After that trip, I realized that I wanted to study business and do business.
What year did you enter AUK?
In 1998. It was the first years of the university. Before it was the Kyrgyz-American Department at the Kyrgyz National State University, after that it became the American University of Kyrgyzstan, and later, when I was graduating, our university was renamed as the American University of Central Asia. There, I studied Business Administration. AUCA was a great springboard for me. I made a lot of friends, with whom I still keep in touch.
During my junior year at AUK, I familiarized with the program of the German government for student exchange. After an intensive preparation, including on my German language skills, I applied. I was lucky and won the scholarship and entered a German university. I studied one year in Germany and then returned home.
What did you study?
Microeconomics. It was very hard to study economics in German. When I came back to Kyrgyzstan, I registered in senior year. And after graduation in 2002, I was hired by ATF Consulting auditing company. We audited projects, inspected banks and companies. It was the perfect auditing school for me.
How did the Kyrgyz market look like 12 years ago?
The national market wasn’t as developed as it is today. Mainly banks ordering auditing services and taking loans from international organizations asking for audits.
How long was that first work experience?
A year and a half. Then, I was hired by McKinsey – one of the leading international companies providing services in administrative consulting. I had to move to Moscow and worked there for two years and a half. I regularly traveled to CIS countries where we had various projects and needed to consulted large private companies and state organizations.
At McKinsey, I earned experience in consulting large organizations, in business-analytics and I learned different business models.
“I was lucky to enter four universities. It took me a long time to choose between Stanford and Harvard”
How did you enter the Business School of Harvard?
When I was studying in AUK, I came across an article about MBAs in the Russian magazine “Dengi” (“Money” in Russian). There were interesting records about universities with salaries of alumni and other information and interviews of students and alumni of Harvard and other leading universities. It triggered my interest and I started to read everything possible about MBAs. I realized that entrance exams were still quite long way. I wasn’t necessarily planning to enter Harvard. There were many other prestigious universities and I had just started my preparation.
While I was working for McKinsey Company, my supervisor encouraged me to take a MBA. At that time, I had already worked two years in the consulting company. In Harvard, it is common, that candidates have already worked in various business structures, consulting companies, investment banks, etc. I submitted my application while working at McKinsey. The process included filling in an online-form, CV, essay writing, recommendations, TOEFL and GMAT tests. When I passed GMAT test the first time, my results were too low. After two months, I took the test again and passed. I passed TOEFL test without any difficulties. After that, I had a phone interview.
What other universities did you applied to?
I applied to Stanford and Wharton Schools of Business in USA, French Business School INSEAD and Harvard.
What universities accepted you?
I was lucky. I was accepted to all four universities. It took me a long time to choose between Stanford and Harvard.
What made you choose Harvard?
Harvard is a brand in its own. Education is also more structured. It was a hard choice – both of them are the best (smile).
So it is possible to enter Harvard?
Yes, of course! There is nothing impossible in life. But you need to be prepared to work hard. Harvard is well-known, but there are other excellent universities in the world: Yale School of Management, Princeton University, Business School of Columbian University, leading London School of Business and many others. With perseverance, you can enter any of them.
Of course, you will have to make sacrifices too. It is difficult to study, prepare for exams and tests, and have fun at the same time.
There are various paths in life. First, you have to decide whether or not you need a MBA. Each path is special on its own way. No matter what life path you choose, you have to dedicate 100 percent of your efforts to achieve your goal. An MBA takes a lot of time and costs money. You’ll have to take loans for your education, which you will have to reimburse for several years. My education cost me 45K USD per year, and only for tuition. There were also extra living expenses. I was lucky to have a scholarship, but I still needed a loan to pay for half of my tuition fees.
When I completed my MBA, I was in debt. For my studies in Harvard, I took a loan for 15 years.
Was it difficult to study there?
I was overloaded the first year, and then it became easier. I liked the courses. In my second year, I took a lot of courses related to investments. The faculty was really strong. Michael Porter was one of our teachers.
Actually, the hardest step is the selection process, studying there is much easier. Most enrolled students graduate from the university.
What did you do after graduation?
In 2008, after graduation, I stayed in the US and started to work for Farallon Capital investment fund. I worked 5 years with them. There, I worked with investments in the US, South America and East Europe. I often travelled to Moscow. I learned a lot. I had never worked in the investment field before. So I learned how to analyze companies and about the macroeconomics of various countries.
Now you live in Bishkek. Why did you decide to come back?
Last year, I came back with my family to Kyrgyzstan. We always intended to return home. Once I had gained enough experience, reimbursed my loans and saved up some money, we decided to come back. I don’t need too much for living a good life. Regardless of wealth, what you really need is to have a home, sleep in one bed and eat three meals a day. You won’t be able to eat more even if you become richer. You can’t buy the true respect of your friends or the coziness at home either! I wanted to contribute to society. I could have been useful in San Francisco, but I think I can be much more useful here, in Kyrgyzstan. Also, we wanted to be closer to our families, relatives, and friends. This is also very important.
When I told my supervisors I wanted to return home, they were very surprised, but supported me. We made an agreement: I will represent their interests and carry out consultations on investments in CIS from Bishkek. And that is how I started my own investment activities.
“We don’t want to attract grants from international organizations, self-financing is more important for us”
This is what I know best. We audit various projects. Our aim is not just to give capital; we help companies with their strategy, and consult organizations about international market entry. But, the main purpose of the fund is to find investments.
With what business structures do you cooperate?
We only entered the market 8 months ago. At the moment our fund invested in several small projects: one in public catering, the other in export of domestic merchandises. We are currently examining other projects. It should be an active business, which is already profitable. And if it needs capital for expansion, we are ready to examine it.
You are also involved in public activities. What exactly do you do?
I always wanted to be useful and make some contributions to society. I like sharing my knowledge. I already made several presentations about international universities. I visit schools, meet with students, show examples of success and award scholarships to the best school-leavers. Last year, I visited 5 schools in Ysyk-Köl, Naryn, Talas regions.
In 2009, our team created ProKG professionals club (www.prokg.kg). Now, the club counts 35 members, and is open to all professionals who want to support our country. We share knowledge and help young people, future leaders of Kyrgyzstan. “My school” is one of our projects. It began in 2010. Our idea is that during fall, alumni go back to their school and tell senior students about their successful career. The aim is to show that hard work and persistence can be enough to enter university and have a good career. The three students of the school with the highest points in Kyrgyz national exam will receive scholarship. We generate funds for scholarship from our own means. Last year, we spent over 100 000 soms. We are not seeking grants from international organizations, self-financing is more important for us. Now we are supervising 8 schools and we are planning to add more.
Is your former school in this list?
Yes, it is already part of the program. I was happily surprised to see children with desire and ardor to learn. There are always a handful of school children with more vivid eyes, very interested, and asking a lot of questions. Obviously, these children have a great potential. When you see that thirst for knowledge, it is inspiring.
And about your personal life, can you tell us about it?
I’m married. We married before moving to the US. We have two kids of seven and two years old.
What are your plans for the near future?
We are going to stay here, in Kyrgyzstan. Now I’m busy with my job, and I want to develop this business. Today, Kyrgyzstan provides a lot of possibilities. We can do anything we want and where we want. I like this place. Of course, nothing is easy, but we owe to try.
Do you think that Haward educational standards are applicable here, in Kyrgyzstan?
I think they could apply very widely in Kyrgyzstan. In the US, students learn about business models, business strategies, marketing, and so on. They are already applying all of them. Here, there are virgin soils. Whether a young professional get a job with same wage as in international companies here? Probably not, but it is possible to launch new and profitable business here.
I couldn’t return to my homeland in 2008, because I had to reimburse my loans. I could only come back after 6 years. It is fine that some people want to live abroad. It is better to get experience abroad after postgraduate studies. The market value of young specialists increases in Kyrgyzstan following a career abroad. Theoretical knowledge is not enough, practical experience is important too.
I always longed for home. I was having a good career in the company I worked for, and I could have stayed there and be promoted. But I just thought I have enough experience and knowledge to use for the benefit of my homeland. I’m much more useful here than in California.
“Many people are wrong when they say that our economy is small”
And how are your knowledge and experience perceived here?
The most importantly is the way you think. You just have to apply your knowledge and experience. Just start your business, take the lead!
You lived abroad many years. How has Kyrgyzstan changed these last 10 years?
The country has become richer. Many businesses have been launched. Many people are wrong when they say that our economy is small. There are plenty of new buildings, cafés, trade centers, banks. It shows us that the economy is growing despite the fact that our country has been through two revolutions during last 10 years. Our country is doing better and better. Of course, there are lots to do still, but I’m sure, we are moving in right direction.
Please, could you share your wishes with our readers?
I would like to give several advices to those who want to take a master’s degree abroad. First, you have to know how much you really want it, because preparations will require huge efforts and time. You also have to be prepared to stay there. This is definitely not an easy decision to take. Also, always keep in mind that there is nothing impossible. When I studied in AUK, I attended one press-conference with Nurbek Turdukulov, who was the head of Areopag at the time. He was talking about the key factors of success, and said that when he was teenager he realized one thing: he wasn’t as gifted as other children, he couldn’t sing, he wasn’t good in sports and so on. The only thing he had was his diligence. I remembered his words. Diligence can compensate the lack of talents. After several years, he said that all things are possible! That’s why you have to set high targets. Believe me, everything is can become real: enter Harvard, Yale, Princeton, European and Asian universities. You have one great advantage, you are from Kyrgyzstan and there are not so many rivals in the region. My third and last advice: one of the best investments you will ever make is in your education. So, when you want to spend your money, always spend on your education: buy books, enroll in local courses, and choose activities which help you become better. Knowledge earns long-term benefits.
KUMAR SHARSHEMBIEV – an alumnus of Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA), one of the best universities in the world, graduated with a bachelor’s in computer engineering. He also received his master’s from ODU. After graduation, he was invited to stay in the US, but he decided to return home to support his country of birth. Kumar is a talented software engineer who currently teaches at the American University in Central Asia.
- You are a graduate of the one of the best universities in the U.S. Please tell us how you decided to go to this university.
- I graduated from the physics and mathematics-focused School #61 in Bishkek. I gained good knowledge there. While I was a senior there, my parents and I started to think about which university I’d attend. We examined Russian and Turkish universities. We recalled that my English teacher said that I have good English language skills (I loved this subject in school, and I did my best to learn it). He advised me to apply to an American university. His advice convinced me. I talked with parents, and it was decided that I would go to the US.
- What university did you choose?
- After long discussions with my parents, I chose Old Dominion University. I applied to a TOEFL preparation program in Almaty, sent all the necessary documents, and set out to Virginia. Entrance exams weren’t hard for me, as the main subject was mathematics. Since I graduated from a mathematics-focused high school, it was a snap. University advisors suggested I join the software engineering program, so I did.
- Tell us about this university. Was it difficult to study there?
- The Department of Software Engineering was one of the best and most prestigious departments at the university. A number of alumni are employed at NASA, as well as branches of the US military. Yes, it was difficult to study, because I had a heavy course load. I had no time to be bored. It should be noted that students in this department were really strong.
- Tell us about your impressions of student life.
- First year is easy. During this period, you determine in what direction you want to go. Classes become more difficult after the second year, but you can pick them yourself. At the same time, you have to remember that you are choosing a career. I knew a lot of American students for whom software engineering is their element. They are totally absorbed in it. We could spend 24 hours a day studying the topic, but nobody made us do it. Sure, it was necessary to study, but really, we just liked it. About 80 students, including myself, studied by choice in that department. We made it.
- What difficulties did you encounter?
- I think that software engineering is creative work. You should have different approaches to studying. Patience and assiduity are needed because you have to sit for hours and develop complex programs and algorithms. I want to say again that we had so much work, and were so excited by it, that we didn’t have much time to spend off campus. It was quite normal for us to spend hours working.
- OK, did you have any days off? How did you spend your free time?
- In my sophomore year, I started to work at the university. There was a team of students that operated the university’s computer system. I had friends on this team. I also communicated with students from other departments, not only with my classmates. Sometimes, we traveled in our free time. Our university was located in the American South, so sometimes we would take trips to northern states. I wanted to visit other places. We went to ski-resorts. Our holidays were always active.
- You studied outside of Kyrgyzstan. Can you make a comparison? What are the differences between the Kyrgyz and American education systems?
- The main difference with the American education is that you can take elective courses. Of course, there are required courses too, but even then you can select one of ten different classes to meet your requirement. All courses are filtered. I’m sure this system is good. I think that is the main difference.
- You know, of course, that corruption is rampant in the Kyrgyzstani education system and that this prevents us from training highly skilled specialists. Were you faced with corruption in America?
- American faculty members have good salaries. Government pays attention to education and science. There weren’t any cases where students gave bribes. That would be absurd. At most, students can cheat. Nothing more. If student fails a course, he or she repeats the year. Students can continue getting an education as long as necessary, providing her or she can pay for it. Everyone understands that education is the future. You can’t do anything in America without education. Americans choose their profession deliberately. It’s almost a spiritual choice. In America, people go to universities to get knowledge, and not for a certificate or diploma.
- Tell us about the hiring process in America. Here in Kyrgyzstan, we must present a CV.
- CV’s are not ruled out, but the main requirement is knowledge. For example, software engineers have four stage interview-tests. You have to answer questions, then develop programs. Naturally, an employer will check your diploma, it is also important, but they give priority to your skills and knowledge.
- You did well in your studies. Were you tempted to stay in America?
- You know, my fear of coming home and becoming a misfit was stronger than the temptation to live abroad. I was afraid that I wouldn’t achieve my goals. I know a lot of Kyrgyz guys who are studying and working in America. All of them want to return, but they have the same problem - fear. However, life in America is completely different and expensive. All nice things require money and effort. For instance, companies often ask their staffs to work until 9 or even 11 at night. Our citizens are not aware of how hard it is to live and work in the U.S.
There needs to be investment in youth. This investment is the future of every country. Corruption must be eradicated. Young people should enter to university to gain knowledge, not to get a diploma. Our nation has a lot of talented sons and daughters.
- Did you have plans when you decided to return home?
- I had some offers in Kyrgyzstan. I also wanted to come back. I learned in America that I wanted to teach and do research. After graduation, I badly wanted to join the faculty at AUCA. There isn’t corruption like you find at other Kyrgyz universities. The American University has a good reputation among students and faculty. Furthermore, the university strives for a high level of education; adheres to a principle of freedom of expression; has a serious approach to study and academic honesty. Taking all this into consideration, my decision was obvious.
- What can you say about the faculty at AUCA?
- When I decided to work in AUCA, I sent an application from America. After only a few days, I had a Skype-interview. This demonstrates the degree of seriousness with which the university regards its employees. The university’s hiring policy grants equal access to applicants to all vacancies. Race, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, age, political views or personal relations don’t influence hiring. AUCA does as much as possible to create favorable conditions for professional advancement and to help realize the potential of all members of the university community.
- How would you describe the atmosphere at AUCA?
- I think that students, faculty and staff, come to university everyday with the desire to achieve definite goals. The atmosphere in the university is favorable to that. Everyone shows goodwill to one another. The distinguishing feature of AUCA is diversity. Young people from more than 20 countries study here. Our students represent diverse cultures, languages, religions, physical capabilities and opinions. Everyone who enters to the campus feels the positive energy that pervades the university.
- Tell us about your plans for the future.
- I want to take on more difficult classes, and not just for the third year. I’m looking hard at students, and I plan to create a team. I want to create a team to create automated systems like those on cellular devices. I’ve only been in Kyrgyzstan for two months. I hope that all my work from now on will be related to software engineering. If I meet people who support my ideas, even students, and who have the desire and skills to do something, this will help me to realize achieve my goals.
- What must Kyrgyzstan do in terms of development?
I’m sure that education is the key to the country’s development. There needs to be investment in youth. This investment is the future of every nation. Corruption must be eradicated. Young people should enter to university to gain knowledge, not to get a diploma. Our nation has a lot of talented sons and daughters. They are strong. I want to restate that a student’s desire to study is most important in choosing a degree. Last year, AUCA began a unique project to give talented young people from low-income families an opportunity to take part in an innovative training program to prepare for entrance into the university. This project is called the New Generation Academy (NGA). After completing the program, young men and women can apply to AUCA, and the strongest candidate can get a scholarship. In 20 years, more than 2,000 students have graduated from AUCA. I can say with confidence that AUCA alumni are in demand in the job market. They hold leading positions in the government and the academic community. There are also successful, well-known businessmen among AUCA alumni; many of who love to help their alma mater. In spite the fact that AUCA alumni can find work all over the world, most of them are ready and willing to work and live in Kyrgyzstan.
Hi, my name is Medina Aitieva, ‘01. Born and raised in Naryn, I graduated from the Chkalov school, then I spent one remarkable year in Hayward, CA, USA as a high school exchange student. After a life-changing experience, I was accepted to AUCA (then KAF). AUCA still holds a very special place in my heart as an alumna, ex-faculty, fan and friend for life.
Tell us about your career path, and where you work now?
With an AUCA degree in sociology in hand, I started my career by furthering my sociological imagination at Ball State University’s Department of Sociology (USA). In 2003, I returned to my alma mater to teach and learn from my students during seven marvelous years in the Sociology Department. Currently, I am in my fourth year of doing research towards my doctoral dissertation at the University of Manchester (UK), examining transnational families in Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
What is the most interesting thing that you remember about being AUCA student?
Where do I start?! I was admitted to the Kyrgyz American Faculty (KAF), which became the American University of Kyrgyzstan (AUK) during my first year of studies and ultimately AUCA by the time I graduated four years later. I initially enrolled in Business Administration and then switched to International Relations (now ICP), which was a great place to be until I discovered the world of sociology. And I have never regretted my decision. My fondest memories of AUCA life go back to my ‘fresh(wo)man’ and ‘suffer-more’ years. When my entire class would show up starting at 7 AM for our 8 AM English language classes and we would sit silently going over our homework before our professor entered the room, I knew I was in a place where I had to act as a grown-up, work hard, and stay thirsty for knowledge. AUCA was a special place with its original curricula, multi-lingual pedagogy, and advanced academic resources. Throughout the rest of four years, while my professors challenged me to think, more so, it were my peers at AUCA who taught me to appreciate a drive for learning, showed me how discipline and diligence had no boundaries, how both competition and cooperation were essential in becoming successful, and finally their friendship and camaraderie made AUCA and our community a better place. This snippet is my piece of history, but it always reminds me of how extraordinary it was to be an AUCA student.
What are some tips that you would like to share with prospective and current students?
My five tyiyns for prospective and current students is to widen your horizons beyond your discipline. Whether you are studying Economics, Information Technology, or Sociology, take advantage of opportunities (both in and outside of your department and university) by actively engaging in issues that matter. It is important because it is the doing that will make you a well-rounded person, a better citizen, one prepared for life after AUCA. During our time at AUCA, my friends and I created an NGO and raised funds to support projects serving orphanages and setting up trashcans across the city. If you try hard enough, there are no limits as to what you can achieve. The university is the best place to challenge yourselves, to enlarge your social networks, and to discover and create opportunities. Do not take anything for granted. Study hard, and don’t forget to have fun responsibly.
Say few words to your fellow classmates and faculty.
I extend my best wishes to all five fellow classmates, first Sociology graduates of AUCA. To my professors from Sociology and IR I will always be indebted to their longest photocopied articles, socialization outside the classroom, providing platforms for sharing our academic work, appreciating and supporting our active social work outside the university, encouraging us to further our knowledge, and helping us realize that ‘nothing is as it seems’. Thank you!
Anton Kaliujin, Business Administration’02, Web Developer at Microsoft, USA
I started working as a software developer when I was still a student at AUCA. I was developing accounting applications and later doing web development. After I moved to the USA, I worked with a number of teams at Microsoft, that is headquartered in Seattle metro area, and a couple of smaller local companies. Currently, I am working at Microsoft as a web developer. My team works on microsoftstore.com portal.
AUCA is the first serious step into adult life, it will give you a solid base for future professional education and career development. Get comfortable with the fact that you will have to study throughout your whole career path (for example, I had to take some classes at the University of Washington to be more competitive in my job search in Seattle). Take as much knowledge as you can now, you will thank yourselves for your hard work later.
I miss my classmates and faculty members. Thanks to the Internet, I've been able to stay in touch with a lot of my fellow alumni who are now scattered all over the world. When I come to Bishkek, I always make sure I visit AUCA to follow the changes that the university goes through and to see the faculty members who still remember me. I hope that my classmates are on their way to achieving the goals that they had when we were graduating. And I thank my professors for their hard work, their efforts are really paying off for me now.
Today we would like to introduce you with one of our prominent recent alumna of 2014, Diana Gurbanmyradova. Diana is the alumna of International and Comparative Politics. She is from Turkmenistan, and currently she is studying at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.
Central European University is a graduate-level “crossroads” university where faculty and students from more than 100 countries come to engage in interdisciplinary education, pursue advanced scholarship, and address some of society’s most vexing problems.
It is accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and offers English-language Master's and doctoral programs in the social sciences, the humanities, law, management and public policy. With approximately 1,400 students and 370 faculty members from more than 130 countries, CEU is one of the most densely international universities in the world.
“Currently, I am studying International Relations at the Central European University. The program is a yearlong, which means the curriculum is very intense. There are many similarities between CEU and AUCA in terms of studying environment as students and faculty is very diverse. This makes class discussions more interesting because people approach the same issue from different perspectives, which contributes to the positive process of studying where we, as students, learn from each other.
The favorite thing about my education here in CEU is having an ability to learn from students that come from different parts of the world and have diverse backgrounds. Moreover, since CEU is in Europe, I don’t just simply learn more about European Politics, but also get to experience it in everyday life.
I believe that AUCA provides a good base for a student to succeed abroad. AUCA teaches you to approach the issues critically, and this is very important once you start doing grad school. Moreover, being an ICP student and a PIE Alumna I was already used to writing a lot. Thus, I would like to thank ICP faculty in particular for the provision of the base that allows me to succeed in a demanding and competitive environment.
Today, there are many things I miss about AUCA, yet most of all I miss having an ability to combine studies with the social life. And of course, having half portion of rice and meat at Kitchinet. The most interesting thing I remember about AUCA is how the university successfully manages to integrate new students into the community. This is done through various kinds of activities: Spirit Weeks, Initiation, and Diversity Weeks in which every student gets to experience the phenomenon called “an AUCA spirit”. I think this is very particular to AUCA.
I would like to wish the whole AUCA community a successful year ahead. What about students? Time management is very important. Always remember that! This is probably very repetitive yet, still very important. I fail managing my time sometimes, which leads to certain consequences. Using opportunities that are right there is also very important, otherwise they can be taken by someone else.
I would like to thank AUCA administration and Professors for their continuous support during my studies at AUCA. Seniors, good luck with your thesis! You will survive, even if you still don’t know what you are doing at the moment. And lastly I would like to pass my greetings to Dyad Misha, a security guard that welcomes every student with a smile.
Alibek Ismankulov, BA-105 graduate, President of Alumni Council. CEO at "OptiCo Group", "SVG" Ltd., and CFO at "Eye Microsurgery Hospital".
Why have you decided to join AUCA Alumni Council?
I believe in giving back - to people who helped raise you, to society, to you alma mater. Active participation in the work of Alumni Office of AUCA is my chance to give back to the institution where I have spent four happy years. Also, this way I can ensure that my kids will have a good university to go to in future.
What motivates you in your life both personal and professional?
My motivation in personal and professional life is overcoming challenging opportunities and making the world a little bit better by putting my skills and talents to the best use of the society. I also love meeting new people and making friends.
As a member of the AUCA Alumni Council, how do you see the role of alumni in supporting AUCA?
Alumni are the most important part of the AUCA legacy to the society - honest and active professionals who will change the future of Kyrgyzstan to the better. Alumni Council is a team of active alumni who help bring other alumni together, participate in university life, and have a chance to give back.
What role did AUCA play in your life?
AUCA was a turning point in my life. There I have met my friends, gained mentors and great teachers, and learned a lot. It has also helped me to grow as a person.
What would you say to the AUCA alumni if you were to address them in a speech?
Don't forget your alma mater. Remember where you have spent four happy years, met your friends, and became a person. Actively participate and give back to your university!
Rashid Daurov. Business Administration’04, Chief Financial Officer at HSBC Kazakhstan.
I started my career in Ernst&Young as an auditor in Almaty. After a year and a half, I decided to try myself in sales at Procter&Gamble but soon realized that my true calling is finance. So I have joined Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to work on M&A financial due diligence projects. After a while, I moved to Raimbek Group (FCMG holding) to manage accounting and tax functions. In 2010, I joined HSBC Kazakhstan where I continue to work to date in the capacity of Chief Financial Officer.
There were a lot of interesting moments during my time at AUCA, but the general positive memory I have is about the people at AUCA (both faculty and students) – diverse, open-minded and eager to change the world for the better.
My advice to students: Always go an extra mile and try to distinguish yourself. Make yourself visible and build a good network. In general, young people tend to focus on developing the technical knowledge and skills whereas the key to success is actually the soft skills.
AUCA Alumna 2011, International and Comparative Politics
Nilufar Shukrikhudoeva is an AUCA alumna from the graduating class of 2011; she graduated as one of the strongest students in the International and Comparative Politics department. After AUCA, Nilufar graduated from the OSCE Academy and studied at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and currently is continuing her education at Oxford University.
My name is Nilufar Shukrikhudoeva and I am a proud 2011 alumna of AUCA.
AUCA is among the few higher education establishments in the region, which offer a social science education. I wanted an exposure to a variety of subjects, rather than focus on one particular area. The interdisciplinary approach was quite appealing. I ended up majoring in International and Comparative Politics and almost minoring in Law, had it not been for my sophomore year spent abroad. I did a year of exchange with Global UGRAD in America. I was reluctant to lose a year and decided to transfer all my credits, which did not allow me to fulfill the requirements for my minor. Nevertheless, I got a great deal of insight into Law under the supervision of Elida Nogoibaeva. This would later prove crucial in choosing my current course of study.
Though I don’t dwell on the great three years spent at AUCA, I will always have warm memories of my alma mater. It was there that I laid the foundation for my further studies. It was there that I learnt to be braver, critical, and more open-minded. It was there that I met my closest friends, whose friendship is absolutely invaluable for me. It is a place I am proud to mention be it in class, on my social network pages, or when casually talking to classmates at Oxford.
What do I remember the most? I guess the social life. Though I was never active in terms of participating in the events, the atmosphere was always all-consuming. These events were an integral part of our academic year. My junior year I got engaged - albeit against my will, in the Tajiks’ delegation rehearsal for Diversity Week. While hiding backstage, I narrated the fairy-tale. If I recall correctly it was Kolobok that year. I went on to do the same thing my senior year. I even got a certificate as the best narrator. Frankly speaking, I was rather honored.
It was small moments like Diversity Week, midterm and final exams frenzy, Bravo, and so many more that make AUCA unforgettable. And of course the faculty! Transition to other programs has always been smooth and easy for me. Even when I decided to embark on a journey that was unrelated to my studies at AUCA, thanks to my professors, I was able to implement my knowledge and skill acquired while studying there. The three years proved sufficient for me to go on and pursue studies at other universities. The flexibility, the modern approach, the quality of the education can compete with leading universities of the West. I have never regretted my decision to apply and study at AUCA.
Upon graduating I went on to study at the OSCE Academy. I got my Master of Arts in Politics and Security a year later. As part of the program I did an internship at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland. While at the Academy I applied for University of St. Andrews in Scotland and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) in London. I was accepted to both schools and had a tough decision to make between the two. I chose the latter. I had always wanted to live and study in London. I spent two years at the IIS studying Islamic Studies and Humanities. While on the course I successfully applied for LSE and Oxford to pursue further studies. This time the decision was less pressuring. I recently got married and started my course at Oxford University. I am currently studying Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government.
Studying at AUCA is not much different from universities in the West. I remember how astonished I was when I started college in the US. The learning environment was never as challenging as that of AUCA. Nevertheless, not all professors are as demanding at AUCA. As students we were always complaining about the reading assignments and papers. In fact, though, the requirements never exceeded our possibilities. I believe lecturers at AUCA should be more demanding (I bet at this points most students resent me). I remember one time Chris Rickleton gave me a rather poor grade for a paper. I was devastated. However, it was a wake-up call. I realized if I am to continue my education in the leading universities, I ought to strive more. Chris demanded more and I worked more. Needless to say, my strenuous efforts paid off and I got a high grade in his class. Students being professional slackers always need an extra nudge from the lecturers. Other than that as I said earlier, AUCA offers an education that can easily compete with some great universities abroad.
Probably find a job that I will enjoy, get my PhD sometime down the road, and travel the world. I love travelling!
I would like to thank my professors and mentors at AUCA. A big hello to Bermet Tursunkulova, Elida Nogoibaeva, Medet Tulegenov, Emil Juraev, who I heard is there as well, Chris Rickleton, and the rest of the faculty, whose classes I had the privilege to attend. Thank you all for being extra tough on us!
Makhabat Tashbaltaeva is a student of the Business Administration department and awardee of a US-CAEF scholarship. She is spending her Fall 2014 semester in Oslo, Norway. Makhabat shared with us her impressions about her study abroad at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
"AUCA offers great opportunities for students to study abroad through exchange programs. An exchange semester abroad is an excellent chance to gain an incredible experience of travelling, of meeting people, learning different cultures and gaining valuable knowledge for a future career. While choosing a country and a university I did not hesitate to apply for an exchange in Norway.
First of all because Norway offers a great chance to study at the School of Business and Economics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås (a city 45 min. from Oslo on a train). Second, all expenses of students related to exchange semester are covered by AUCA and NMBU. I think studying at NMBU is the best choice to do an exchange semester for students from the Economics and Business Administration departments as well as from all other departments. NMBU offers a lot of courses from different fields of study available in English.
Oslo is a small European city surrounded by hills and forests. The city is located on Oslo Fjord; it has a lot of old buildings and does not have so much of modern construction, which makes the capital city a very cozy nest. Oslo is a very quiet and peaceful which is not so typical for capitals. Together with museums like the Viking Ship museum, Edvard Munch Museum, Oslo city museum, Film museum, Modern Art museum, Natural history museum, Nobel Peace center, Vigeland Sculpture park, and the Royal Palace, there are lot of shopping malls, bars and cafes. Oslo as well as all other cities of Norway are very expensive, so going to cafes and bars might be very expensive. But the scholarship from the program is sufficient to visit museums, eat healthy food and travel around Norway and maybe to other European countries.
The application process is very simple. Applicants just need to bring all required documents to the program coordinator before the deadline, however to become an applicant the GPA at the moment of application has to be above 3.5. One week after I handed the application I got an email from program coordinator that I was selected to participate in this Exchange program. Right after that I started to plan my trip to Norway.
The Norwegian University of Life Sciences is located in the very peaceful city of Ås and there is a student village nearby (7 min. walking from University), where together with Norwegian students most International students live. I think it is the best place to live, because the conditions of this dormitory are very, very nice. Everyone has their own room, but shares a kitchen with 5 other students (popular type of dormitory). The rooms and kitchens have all necessary furniture and all household appliances. Everything is done for students’ convenience and comfort.
Before applying to an exchange programs, I think, it is very important to choose the right city, so the climate will not disturb the educational process. Also it is very crucial to take care about the courses which a student is going to study at a host university, the courses should be counted at AUCA at least as electives.
AUCA gives an excellent educational background. The course of FYS (First Year Seminar) during freshman year is very important, since here we start to construct our first academic speeches in English. It is very important for further development. All courses taken at AUCA are very helpful for me here in NMBU. The courses of Micro and Macroeconomics as well as Statistics that I studied at AUCA were prerequisites for studying International Economics and Econometrics at NMBU.
I want to finish my exchange at NMBU successfully, pass all the exams and come back to AUCA to continue my education.
I want to encourage every AUCA student to participate in an exchange program. It is an amazing experience that makes you feel positive, broadens the mind, and helps you to develop spiritually. It is a great chance to make friends all around the world; it is a chance to travel, to see other cultures, to represent your own, to gain knowledge and to spend time for benefit."
Erlan Moldoshev is AUCA Alumnus of International and Business Law Department, 2014. During his education at AUCA, he practiced at the Legal Clinic of AUCA, which provides needy citizens with free legal counsel. Students, including Erlan are able to work on real civil and criminal cases there. After graduation, Erlan was accepted to MA course at two prestigious international universities.
Actually, I knew that I will continue my education after undergraduate studies, because a diploma of Bologna system standard is not enough for my major.
I think, MA program improves skills and gives deeper theoretical and practical knowledge than in Bachelor program.
At the moment, I’m in Moscow, because I’m enrolled into the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (HSE).
Making choice among enormous amount of universities around the world is not so easy. It is quite difficult, because a lot of time is required to search and choose a proper university with necessary specialization. Besides that, I had classes, home tasks and worked on my thesis.
First criterion for me is continuing my educational career in my major. I think man can’t be “ace” in all areas.
Second criterion is to get master degree solely somewhere overseas. It is not a secret that western education showed itself as the most attractive for students in whole world.
Thirdly, I followed advises of my friends, studying or studied in universities overseas. There were a lot of offers in favor of one or another university. I obtained first-hand information.
I chose HSE following advice of one of my friends, who already studied there 1 year. I heard many times that HSE is in the first tree of best universities in CIS countries and I absolutely don’t regret about applying to that university. Web search and comments about this university made me to apply. On February I sent a letter that I want to attend the exam for selection of applicants, which should be on March 16th in the building of Bishkek school #5.
I registered on the website of HSE and at appointed day I came to the written exam where erudition of students in jurisprudence was examined. Exam was quite difficult, as it included 3 stages: 1) test of 60 questions; 2) legal analysis of 18 paged text in English; 3) Solution of 2 tasks. At the end of April I received results where I was mentioned as “prize-winner” of the competition (there were also “winners”). “Prize-winners” are those whose score is not enough to receive to scholarship, but nonetheless were enrolled to university. It is required to pass the interview and submit all documents proving academic awards obtained in anytime for getting 100% discount for education payment. So, I obtained 100% discount (education payment was about 8000$ per year) and opportunity to live one of dormitories of Moscow almost for free.
But Moscow wasn’t my real dream, and in my 1 year in university I already decided to enter any European university. Search took much time, because actually European universities offer so many interesting MA programs, and choosing from this heap was too complicated.
Finally, my one of Swiss universities got the nod. It is University of Fribourg. Most attractive thing in this university was that they offered me MA program in my same major as at AUCA – International and Business Law.
Document submitting process took about 3 weeks, because besides IBT results they required at least 3 recommendation letters from practicing lawyers, and motivation letter of 2000 words on the subject why I want to study exactly in their university.
Commission complied with my request in 2 weeks and I was able to begin document submitting for Swiss visa. Actually, this job wasn’t easy. I never gathered too much documents: certificate of family income, bank statement that I have big account, transcript from university, birth certificate, filled declaration that I will come back to home country after my education, essay on subject of “why they should give me a visa?” and “why it is so important to obtain master degree exactly in Switzerland?”. Also I paid local tax for consideration of my request, local tax of Swiss canton and all of them are to be translated to French and submitted in 2 copies.
Document consideration process took more than 2 months. I want to be made sure and I departed to Moscow, where I was had to register for 1st semester. So, on September 10th, I learned that Migration Office of Switzerland approved my application and sent me a visa.
AUCA gave me more than I expected. I learned to manage my time. Mostly, students themselves motivated me. When you study in the group where everyone is always ready – it is a strong impetus. Nevertheless, western education differs from ours. We should recognize it. Education level in AUCA is good as much as it is possible in Kyrgyzstan and CIS region. I was completely satisfied with faculty and their theoretical knowledge.
After obtaining MA degree in Switzerland I will try to continue my education in HSE, thus I will get two MA degrees in two years (MA program in HSE lasts 2 years, but they promised me if I will meet some conditions they will accept me right away to second year of education).
I want to work strictly in private sector. I have my eyes on some private international companies suitable for my profession and I want to send my CV there. Time will tell what I should do.
Students must learn to arm themselves with patience. This is one of basic factors in entering to postgraduate studies. Also they must have a great wish and aspiration in same time. Use your time properly and rationally. You have all opportunities to be self-made and to show yourselves.
Markus Kaiser took the reverse Silk Route to Central Asia. An undergraduate trip to Peshawar, Pakistan introduced him to Afghan refugees of Tajik and Uzbek ethnicity. That trip started what has become an almost 20-year affair with Central Asia, an ongoing journey that now finds Professor Kaiser as a visiting professor to AUCA’s European Studies department as well as acting as a service provider to the OSCE Academy.
Kaiser has made repeated visits to Central Asia since 1994, when he was a graduate student at the Free University of Berlin completing research on migration as a result of interethnic conflicts in the region. Although there are several researchers currently studying the conflicts and resulting impacts of the events of April/June 2010, those researchers are encountering a different world than the 1994 Central Asia that welcomed Professor Kaiser.
“The biggest difference is that in 1994 everyone was still so hopeful,” Kaiser said. Hope still exists, but Kaiser says that it is tempered by the reality of intransigent governments, development creep, and unrealistic expectations. This change, Kaiser further clarifies, also depends on the individual country. He now finds the Kyrgyz Republic the easiest of the Central Asian republics to live in on account of its relatively unobtrusive government and genial international community.
Kaiser came to AUCA in January of 2010, but was already familiar with the university and its students prior to his arrival here. As a co-director of the Center for German and European Studies at the St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Kaiser reviewed several AUCA graduate applications to programs sponsored by German international exchange organization DAAD. Now in his third year at AUCA as a visiting professor, I asked him about his impressions of the European Studies program and what he would like to see from AUCA in the future.
“Most students take European Studies because they want to learn the languages, and usually they are very successful at doing this.” The department requires French or German as a second language, and many of the students are also able to spend some time in Europe during their studies. One weakness he points out is this minimal amount of time students spend in Europe. “A classical European Studies program involves a lot of comparative empirical research, which is not possible from Central Asia. Therefore we tend to focus here on the European relationship to Central Asia or interregional comparison.”
Kaiser’s research also focuses on relationships in Eurasia; specifically focusing on transnationalization and migration, globalization of knowledge, development studies, and countries in transition. Kaiser said that ever since he was an undergraduate he has been more interested in the micro level movements in society, the economy, and culture. This can be seen in several of his publications, which tend to analyze small groups actions in order to extrapolate larger meaning. One example is his 2005 PhD research publication on cross-border traders as transformers, looking at how economic restructuring was impacting other areas of society.
The relationship between the EU, its member countries, and the Central Asian states has developed slowly over the past 20 years; but Kaiser thinks that it remains a strategic interest for the Europeans because of its proximity to Afghanistan, China, and Russia. The EU is also interested in migration and human trafficking issues, as well as developing its ‘neighborhood’. The EU mission, UN mission, OSCE, and embassies as well as offices of development agencies are also key employers of AUCA European Studies graduates, which also often creates opportunities for these students to continue their graduate studies in Europe.
As for AUCA as a whole, graduate study is one area where Kaiser would like to see the university become stronger. “I also teach at the OSCE Academy, which is masters level, and I enjoy that work very much. It would be great to do masters or Ph.D. advising at AUCA, and I hope that those programs will be developed,” said Kaiser, “The liberal arts is a very important and worthwhile endeavor for students from Central Asia taking into account the catastrophic situation in school education. Especially in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and AUCA plays an important role in providing it.”
"I strongly believe that Business as a social institution can improve the situation in the country, reduce poverty and also benefit the owner"
-Tell us please, why did you choose AUCA? And why Business Administration?
While researching about the universities in Kyrgyzstan, I was impressed by the values this university preserved compared to others and also the reputation it had as a corruption free university with highly developed student body. The decision was quick – to apply only here. I strongly believe that Business as a social institution can improve the situation in the country, reduce poverty and also benefit the owner. This is why I was curious about studying exactly business. It can teach you to manage your life in a way business does.
- Lots of students complain that BA is the most difficult department. Is it true? How you handle with all those homework, quizzes and researches?
The difficulty increases when you either are not motivated and eager to study or you have lots of projects to do. Every department is difficult, yet BA has its own difficulties which are designed especially for those, who would like to learn how money works, how business is made or how to manage people. These are special kinds of skills and not everybody is willing to deal with them.
- Tell us about your favorite classes from BA, why do you like it?
Marketing, Financial mathematics and also IT&IS. Marketing – for its professor Nils Koenig who was always in time, always confident and who really thought of how to better present the material to the students. Financial math – for its applicability and also because it teaches one of the most valuable language in the world – the language of money.
IT&IS – because this course introduced me to the huge field which was not familiar to me – Microsoft excel. Now I understand the full importance of the ability to work with excel doing my own projects.
-You were a SIFE President. Tell us a little about your projects, competitions? How SIFE helped your professional skills?
SIFE gave me 90% of my current resume and also a valuable network. Also it gave me a philosophy of how to behave and do the business. What kind of projects I should be striving to implement and how to run the business. Basically, most of the things I possess right now including projects, own start up, and even my fiancée I gained doing SIFE. This is why I am so grateful to the team and to all that supported me in these endeavors.
-Did you participate in any summer schools or trainings abroad?
The similar experience I have is the participation in the SIFE World Cup 2011 which was held in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. I went there with the help of AUCA alumni and the experience gained I consider as one of the most valuable international experience I have. When I entered the room with 1500 students from 39 countries all aiming at doing business project for the society, my first thought was, - these are going to change the earth.
-What did your department give you?
The BA department gave my first of all those professors who are always willing to help me with the questions about study, projects, doing business or even self-management. Also there were opportunities for scholarship and applications for different programs which were
- Who do you want to be after graduation? In what field are you going to work?
After the graduation I would like to continue doing what I do right now - development of the social – business projects. Most probably my own business will be connected to media projects, yet talking about job position, I would like to work in the manufacture field and also in tourism which is currently rapidly develops in Kyrgyzstan.
- All BA students need to pass their internship as in other AUCA departments. What was your internship? What did you do? Was it interesting and helpful?
I am going to pass the internship in my own project which is a new media start up. I have a team which is currently working on it and later we will register the project as an official business entity which will gave me the opportunity to officially have it as an internship. Moreover, my thesis statement will also relate to this project. This is the good thing when you create the start up at the end of your university study.
-Your wishes and advises to future BA students
Just select the goals and do not skip them (develop the discipline). The knowledge is what matters. Writing notes will be one of the most valuable skills you ever need. Try to apply everything in real life – do the practice! BA is about everything, so try to get as much as possible (take classes from Russian department, Psychology, Law - they are all important and useful) Do the homework in the same day you received it, the more you postpone – the harder to start. Extra curriculums are awesome – do as much as you can – but learn to set priorities! Remember – reputation matters, so each time you work in the group do not betray others. Ask yourself after each class – what did I really learned? This will really show you where you money goes and what you really will use.
"BA gave me a solid theoretical background in almost all vital spheres of business."
-Tell us please, why did you choose AUCA? And why Business Administration?
Three of my cousins have graduated from AUCA, one from Economics Department, and two other – from Business Administration. Actually, it was their colorful stories about unique student and academic life in AUCA, full of great opportunities that enlightened my desire to apply for a bachelor degree there. Moreover, I have chosen BA in particular because of my lifelong passion to business. Since childhood I realized the sweetness of being an entrepreneur by selling rocks from a local river or organizing a lemonade stand in my neighborhood. It was an inexpressible feeling of freedom and happiness when first customers approached my stand and I made first few dollars of profit. From that moment I knew that I was born to become a businesswoman. Thus, I believed that unprecedented entrepreneurial approach taught by BA at AUCA perfectly matches my career aspirations in starting new businesses.
- Lots of students complain that BA is the most difficult department. Is it true? How do you handle with all those homework, quizzes and researches?
No, studying in BA is not more difficult than in any other department of AUCA. It might seem difficult because BA unites several business areas like Marketing, Management, Accounting and Finance. For creative people who would like to become a sales manger it might be challenging to study Accounting, and vise versa, for a future auditor International Marketing is definitely not the subject of extreme necessity. However, for any businessperson in order to be successful it is essential to have a clear understanding of all the powers and processes that influence the business, whether they are driven by customers, financial markets or employees. Therefore, this comprehension helped me, as a future financier; take such classes like HR Management as seriously and responsibly as Managerial Accounting. Thus, I believe that consciousness and thinking ahead with the inner thirst for knowledge do really help in organizing the daily routine, which leads to successful and timely passing of all those homework, quizzes and research papers.
- Tell us about your favorite classes from BA, why do you like it?
It is not difficult to guess that my favorite classes from BA represent all Accounting classes, Intro to Finance, Financial Markets and Instruments and Banking. They were challenging and highly demanding, required to spend hours for solving the tasks. However, these classes stimulated my thinking leading and helped to reveal the implicit characters like determination, perseverance and dedication to work. From other fields I was fond of such classes as Management, Business Communication, Marketing, Organizational Behavior, IT&IS and Business Ethics. Each of them was unique in its own sense, with “special something” that made the atmosphere in the class warm, bright and friendly. Nevertheless, the subject itself was not so interesting if professional, competent and humane professors did not teach it. Therefore, I want to specially give thanks to Olga Anatolievna Galimova for her exceptionally well training in accounting and strict quizzes, Natalia Nikolaevna Korosteleva who teaches how to be and look like a professional, Niels Koenig for his quality-led presentations, Nurbek Tokoldoshev for his energizing interest in finance, Nurlan Atabaev for kind and funny atmosphere in the class, Dinara Seitkazievna Bobusheva for the first acquaintance with business, Lira Djuraeva for her expressive and ingenuous personality, and Frank Ebinger for his philanthropy.
-You were a SIFE President. Tell us a little about your projects, competitions? How SIFE helped your professional skills? Did the selection of your department played a role in participation in SIFE?
In 2012 SIFE was rebranded as ENACTUS (Entrepreneurs in action) in order to show how students, business and academic leaders are united in a single entrepreneurship movement to improve the quality of life and standards of living of people in need through the power of business. Nowadays, Enactus Team of AUCA is handling six projects aimed to educate, prepare and assist vulnerable communities in Kyrgyzstan like unemployed, women and handicapped people in starting up their own businesses. For example, our new project – Manas Trail, is aimed to support inhabitants of Kyzyl-Tuu and Bokonbaevo villages situated on east cost of Issyk-Kul Lake by training local residents the basics of business and marketing, and establishing a community-based tourism there. Another project, Apashkin Lunch, is aimed to help unemployed women to earn profits at staying at homes! These and other projects can be found on our accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
Being a president of Enactus AUCA is not an easy thing that at first it may seems. It requires a lot of time and efforts to set SMART goals, organize meetings and events, motivate team members and control the activities of all the participants. Hence, you can see that management skills are extensively trained and developed here. Moreover, since every project and any event involves active interaction with various kinds of partners, sponsors, business mentors and academic advisors, where persuasion and confidence are of critical importance, my communication skills have been improved substantially. In addition, Enactus helped me to develop a professional network that would certainly help in building my future career.
-What did your department give you?
First of all, BA gave me a solid theoretical background in almost all vital spheres of business. What is important that BA professors do not teach us to know the right answers on all possible questions, they teach us the methods how to find those answers by stimulating our thinking. That is why I love my department a lot – the teaching methodology provides a certain degree of freedom for students to explore their own ways in studying one or another topic, to make their own little discoveries.
Moreover, I feel strong support from my department in any of the activities I engage in ranging from helping with the schedule and including special on-demand classes to writing recommendations and finding an internship place. The latter was a huge support from my advisor – Olga Anatolievna Galimova, who recommended me for an open vacancy in Baker Tilly Bishkek audit firm. Thus, I am very grateful to my department for its openness, readiness to help and warm atmosphere. I believe that such liberal and humane conditions result in high conscious, purposeful and self-confident persons with undoubtedly successful future.
- Who do you want to be after graduation? In what field are you going to work?
I am planning to continue my studies and pursue a Masters degree in Finance. I feel it is necessary to obtain more technical skills in finance in order to be competitive on a job market. Actually, I have already been admitted to Masters in Finance program at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. After graduation, I am going to work in field of finance, probably insurance or banking.
- All BA students need to pass their internship as in other AUCA departments. What was your internship? What did you do? Was it interesting and helpful?
Olga Anatolievna Galimova recommended me to work as an intern in Baker Tilly Bishkek Audit Company. By the way, this company is created and managed by our BA alumni, Kubat Alymkolov. Actually, I was working as an auditor assistant, and performed a real audit of inventory and other accounts of one of the local companies. Honestly, it was extremely hard to study, work and prepare for Junior’s Ball at that moment, because auditors have to process tons of data within short period of time. Nevertheless, now I realize how useful this internship was for me. Two weeks of off-site working have substantially deepened my understanding of the financial and accounting matters, helped to derive a whole picture about how a company operates in real life.
-Are you planning to run your own business?
I will run my business in the long-term, hopefully finance will lead me to career of a professional actuary in the field of insurance. I am tempting to open an insurance company with wide range of services that will promote economic development of the Kyrgyz Republic. This career is especially attractive to me, since the local insurance market is underdeveloped, and the total assets of 17 companies do not exceed $25 mln. Considering political and economic turmoil, there is a big potential in this and other financial market like leasing or pension fund, and I want to grasp this opportunity. Bringing stability and modern approach in insurance company, along with the advanced actuarial calculations will serve as a competitive edge for my future company and me.
-Your wishes and advises to future BA students
I wish all future BA students be diligent in their studies, since this is the perfect time for you to receive the basic knowledge on which all your future career will step up – thus, be rational. Do not be afraid to set high goals and reveal your fullest potential to attain them – be effective. Moreover, I strongly recommend being consistent in everything you do and use your time wisely – be efficient. Finally, do not forget to take active part in Enactus AUCA – be proactive!
"A liberal arts model of education truly provides students of the knowledge and skills to compete in a rapidly changing world."
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself: your education and work background, projects you were involved in and any achievements?
I grew up in Ohio, and received aB.A. in Economics and Business from the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated magna cum laude and received an award as the outstanding graduate in the college of Arts and Sciences. Following that I attended Rutgers Law School in New Jersey where I received a Juris Doctor degree.
My working career has gone through several phases. I began as a lawyer, and worked for many years in a law firm where I eventually became a partner. During that time I also served in local government, and was twice elected to the governing council of a small town in northern New Jersey.
After practicing law for about 15 years, I was offered an opportunity to be involved in the business world, and decided to change my career. For more than 10 years I worked as a business executive, and gained a lot of experience in finance, management, marketing, government relations, and technology.
I eventually became interested in teaching, and have found that it is something I enjoy even more than either of my prior careers. In the fall of 2010, I came to AUCA, and have primarily taught business and law classes over the past three years.
How long have you been teaching at AUCA and what are the classes you offer?
This is my third year at AUCA. I have taught courses in BA Department, the IBL Department, the First Year Seminar program, and also freshman orientation. In the BA department my courses include Introduction to Management, Business Ethics, Business Law, and most recently Introduction to Business, Business Research Methods, and Senior Thesis Seminar. In the IBL department I taught Contract Law, Introduction to the U.S. Legal System, Legal Ethics, Legal Research Methods, Legal Skills, and Moot Court. In the spring of 2012 I was asked to teach FYS, and I taught a FYS Discussion section in the spring and fall of 2012. I also have been a freshman orientation group leader for past last two years.
I believe that part of my teaching responsibilities involves service, and have served on a number of University committees over the past three years. I am finishing my second year on the Faculty Senate, and also served on the Bard College/AUCA Faculty Education Oversight Committee; the Curriculum Development Committee; the Faculty Status, Promotion and Research Committee; the Academic Policy Committee; and the Open Education Resources Committee.
Why AUCA, not other universities?
AUCA is unique in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. A liberal arts model of education truly provides students of the knowledge and skills to compete in a rapidly changing world. At AUCA, students are able to learn in an atmosphere where critical thinking is valued and encouraged. It is exciting to be part of a community where students are challenged to think logically, engage in serious inquiry, and develop effective written and oral communication skills. These skills will give AUCA students a competitive advantage throughout their professional careers.
What do you like/do not like about Kyrgyzstan?
I really enjoy living in Kyrgyzstan. The one thing I would change is the driving habits of a few people. Most are OK, but there are a few who can’t be bothered by traffic signals, speed limits, and traffic etiquette. I have adjusted by just trying to stay out of the way.
What do I like? I really like the gracious hospitality and friendship offered by everyone I have met in Kyrgyzstan. I like the traditions, the celebrations and the food, which is not only healthier but also less expensive than in the U.S., especially raspberries and strawberries. Finally, I love teaching at AUCA, and being part of the AUCA community.
What do students do after they graduate, having a BA major?
Many of our graduates work for companies in Kyrgyzstan, and a few international students return to their home countries to open their own business or join an established business. AUCA graduates can be found in almost every major company in Kyrgyzstan. Other graduates successfully started their own business, while others go on to graduate school for an MBA, or other master’s degree. Some of our graduates have continued their studies in top business schools in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Tell us about AUCA students. How are they different from student of other universities?
I believe that students around the world have more in common than they have differences. My observation is that they have similar dreams and ambitions to succeed on both a personal and professional level.
What could you advise to prospective students of Business Administration department?
Work on improving your English writing and speaking skills. Being a good writer means that you are able to think logically and express yourself clearly. Being able to effectively present your work will enable you to be persuasive and successful.
"Studying Business Administration at AUCA means acquiring new skills, trying them out and making mistakes in order to continue learning"
- Could you please tell a bit about yourself?
I was born in Berlin (Germany) and graduated from the University of Magdeburg where I finished both a Bachelor in Management and Economics, and later a Master of Science in Management. During High School I spent half a year in California, and before my Master studies half a year in St. Petersburg. I have worked several years at Daimler AG (Mercedes Benz) in Stuttgart, before moving with my family to Kyrgyzstan for a few years. I finished my PhD thesis last. Fall and will defend it this summe (also at Magdeburg University).
- How long have you been teaching at AUCA and what are the classes you offer?
I came to AUCA in early 2010, after moving to Kyrgyzstan with my wife (who is working for GIZ). I mainly teach Marketing and Corporate Communication, also International Business.
- Why AUCA, not other universities?
I think it's the most liberal and international university in the region and attracts smart students also from other countries.
- What do you like/do not like about Kyrgyzstan?
I like the quite liberal atmosphere and life in the country as well as the mountains and lakes, but think that people have to work on their discipline and morale. They also need to become more conscious of their environment.
- What do students do after they graduate, having a BA major?
Hopefully seeking a masters degree in Europe!
- Tell us about AUCA students. How are they different from student of other universities?
Students are typically more engaged in social and extra-curricular activities and after graduating hopefully have the skills and most importantly the ethical mindset for making an impact on local society.
- What could you advise to prospective students of Business Administration department?
Don't just think about career opportunities in terms of career prospects and salary - but think about making a real difference to society and life of the region.
The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) was established in 2005 when it received full university accreditation from NOKUT. It is one of the 8 accredited universities in Norway.
UMB is comprised of 8 departments and works closely with 5 centres on campus.
Education at UMB is characterised by its high professional quality, constant teacher-student interaction and a pleasant social and physical environment.
UMB is recognised as a leading international centre of knowledge, focused on higher education and research within environmental- and biosciences.
The American University of Afghanistan is Afghanistan’s only private, not-for-profit, non-partisan and co-educational university. It opened it’s doors in 2006 with an initial enrollment of 50 students, and today enrolls more than 1,700 full and part-time students. It has produced 11 Fulbright Scholars and maintains partnerships with the world’s most prestigious university, including Stanford University, Georgetown University, and the University of California network.
The George Washington University was created in 1821 through an Act of Congress, fulfilling George Washington’s vision of an institution in the nation’s capital dedicated to educating and preparing future leaders.
Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. It has more than 20,000 students from all 50 states, the District and more than 130 countries—studying a rich range of disciplines: from forensic science and creative writing to international affairs and computer engineering, as well as medicine, public health, the law and public policy.
St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English-speaking world, founded in 1413. Over six centuries it has established a reputation as one of Europe's leading and most distinctive centres for teaching and research.
Osh State University was founded on 24 May 1951 as Osh State Pedagogical Institute.It achieved status of the University on 17 june 1992.The city of Osh provides a unique setting for the urban campus of OshSU. At the heart of this picturesque city lies the OshSU administrative campus, with the remaining departments located throughout the city.OshSU is the leading educationl, cultural and scientific center of southern Kyrgyzstan.The faculties of the University prepare specialists to respond to all the region's needs.
Kyrgyz National Agrarian University (KNAU) is one of the oldest and largest multi-profile university in Kyrgyzstan and one of the first universities of the country which transferred into multilevel system of education, introduced module system of learning, integrated international education in agriculture. KNAU staffs actively engage through advanced teaching techniques, use of computer technology and audio-video equipment. KNAU one is main partner and actively involved in working on implementation of principles of the Bologna Declaration among of Kyrgyz Universities. KNAU are the universities of European countries, US and Japan where faculty and students successfully pass trainings and internships. KNAU supports steady connections with many foreign universities and international organizations in European and Asian countries.
Koç University was founded in 1993 as a non-profit private university in Istanbul, Turkey. In the seventeen years since its establishment, Koç University has become one of the leading universities in Turkey, distinguished by notable contributions to the elevation of education, knowledge and service both domestically and beyond.
The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of St.Petersburg State University is the first Department in Russia to be founded upon the principles of liberal education. It emerged from Smolny College (officially the Program in «Arts and Humanities»), which was created in 1994 by St.Petersburg State University in close collaboration with Bard College (USA). Bard College’s interest in curricular innovation and the reform of international education coincided with the interests of a group of creatively-minded scholars from St. Petersburg State University.
Located in one of Europe's most elegant capital cities, Budapest, accredited in both the USA and Europe, CEU offers a uniquely international atmosphere of academic excellence, critical reflection, and social engagement.
CEU and all its degree programs are registered and accredited in the US. The University and an increasing number of its programs are also accredited in Hungary. In addition, several CEU degrees are awarded jointly with other leading European universities. Thus, CEU education is globally recognized and highly valued opening unique career prospects for its graduates all over the world.
Today, MSU is one of the top research universities in the world—on one of the biggest, greenest campuses in the nation. Home to nationally ranked and recognized academic, residential college, and service-learning programs, a diverse community of dedicated students and scholars, athletes and artists, scientists and leaders.
Indiana University is a major multi-campus public research institution, grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, and a world leader in professional, medical, and technological education. Indiana University’s mission is to provide broad access to undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education for students throughout Indiana, the United States, and the world, as well as outstanding academic and cultural programs and student services. Indiana University seeks to create dynamic partnerships with the state and local communities in economic, social, and cultural development and to offer leadership in creative solutions for 21st century problems. Indiana University strives to achieve full diversity, and to maintain friendly, collegial, and humane environments, with a strong commitment to academic freedom.
The International Academy of Business (IAB) developed out of the Almaty School of Management. Founded in 1988, ASM was a dynamic business school, with a good reputation among businessmen of Kazakhstan, and the international society for managerial education development.
Founded in 1952, the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation is a family foundation dedicated to the life of the mind and spirit. It focuses its attention primarily on the field of education, in particular liberal arts education, which can help individuals realize their highest aspirations and fullest human potential.
At a great altitude reaching the glaciers of southeastern Kyrgyzstan “hides” one of the key pillars of this country’s economy, the unique Kumtor mine. This first and most important operation in the Kyrgyz mining sector is based on foreign investment. At the present time, Kumtor’s output accounts for more than one-third of the national export of goods and services, its mission being not limited to production alone.
SIU is a knowledge- and service organisation with the mission of promoting and facilitating cooperation, standardisation, mobility, and the overcoming of cultural barriers to communication and exchange within the realm of education on an international level. The centre is charged with the important task of coordinating national measures according to official Norwegian policy within the field of internationalisation.
Closed Joint Stock Company Kyrgyz Petroleum Company (KPC or Company) is a 50/50 joint venture between Opened Joint Stock Company “Kyrgyzneftegaz” or KNG (Kyrgyzstan) and Joint Stock Company with Limited Liability “PetroKyrgyzstan” (Jersey) a wholly owned subsidiary of the Petrofac Group.
Mina Group specializes in commodity trading and full-cycle logistics for delivery of oil products to regions with challenging business and security environments. Its privately owned and operated companies, including Mina Corp Limited and Red Star Enterprises Limited, supply customers in some of the world’s most challenging environments using sophisticated logistics and state-of-the-art supply chain management.
For the last 20 years Petrofac has been building its capability, increasing the scale and scope of its service offering. Today, Petrofac can provide services to customers across the entire spectrum of the oil & gas asset lifecycle, on either a stand-alone or integrated basis, under flexible commercial models which are tailored to a customer’s needs.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) focuses on a small number of specific development problems by forming intellectual and financial partnerships with organisations sharing its objectives. Most Foundation grants are made to grassroots organisations testing innovative approaches in the field. With a small staff, a host of cooperating agencies and thousands of volunteers, the Foundation reaches out to vulnerable populations on four continents, irrespective of their race, religion, political persuasion or gender.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in five core program areas:
Higher Education and Scholarship (http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/higher-education-and-scholarship/highereducation)
Scholarly Communications and Information Technology(http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/scit)
Art History, Conservation, and Museums (http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/museums)
Performing Arts (http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/performing-arts/arts)
Conservation and the Environment (http://www.mellon.org/grant_programs/programs/conservation)
The World Bank Group consists of five organizations:
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/EXTIBRD/0,,menuPK:3046081~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:3046012,00.html)
The International Development Association (IDA)(http://www.worldbank.org/ida/)
The International Finance Corporation(IFC)(http://www1.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/corp_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/home)
The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)(http://www.miga.org/)
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)(https://icsid.worldbank.org/ICSID/Index.jsp)
The Foundation’s Mission is to encourage and assist development and growth of a vibrant open-market private business sector in Central Asia by: supporting the quality of – and affordable access to – Western business know-how and practices at selected institutions of higher learning in the region that have adopted Western curriculum and teaching methods; providing opportunities for educational, vocational, and cultural experience in countries that serve as positive examples of an open market economy operating within a democratic environment; and promoting other activities that will generate a favorable environment in Central Asia for private business to succeed and entrepreneurial spirit to thrive.
Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.
"I hope there will be another 20 years of celebration of AUCA and a new generation of leaders!"
How did you become an AUCA professor?
Last year on the 20th of January one of my friends wanted to resign from his job because he had severe problems with his department. He was looking for another job. I was a member of an email group and I received a notice that the American University of Central Asia was looking to fill teaching positions in the Department of Law. I told my friend that it might be worth it to apply, but he said that he couldn’t find the website and asked to me to send him a direct link to the job posting. It was 2 in the morning and I was annoyed that I had to search for the AUCA website on Google. I opened the AUCA website, then clicked “employment opportunities” and found the advertisement. Just below it, I saw that they were also looking for teaching positions in the European Studies Department. I studied European Studies and European Politics and therefore I was very interested in the position. I decided to send an email to the Chair of the department, asking if the position was still available. I was sure that, in any case, they would not respond to my email, which would only disturb the Chair. Then at three o’ clock in the morning I wrote an email to the Chair of the department, Prof. Jdanova. I was quite sure that nobody would return my email. The reason being is that in Europe it’s very common to ignore emails, even those sent from people who graduated from the best universities. One hour later the Chair responded and I was in shock. Soon after I had made contact the official procedures and interviews started. (I applied, by the way, because my friend didn’t.) I was so excited even though I didn’t have any particular reason to be—all I knew is that I really wanted that job. It would be something new for me and I believed that I could contribute many new things to AUCA. And that’s my story. This is my second semester at AUCA, and I still cannot understand how time and all those procedures passed so quickly.
Tell us about your impressions about university or most memorable moment or special day
First of all, I am so happy to work at AUCA. Of course, when you compare it with Europe, we have some issues. But I knew this before coming to Kyrgyzstan, and as such I have never viewed these issues as real problems. My expectations were, and still are, very clear: there will be some students whom I love and there will be some students who will love me at this university. Teaching should be an interactive discipline. If there is no connection between the students and the instructors, then there cannot be any effective teaching. When my students say: “Teacher, Teacher, we wish you were here from the first day of our studies”, I feel so happy. I think today is one of the most memorable days at AUCA. Of course it’s impossible for me to forget my first day of working at AUCA. Even though there are all these unforgettable times, I still believe that every day of life should be special in some way. Even in just a second we can change our lives dramatically.
How studying, employment at AUCA did influence your life?
Before coming here I didn’t have that much information about Central Asia or Kyrgyzstan. Since August 2012 I have been learning many things. I believe that teaching is not about going to class and explaining boring, innumerable facts. There should be more than this. Even from my courses, my students and my colleagues, I still learn many new things each day. I benefit enormously and this isn’t easy to find. Moreover, I could not say that I was very happy last year. If you’re not happy at your job, then it definitely affect every aspects of your life. Almost everybody spends at least 7-8 hours a day at some kind of job. If you do not feel at peace and happy in your workplace, then life turns into a real torture. As I already mentioned, I am happy to teach at AUCA. Considering this, I can easily say that AUCA has had a positive influence on my life.
Tell us about yourself
I still cannot decide whether or not I am lucky. I have spent my life in many different countries: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Turkey, Bosnia, Kosovo, Romania and now Kyrgyzstan. It is great to learn about new cultures and languages, but at the same time it’s so difficult to leave them. Wherever you go you end up missing something from each country. I studied International Relations at Cyprus International University. After graduating, I went to Turkey and studied European Studies in a master’s program at Istanbul’s Bilgi University (in partnership with Leiden University in the Netherlands). At that time I wanted to get another Master’s in Europe. I wanted to try something different, so I started to search for a program that focused on something new. I had a lot of friends who studied either in France, the UK or in Germany. For this reason I wanted to choose a country which was not well known in my home country. As a result of this I went to the Czech Republic and got my master’s in Political Science and European Politics. After completion of my degree I decided to turn my attention back to Turkey and began to study Political Science and International Relations as a Ph.D. candidate. During that period I spent my time taking twelve Ph.D. courses and attending as many international academic conferences as I could. After my Ph.D. qualification exams, I started to teach at AUCA (that was in August of 2012). Most of my friends from Europe ask me: “What are you doing in the middle of nowhere?” I am happy to be in Kyrgyzstan and try to contribute on a small, if maybe unimportant level, in this beautiful country. I hope there will be another 20 years of celebration of AUCA and a new generation of leaders! We must believe this. If you do not believe in yourself, nobody believes in you…
"AUCA gave me a lot: friends, knowledge, sense of freedom and belief that everything has value and future."
"My name is Diana. I am from Kyrgyzstan. In 2012 I became an Alumni of Anthropology department, and really proud of this. I accepted all awards, frustrations, victories and defeats as a challenge that my university put me through. I went through difficulties and reached not the last but the goal. It is honor to me to be an Alumni of American University of Central Asia. AUCA gave me a lot: friends, knowledge, sense of freedom and belief that everything has value and future.
As I said I have bachelor in Anthropology. During four wonderful years studying Anthropology I had a great experience in different practices. After my freshman year I had an Archaeological excavation of Paleolithic site in Kochkor valley, Naryn, Kyrgyzstan. In my junior year I had an Anthropological research in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek that was concerned child beggars in Bishkek. For preparing my Senior Thesis I conducted my research in Tatarstan, Kazan. All practices and filed work researches gave a great experience not only in academic field but it helped to understand life itself and deeply understand people’s existence. In 2011 I received Mary Schweitzer Scholarship for Excellence in Anthropology. That award gave me a force to seek further and do not to stop. Thanks to our great professors, Anthropology department became more popular among those who want to become a student of AUCA. Moreover our department restored Anthropology Club that in my opinion is very useful for students and professors and it helps to develop and promulgate anthropology in Kyrgyzstan.
AUCA is my second home for 4 years. Even though I already graduated, I can’t skip any event that Student Affair Office organizes. Annually I participate and help in directing dances in Initiation show, Diversity week and other events. During my academic years I was awarded with Dean’s list in recognition of outstanding extracurricular activities, Dean’s list in recognition of outstanding academic achievements and Student Senate Spring Scholarship 2009 Best Activist. Each award gives something special for developing yourself and you can see what you got and for what you still need to do.
Beside of graduating from AUCA I study at Kyrgyz State Institute of Art and Culture and partially work in choreography sphere. I do not try to plan the future, the way I deserve the same it will be."
"To me environmental sustainability is about small actions that individuals do on a daily basis that makes our surroundings a little cleaner and a little better"
"In 2011 my friends and I applied for a Global Youth Service Day grant in order to introduce efficient waste disposal at AUCA. Once we received the grant we started placing cardboard bins in classrooms and hallways for paper and plastic collection. Collected materials were then recycled and exchanged for clean paper for the university needs.
Same year Señor Bravo and I started conducting Spanish Club meetings with Spanish speaking and learning students of AUCA.
Despite my true interest in efficient waste disposal, I am not a member of the Earth Club. Therefore, I am not well aware of what sort of activities Earth Club members conduct. However, I have taken Martin Ossewaarde's Clean Development Policy and Practice and International Environmental Governance classes, where I deepened my knowledge of what environmental sustainability is. To me environmental sustainability is about small actions that individuals do on a daily basis, like carrying garbage to the garbage can, rather than throwing it somewhere on the street or separating paper and plastic in places, where there are separate bins for that. This does not require much time and effort, however it does make our surroundings a little cleaner and a little better.
At the moment my friend and I are working on an Eco Bag social and environmental project funded by Soros Foundation. It is aimed at providing workplace for disabled students of vocational schools and bringing the fashion of cotton bags as a possible alternative to plastic bags."
"I think that environmental sustainability is not only about preserving the nature and protecting it but a very effective and efficient way of developing."
"My name is Ernis. I am graduating from International and Comparative Politics Department at the end of 2013. For past 4 years I have founded the Objectivist Club of AUCA and ran its activities. In addition, I have been in touch with the activities of Earth Club and their events and projects.
I am not part of Earth Club but I am aware of the projects being upheld by this club to preserve the environment and develop according to the creed of sustainable development. For example, one of these projects is current recycling project in AUCA where we have started to sort the garbage to use it again in another form which I think is wise and clever.
I think that environmental sustainability is not only about preserving the nature and protecting it but a very effective and efficient way of developing. For example, using the solar energy instead of hydroelectric energy is more efficient since we generate no waste and cause no threat to our environment which we want to be clean.
Certainly, I will consider environmental problems in whatever decision I will make in future."
"I am very pleased that I stayed long enough to contribute to the present upsurge in interest and activity for sustainable development."
-Please, tell us a little about yourself.
I studied economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. My general education course in environmental issues led me to pursue environment further in my studies and career. We did not have a complete study program about it, and the term sustainable development was still unknown. After graduation I worked in the Netherlands’ Environment Ministry in the sphere of climate change. During those years I looked for opportunities to apply my economic and environmental knowledge in the former communist countries, which had just started on their transition to democracy and market economy. The opportunity came when I met an NGO director who worked here in Bishkek. Of course, I first had to find out more about Kyrgyzstan for nobody in my country had heard of it. I came here on holiday, and really liked the country. So I completed my job, and worked as an education coordinator for the NGO for a few years. Through my contacts I learned about AUCA, and came to see it as a potential next work place. When I was asked to come and teach here, the administration was discussing an environmental studies proposal, but this process got stalled. So when I arrived at AUCA in 2005 I felt I had to start from scratch. I am very pleased that I stayed long enough to contribute to the present upsurge in interest and activity for sustainable development.
-What courses are you teaching?
Currently I am teaching two general education courses in sustainable development called Clean Development Policy & Practice, and International Environmental Governance. The first is a general introduction into the thinking that is needed to balance economic, social and environmental arguments in the decisions our businesses and public sector agencies take. It teaches students to find the potential for reducing our impact on the environment and steps to start working for an equitable and cleaner world. The Governance course looks at the past half century of international agreements regulating environmental resource use and protecting vulnerable species and habitats.
-Why did you choose AUCA for teaching?
AUCA is a place where people are very curious and are willing to learn from other countries’ experience. It is also a university that trains future leaders for public and private sector organizations in over a dozen countries, especially in the former Soviet Union. This part of the world has a great (though unacknowledged) need for change agents that can move their organizations and society as a whole closer to a sustainable development path. Remember that it is leaders who make decisions about the infrastructures and institutions that enable or limit the rest of us to act sustainably!
-You are going to open a new field of study - Environmental Management and Sustainable Development. What is it about?
We are familiar with the idea that resources should be properly managed to obtain the best outcome for businesses and their shareholders. We also agree that the bigger businesses are, the more responsibility they have to do good to their employees, their clients, and the communities in which they operate. In the full world that we live in today, we are approaching the limits of what the Earth can bear in terms of resource depletion and environmental pollution. In order for the world not to be plunged into chaos, we must learn to meet our human needs (not perhaps all possible wants) within the limits of ecosystem health. If we won’t learn this, then the quality of life on Earth will go down for larger and larger groups of people – first the poor and soon also the rich. The new study field will teach about the vulnerability and resilience of different ecosystems, and about the technology, behavior and institutions that may achieve the long-term goal of sustainable development.
-You did a great job by placing boxes for sorting garbage. Did you make a research after it? Is it helpful?
Thank you, and I will share this compliment with the 10 volunteers who started this system and keep it going. You see, every two weeks the bins need to be emptied and the paper and plastic sold. In fact, it was students Meerim and Saikal who started the recycling effort. You may read about them in the next New Star. I started the Green Campus working group last September in order to build a stronger culture of sustainability at AUCA in preparation for the new study program and the move to our sustainable campus. The working group improved the system by putting the bins in groups, having posters designed to explain the sorting rules, and conducting a public awareness campaign. We now collect 80-90 kgs of paper and 50 kgs of plastic bottles every two weeks! The money is spent on sustainability initiatives. Soon we will begin collection at the dormitory too. Recycling is really only step 3 of the 3R concept, which in full goes like this: REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE. If you do a search of university recycling programs you will find lots of material from all over the world. Efforts to practice this concept bring people together to work for the common good. Community is a powerful tool to build a fairer and more beautiful world!
-Are you planning other events for recycling here at AUCA?
Here on the old campus we have our limitations, but we are investigating possibilities to increase reduce, reuse and recycling on the new campus.
"Psychology gave me not only a great skill set, but also taught me to think."
- You are a student in the Psychology Department. Tell us whether or not you regret your choice. Also, why did you choose AUCA, and do you regret that choice?
I’m in my last year of school and only now realize that it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. There was a moment when I regretted my choice to study psychology, that is, when we read primary sources and studied theories of personality, neither of which I understood at all. It was very difficult for me at first, but now I know that it was worth it.
- Tell us a little about your department. What new things did you learn there? What did you gain from it?
Our department consists of beautiful women who love their profession and teach psychology in an extraordinary way. Students of the Psychology Department are good company as well. The department gave me not only a great skill set, but also taught me to think.
- Psychology itself is pretty multidisciplinary. Tell us which sphere of psychology you would like to specialize in? Why?
After graduation I want to pursue a career as a child psychologist, because child health is an issue close to my heart.
- What are the prospects for students after they’ve graduated from the Department of Psychology?
Students of psychology might be invited to do an internship in special help centers and with NGOs. This opportunity allows students to gain experience and improve professional skills that will aid them in their future careers. Furthermore, a Bard College Diploma gives us an opportunity to get a Masters in psychology in either the USA or Europe.
- Tell us about your favorite classes in the department. What is interesting about them?
Each class opens new and fascinating concepts to me. I really love each class.
- What kind of internships do students of the Psychology Department do?
We do observational and practical internships. Our department provides us with certain organizations with which the student can work as an internet. For example, the department has students at the Republican Center of Mental Health.
- What advice would you give to students who want to study in the Department of Psychology?
You need to learn to read a lot from the first year of study. P.S. As for me, I began to read much later [smile].
"Psychology aids in my personal growth and gives me the ability to manage personal problems. Psychology makes my life fascinating and diverse."
- You are a student in the Psychology Department. Do you regret your choice? Why did you choose AUCA, and why did you enroll as a psychology major?
- No, I do not regret my choice. AUCA is very interesting for me, although I came here by chance. I never planned to study here and I didn’t even prepare for admission. For some reason I was curious about checking my level of knowledge at the time and I decided to take the admission exam unprepared. Nonetheless, I was accepted on my first try. I chose psychology because it was the only area in AUCA that was related to medicine. I really wanted to be a doctor once.
- Tell us a little about your department. What new things did you learn there? What did it give to you?
- The department is quite interesting and I’ve met a lot of interesting, intelligent and nice people here. We have wonderful teachers as well. Most of all, I am grateful for the knowledge they give us, and for their humanity. Perhaps the most important thing that I learned was that I was not mistaken in choosing my future profession. Despite the fact that I wanted to be a doctor, I still did not know what kind of a doctor I wanted to be. Now I see that psychologists are also doctors who cure people, albeit through different means.
Studying in the Psychology Department is very exciting. It helps me to better understand myself, something which is very important for me. Psychology also aids in my personal growth and gives me the ability to manage personal problems. Psychology makes my life fascinating and diverse.
- Psychology itself is pretty multidisciplinary. Tell me, which sphere of psychology would you like to specialize in? Why?
- To be honest, I am still uncertain about this issue. At the moment I like all spheres of psychology. By the time I am a fourth year student, I hopefully will have decide which sphere of psychology I would like to work in.
- What are the career prospects for students of psychology?
- Psychology is needed everywhere, and in every industry, because there are elements of life that always affect a person, his mood, productivity at work, etc.
- Tell me about your favorite class in the department. What is interesting about it?
- In my first year I really liked the course on Anatomy and Physiology of the Central Nervous System. This subject matter has always fascinated me. I was always curious to know how a person is arranged and how his anatomy influences his behavior. However, my favorite subject during the first semester of sophomore year was on Social Psychology. Having taken that course, I’ve come to know a lot about the relationship between individuals, between an individual and a group, and their mutual influence on each other. At the moment, I’m enjoying the course on the Psychology of the Individual, since I’m curious about how an individual develops. In fact, all courses are interesting in their own way.
- What types of internships do students of the department have to pass?
- An observational and practical internship. Currently, I am doing my supervisory internship in the realm of psychological research. It is an interesting area, and I think I will discover a lot of new and exciting things.
- What is the observational internship about?
The observational internship involves a familiarization with the professional activities of the specialist. Right now I am distributing questionnaires to different organizations. Then, we will analyze the data received from those questionnaires.
- What good advice would you give to students who want to study in the Psychology Department?
- I would say this: do not listen to people and teachers at school who do not consider psychology an interesting or necessary profession. Study and be engaged in psychology if you like it. This is both a fascinating and necessary science.
"Psychology is a really amazing science that requires strong involvement in the process, and even self-sacrifice, to some degree."
- You are a student in the Psychology Department. Do you regret your choice? Why did you choose AUCA, and why did you enroll as a psychology major?
- My story is quite complicated. The thing is that, when I was preparing to apply to a university, I never even raised the question of whether or not I should apply to any other university. If I was to study at a university, then it had to be the best one, and that means AUCA. The problem was that my parents really wanted to see me working in the sphere of business, but I didn’t agree with them. It was even more difficult, due to a lack of confidence in my goal, to defend my point of view, which even to me seemed very unreasonable at the time. However, I am very grateful to my cousin (who, by the way, works as an emergency psychologist at the Ministry of the Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation) who told me to apply to the Department of Psychology, and, if I did not see myself in this area, to transfer to another department. To be honest, a month later I realized that if somebody wanted to remove me from the department, it would happen only if I were unconscious and forcefully dragged out. Moreover, to this day I do not regret choosing to study psychology at AUCA. I remember how delighted my sister was after she learned that Dr. A. Brudniy was teaching in AUCA’s Psychology Department. She defended her thesis paper in front of him. I still remember those very kind eyes of E. S. Molchanova that completely eradicated the anxiety that was caused by the first days in an unknown and frightening place.
- Tell us a little about your department. What new things did you learn there? What did it give to you?
In all seriousness, I have learned as much as I expected, plus much more. I see myself, others, and the world in quite a different way than before. Psychology is a really amazing science that requires strong involvement in the process, and even self-sacrifice, to some degree. Also, I would like to note that this science is far from mind reading, as many people think, and that the neurolinguistic programming helps with girls [smile].
- Psychology itself is pretty multidisciplinary. Tell me, which sphere of psychology would you like to specialize in? Why?
These days I clearly see myself as a psychologist- counselor. A while ago, some friends of mine, who are involved in psychology, saw some potential in me and advised me to go to a clinic. (I probably have such potential, but I cannot judge myself). In any event, I probably just didn’t feel that I would be interested in working with mental health disorders. I would only be exhausted if I did that. Oh, and oddly enough, healthy people manage to surprise me more often than people with schizophrenia.
- What are the career prospects for students of psychology?
There are a lot of prospects for those studying psychology, especially if I were to refer to the fact that every year several students from our department get accepted to very prestigious universities or start working in his/her specialty. In my opinion, this is not because of the Psychology Department itself, but because all students of any department at AUCA have huge prospects. It's not about what you’re studying, but rather to what extent you feel comfortable in a particular area. They say that there are many psychologists, but that the chances to succeed are minimal. I will ask a counter question – how many lawyers or programmers are there? A lot! But if you put the right goals in front of yourself, and if you know what you're doing, then you will find your own place in this world. It is the case with any profession.
- Tell us about your favorite class in the department. What is interesting about it?
- Probably the first class that comes to mind is Psychological Counseling. Dana Golin is a fantastic professor who not only has all the necessary theoretical knowledge, but an impressive amount of experience, which she gained while working in one of the best clinics of New York. I just flew to her class every time! Perhaps the decision to become an advisory psychologist came to me after taking her class. Clinical Psychology, taught by Elena Sergeyeevna, was also an unforgettable course, the topic made that much better by the magnificent teacher. Finally, I should mentioned the course on the Psychology of the Individual which is taught by Makhinur Asanovna. I remember her well because in my sophomore year we were all young and green, and the whole group could’ve put on a diaper before taking this class. The professor used positive punishment and negative reinforcement very often. I still do not remember a situation in which she ever praised anyone for anything, although the material was firmly hammered into our heads [smile].
- What types of internships do students of the department have to pass?
- We definitely have no problem with the internships in our department, but getting a freebie internship will not work here. I would immediately advise students to check which internship is the closest to their interests. This is the best way to discover whether you want to pursue your chosen field. Some (like me) pass their first internship in Republican Mental Health Center, some go to HR offices, and some work with children with disabilities. Personally, I got my last internship at the Sezim crisis center and I’m happy I had the opportunity to work there. Believe me, if you do not understand why you came there during the first week, then you will never understand, so you better try to figure what you want to do and weigh your options.
- What good advice would you give to students who want to study in the Psychology Department?
- Extract the essence of all of the advice that you get, but do not blindly follow it. That is, if you really want to study in our department, then you must act. Life is yours and you shouldn’t spend it in the lamentations and accusations of friends or parents that gave you wrong advice—it is just pathetic and disgusting. Be prepared for the fact that it is going to be difficult: emotionally, mentally and physically. And please, if among your motives you have a desire to manipulate others, to learn how to understand yourself or to solve your own problems, then just go and visit the NLP training or visit a personal psychology consultant. The result is the same, but the costs of money, time and effort is far less.
"My further aspirations include doing a PhD in the field of clinical sciences and mental health counseling."
"My way to neuroscience research has been enriched by undergraduate training in psychology at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). Within my undergraduate studies I took part in the research internship in the Social Relations Lab of Columbia University in the City of New York, top school for psychology research in the U.S. Paired with doctoral and post-doctoral students, I was introduced to the field of social cognitive neuroscience and worked chiefly on neural bases of emotion regulation and cognitive processing, as well as on psychological assessment of patients with various PDs. Internship at Columbia boosted my interest in brain science and highlighted the significance of neuroscience research for various aspects of human life.
Combining my interest in neurobiology and psychopathology, I went on to graduate studies choosing MSc Clinical Neuroscience programme at Roehampton University of London, UK. At Roehampton, I worked prevalently with Dr. Jolanta Opacka-Juffry focusing on such topical issues as neuroplasticity, neurodegeneration, and neuroprotection. The major outcomes of my MSc include gaining an advanced insight into the fundamental neurobiological mechanisms involved in regulation of various types of neuronal activity, obtaining sound knowledge and understanding of cutting edge issues in the field of clinical neuroscience, receiving an extensive training in the Clinical Lab and Radiobiology Lab, application of technology and research techniques for neuroscience studies. My dissertation thesis focused on potential inhibition of central oxytocin receptors (core social neuropeptide) by exposure to prenatal stress, which has been marked as a top paper in the graduate class and is published in the British Journal of Pharmacology. The work has also been approved and presented at the neuroscience conference of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies FENS 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.
Upon completion of my Master’s I was offered an academic position at AUCA as a research fellow of AFP (Open Society Foundation). I am currently involved in teaching and working on research projects in collaboration with American and British scholars. My further aspirations include doing a PhD in the field of clinical sciences and/or mental health counseling. Furthermore, I plan to commit my career to the promotion of scientific development and expansion of academic opportunities in post-Soviet states."
"My brief conclusion about my major: Psychology encourages you to be broad-minded."
"Studying Psychology at AUCA was one of the best times in my life. Such a valuable experience gained in different fields! My interests in psychology were changing in accordance with learning new theories and perspectives. I ended up being a humanist-existentialist not only in the framework of theory preferences, but in a way of living in this world.
I have huge plans for future. One of them is to get masters, however not certain about the field. I believe I have good qualities to become professional psychologist, but I have interest in the field of education as well. The thing is that my senior thesis was about phenomena that might influence the process of studying, such as burnout and academic procrastination. My senior project became a very neat and accomplished work; however I have to confess it took me quite a while to choose the topic and actually to start working on it. But at the end I won the award for best senior thesis and successfully presented it in front of Board of Trustees. The best thing about writing my thesis is that I figured out what are my real interests, and how I can actually apply my knowledge on practice.
As for now, I work at AUCA in Advising office and Writing and Academic Resource Center. So mostly I deal with students, helping them to achieve great academic success and stimulate critical thinking.
I am really thankful to our outstanding psychology department professors. All of them are amazing and without their guidance I would never realize “how deep the rabbit-hole goes”. My brief conclusion about my major: Psychology encourages you to be broad-minded."
"Psychology is an important underpinning for the development of academic and business spheres"
"I chose psychology after my father, Aron Brudny, who was the founder of the Psychologists’ Community in Kyrgyzstan in the 70s. My mother was also a psychologist for a long time. In those days there were no psychology departments in Kyrgyzstan, which is why I went to Moscow and graduated from the Pedagogical Psychology Department of the Moscow Pedagogical University. It was a very interesting department in 80s. A lot of psychologists who had conflicts with official academic structures taught not at Moscow State University, but at ours, MPU. Studying in Moscow was an important experience for me. I worked with my research advisor, Nikolai Veraksa, on the psychology of thinking and comprehension, and, in 1997, I defended my doctoral dissertation in Moscow.
I started to work at AUCA in 2001, and it has already been more than 10 years since my first day. In my opinion, AUCA is not only one of the best universities in Kyrgyzstan, but in Central Asia as well. I love my students above all else, along with the opportunity to avoid the typical Soviet education scheme (a lecture with a seminar).
Most of my courses are based on students’ participation, something you can’t organize in every university. AUCA students are more active during class and show independence and creativity when studying.
My own research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of psychology, sociology, political science and mass communications. I like the idea of attracting students and faculty from various disciplines to a learning space in which we can share our opinions and experiences to develop new methods and tools in a certain field. That is why I love my courses, such as “Psychology of Mass Communication” and “Visual Literacy”.
Psychology is an important underpinning for the development of academic and business spheres. It provides us with a wide view of different things, while remaining a conservative disciplineclosely related to natural science.
Stepping away from the discipline of psychology and looking at AUCA as a whole, I would like to say that this universityis where every student has theopportunity to receive a multi-disciplinary education, making it a global university."
"AUCA still maintains its elite status, and that is largely due to the fact that great students continue to come to AUCA, grow, graduate, and become successful."
Makhinur Mamatova has been a professor of Psychology at AUCA since 1998, when she joined as a part-time faculty while completing her Ph.D. In that time AUCA (then AUK) has done a lot of growing up, made some mistakes, and had some victories. Makhinur thinks that all of this is normal for a “teenage” university testing the waters. Makhinur has also done a lot of growing at AUCA, spending almost all of her professional career here. I sat down with the counseling psychologist in February, 2013, to talk about the challenges of being a professor.
-You first came to AUCA in 1998. What was your initial impression then as a part-time faculty?
I was only brought on to teach one course at the time, Intro to Psychology, and my first group was actually students in the Law program. What I was really amazed by, coming from Slavonic University where I was finishing my Ph.D work, was that everyone was speaking in English. It was everywhere. The other thing I noticed was how close the students were to each other. It was a much tighter community of students back then, and the spirit they carried around with them was infectious. In fact, I am still friends with some of those Law students that were in my class that first year.
-So what do you think, then, is the biggest difference between those 1998 students and today’s AUCA students?
Well I think that the university has grown, and that is really the biggest difference. In 1998 the university was just getting started, the classes were small, and it was possible to know everyone. Today that is not the case, so it means that the students have to make choices about who they spend their time with, and what projects they work on. I think that the university still maintains its elite status, and that is largely due to the fact that great students continue to come to AUCA, grow, graduate, and become successful.
-One of the biggest differences on the surface is our relationship with Bard, but you have been deeply involved with that project. What can you say about how that relationship has made an impact at AUCA?
I was one of the faculty that helped develop First Year Seminar (FYS) for implementation at AUCA. Together with Bard faculty, including Peg Peoples, we created a truly different experience for both students and faculty. For students, the biggest difference between FYS and their other courses is that FYS is theme-based, not discipline-based. This means that students of Economics are mixed together with students of Software Engineering, and together they tackle really complex themes, such as the symbolism of the Grand Inquisitor, from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
This material is hard for adults, let alone freshmen entering their first semester and learning in their second language. Furthermore, these students are mostly used to being lectured at, and FYS is really based around seminars and class discussion. At the beginning most students are really lost. It is not that they do not understand, but it is just confusing stuff. What is great for us as professors is when they finally start to get going, when they can examine the hidden messages in the language of the Grand Inquisitor. The students start to see what previously was invisible to them.
-And what about what you as a professor get out of it?
Absolutely. The best part about FYS is that we get to co-teach it. It is not even co-teaching as much as it is collaborative teaching. I work with Lance Tillman in FYS. I work on the reading component and he works on the writing component. It is great to have him there because we can provide feedback and see each other from a third side, not just as a student or a professor. When I first started FYS I thought it was challenging and complex, and I was wondering how it would be possible to teach the material to the students. The support you get from the faculty, and especially your collaborative partner here is really the key. It has allowed me to grow as a professor, and inspired me to try new and different techniques in the classroom.
-You are also a professor of Psychology, and were the chair of the department from 2002-2008. What can you tell us about the Psychology department and what our students are working on?
Being a psychologist is really about helping people. My specialty is in Clinical Psychology. I defended my dissertation at St. Petersburg State University in 1999, and since then have been doing research, teaching, and also practicing as a counseling psychologist. The courses I teach in the Psychology department are related to counseling: Psychology of Personality, Abnormal Psychology and Intro to Counseling, and Methods of Group Psychotherapy. P. The goal is to introduce students to ways in which behavior can be modified and adapted to help people through their lives.
Central Asia in general is home to more traditional and ritualistic cultures, and it is not really accepted, as in Europe or the United States, that people sometimes need to seek help outside of their immediate family. However, we are starting to see this change in the sense that I notice more and more people seeking professional counseling, and our students are a part of that change.
Many of them now have their own practices. One, NastyaSlastnikova, has a practice that focuses on children and parents. Another, Roman Yumatov, is now in Great Britain studying psychoanalysis and wants to open a practice here when he finishes. I think that many of the students who come to us also want to put their skills into practice, and, at the end of the day, psychology is an applied field. Our students have a long history of going on to graduate school and getting professional degrees so that they can practice in different fields of Psychology and Social Sciences.
-Makhinur, thank you for your time, and if we have any problems, we will let you know.
Thank you. My door is always open, but we also have a full-time counselor available to all students, faculty, and staff who need help.
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.
OSF has been one of the most important partners in the history of AUCA. To date, they have supported millions of dollars in student scholarships, faculty development, staff development, and research fellowships. AUCA graduates have also benefitted greatly from OSF programs, including many who have gone on to get their masters at Central European University, and many who have gone on to get their Ph.Ds as part of the Academic Fellowship Program. OSF has also sponsored innovative scholarship programs for Afghan and Turkmen students to attend AUCA, which has made a great impact on the university's regional reach.
USAID, the U.S. government agency in charge for providing economic and humanitarian assistance, has partnered with AUCA from the very beginning. Although AUCA is a private university, not a U.S. government project, USAID has provided over $10 million in support since the university was founded in 1993.
Currently USAID is funding the AUCA Moving Forward grant, a three-year $2.7 million dollar grant supporting student scholarships, faculty development and research, the creation of the Central Asian Studies Institute and the Tian Shan Policy Center, and the expansion of the Continuing Eduation Center. Through this grant, AUCA hopes to deepen its commitment to the Kyrgyz Republic through community engagement and a new commitment to research in Central Asia.
What is your main occupation at the moment? Is it the place you wanted to be or are you still on the way to your desired goal?
I am a yoga teacher, I teach many different styles, but my favorite and closest to my heart is Kundalini yoga. I feel like I have been teaching yoga all my life, and this is how my students and friends feel. This is who I am and this is what I love doing. It fills my life with the deepest sense of purpose. Dreams comes true, yet we don’t know what we dream about most of the time. Dreams just happen and you have to follow your gut feeling and follow the journey, stay open and see what wonders about yourself will be revealed to you.
I always wanted to work with people and help people, now I have the technology (Kundalini yoga and others), passion and enthusiasm to do that. Because we are all here to help each other to realize why we are really here and what we came here to achieve. If you have not found your path yet, keep on searching, I am sure it is right around the corner.
What are your main achievements and why do you consider these to be important?
I went to India and did my teacher training there, and it was the most transformational experience of my life. It is like you are given a second chance. It is like you start to live life the way it is meant to be lived. I lived in the Himalayas for 2 months and it is beyond the most powerful place on planet Earth.
Writing a book about Kundalini yoga in Russian for a Russian audience is my other great achievement. I started the process in Lodnon,, where I live, and it was totally inspired by my work and private clients’ practice.
It is a book where I share all the practices and secrets (well, they no longer need to be secrets as everyone can benefit from them) of Kundalini yoga in order to achieve the fullest human potential we are all born with: 8 human talents (acceptance, creativity, determination, love, expression, intuition, un-limitedness and radiance). Discovering your multiple talents is easy as long as you are committed to the path of growth, self-love, and self-acceptance.
How do you understand leadership, and to your mind, who is a good leader?
A leader is conscious and without fear. A leader is the gift we all have, it is the power to see the picture, set the goals and realize your dreams. We are all leaders. This talent sits within us, we are all born with. I write about this in my book, so I highly recommend you to get a copy as soon as it is out in print. You will start to see for who you really are.
What is a project that you have worked on that you are proud of and why?
I am in the final stages of finishing my first book dedicated to yoga technology, “The Secret Files: Your Talents.” It is a unique book that shares technology that can change your life if you follow it with commitment and enthusiasm. The book came about from my extensive yoga teaching experience in London and abroad. I was teaching a lot of workshops around chakras (from Sanskrit means “energy wheels” or seats of energy within us), human talents, empowerment, mental tools based on the teachings of Kundalini yoga.
Who are the people in your life who have given you most support, inspiration and guidance?
My first guru – my mother, Mila Tarabashkina, as she is very kind, wise and powerful lady. My teachers, all people that come to my life for various reasons – they are also my teachers. Every person you meet is the mirror that helps you to see yourself more clearly, to develop skills further and shed old habits. So, I get inspiration and guidance from everyone I meet.
What are your plans for the future?
I am in Bishkek for 4 months and I am going to teach Kundalini yoga here, train people who are interested in this technology, and share the ancient secrets to youth, health, happiness and nerves of steel via yogic technology. I want to launch my book shortly, so I cordially invite you to come and see me in person and learn more about yourself, who you really are and what you can achieve in this lifetime on this beautiful planet Earth. Love to all of you!
What would you wish to our readers?
Never give up on yourself. Never give up on trying. You are the perfect the way you are right now, so stop beating yourself and start loving yourself finally. This is what the Age of Aquarius is all about. Become who you are, follow your unique path and may your inner wisdom guide you.
More information about Olga and her teachings, classes and her first book please find here:
If you have any further questions about yoga, places where Olga teaches please email at email@example.com
Founded in 1860, Bard is a four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences. The campus, a fusion of two historic riverfront estates, is located in the Hudson Valley. The College offers the bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in more than 40 academic programs in four divisions: Arts; Languages and Literature; Science, Mathematics, and Computing; and Social Studies. In addition, the Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a dual-degree program in which students earn both a bachelor’s degree in music and a B.A. in another field in the liberal arts or sciences.
Unlike many Western universities, Bard has made deep and groundbreaking partnerships with international institutions around the world. These include AUCA in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Rpublic; Smolny in St. Petersburg, Russia; Al Quds in Abu Dis, Palestine; Central European University in Budapest, Hungary; European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin, Germany; and International Human Rights Exchange in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Bard works at each of these institutions to promote a liberal-arts approach to education, one that values student-centered learning and asks both students and faculty to challenge what they know, and learn to ask the questions that will lead them to the answers. Through faculty exchange, Bard and AUCA have worked since 2008 to improve curriculum, implement new teaching methods, and create an environement for learning unique to Central Asia.
In 2011 Bard also began issuing Bard diplomas in 9 academic programs at AUCA. This not only shows the confidence that Bard has in AUCA as the leading university in the region, but also proves that Bard is committed to higher education in Central Asia for the long term. AUCA students, faculty, and staff benefit greatly from this partnership, and through it AUCA intends to become not only the best university in Central Asia, but one of the best in the world.
Coca-Cola Bishek Bottlers is more than just a distributor of Coke products in the Kyrgyz Republic. The company takes a proactive role in Kyrgyz society. Since arriving in Bishkek they have created projects worth millions of dollars focusing on everything from gender issues to sustainable water use.
In 2011 AUCA and Coca-Cola Bishkek Bottlers signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue joint projects. The first step in the partnership involves Coke managers completing their MBA degrees at AUCA. Coca-Cola has also sponsored events at AUCA to promote healthy living such as soccer tournaments, as well as student life events such as initiation.
AUCA expects that its partnership with Coca-Cola, and others like it, will contribute to a strong link between AUCA and the business community, and that out of this partnership will come innovation that will benefit both institutions.
AUCA looks forward to future collaborations with Coca-Cola Bishkek Bottlers, and all companies that wish to gain a competitive advantage by partnering with AUCA.
“There's a common belief among anthropologists that you must immerse yourself in an unfamiliar world in order to truly understand your own” says heroine of Scarlett Johansson in the movie she starred “The Nanny Diaries” as a perspective student applying to Anthropology department for one of the prestigious schools in New York City.
I absolutely agree with this statement! Anthropology gives different variety of understanding world around you, and importantly to open your own.
I graduated Cultural Anthropology department 2010. Since then I have worked in several International Organizations dealing mostly with regional development such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Help Age International, Rural Development Fund in various important projects. These jobs required high qualifications in understanding the society and the people, strong analytical and research skills. Basically saying, that’s where knowledge I have gained from Cultural/ Social Anthropology was used.
Anthropology is fundamental science for any other studies, so if you chose Anthropology, then you should be sure that you are learning a heart of all studies. It is a perfect combination of psychology, sociology, history, archaeology, linguistics, economy, politics and cultural studies.
During my study at the AUCA, I was interested in a very interesting branch of it - Visual Anthropology. Visual Anthropology is about presenting the world around you through the camera. It can be documentary films and photos, which are great tools to research and visualize the subject and present it to the world. I made several documentary photo films based on my researches throughout Kyrgyzstan, some of my documentary photos were exhibited in the National Museum of Art. Consequently, I was somehow connected to the art. The art of Filmmaking.
I strongly believe that cinematography as well as visual anthropology (research) is the best tool to tell your ideas and thoughts to the audience. They illustrate socio-cultural, historical, and political issues and discover the essence of relationships, thoughts and being a human.
At the present, I am working in filmmaking industry, following my childhood passion. I continued my education at the New York Film Academy, studying Filmmaking course. I want to make my own contribution to the development of Anthropology discipline and Film Industry in Central Asian region.
Anthropology is not just a social science, but its amazingly interesting world to discover!"
AUCA and Bank of Asia are partnering to help increase access to high quality education. Through a new Bank of Asia Scholarship Program, 10 students from the regions of the Kyrgyz Republic will receive a $1,000 scholarship towards their tuition at AUCA. The initial 5-year program will help 20 students to attend AUCA. The students will also receive summer internships at Bank of Asia, which has offices around the entire country.
Nazira Beishenalieva (AUCA’98), a member of the Bank of Asia Board of Trustees, said that many students outside of Bishkek think that AUCA is out of their reach, that even if they are talented enough to get in, that they will never be able to afford it.
Nazira was originally moved by the experience of her housekeeper, who was working 3 jobs to be able to send her son to AUCA. Her son did not know that she was doing household labor to pay for his education, and despite all her work, she was falling short of making tuition payments. Nazira decided to step in and help, but she also realized that there were far more students like this one that could benefit from such financial support.
When Nazira originally proposed the program to her board, many asked why they should spend money to send students to AUCA as opposed to the National University of Kyrgyzstan or one of the other state schools. Nazira was adamant that it be AUCA. She said that AUCA is one of the only universities that can guarantee a quality education, and also one of the only universities that can ensure that the scholarship money goes towards education.
The scholarships will be awarded to 2 seniors, 2 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 3 freshmen. Each year 3 new freshmen will be awarded with the scholarship and internship program. To find out more details about the program, how it is administered and how the selection process works, please go to www.auca.kg/en/scholarships.
"In anthropology all sciences are intertwined. The student should be able to think critically."
- You are a student of the Anthropology department. Do you regret of your choice?
- No, no regrets. While applying to the Anthropology department I doubted the accuracy of my choice, but, after I have studied аnthropology for two years, I realized that I made the right choice.
- Why AUCA? Why Anthropology?
Why AUCA? You are really asking that question? Well, where else in Kyrgyzstan can I get such a good education as here? I do not know any other places. But there is one thing that caught me – it is the UniquespiritofAUCA. Outsiders will not understand. Yes, and I also enjoy the freedom of expression that AUCA gives to its students.
You know, a person may take years just to understand the essence of a holistic science as anthropology. However, the one who understood it, will be happy, because possessing skills of anthropologist opens for a man the whole new world full of riddles and opportunities.
- Tell us a little about your Department. What new did you learn there? What did it give you?
In fact, you do not get this feeling of so relaxed and friendly atmosphere in any other Departments than at the Department of Anthropology. The absolute equality reigns. At any time you can go to the Department and drink tea with professors, talk to them, and they will not look down on you and treat you as unequal to him interlocutor.
I did not just learn, but also understood and analyzed so much useful information, which I have not sort through in my head yet. Actuality, all the things that we were taught was completely new to me. I graduated the technical class at high school, which was focused on physics, mathematics and computer science. Therefore, after I entered the Anthropology Department, I completely changed my profile, and along with it, point of view to life.
I think that we need to rephrase the question, not "what the Department gave me?", but "what I got from this Department?" Unfortunately, I took for myself, is not quite as I should have taken. Moreover, how can we measure our knowledge? There is no limit to perfection. As Socrates said: "The more I know, the less I know".
- Where do you want to work when you will graduate?
I see myself as an employee of an international organization, such as UN. I want to manage my own projects on the social development of periphery and the preservation of cultural values. Another problem that I am interested in is the peaceful ethnic conflicts resolution. My choice falls on these issues because the anthropology involves a qualitative study of a person as a whole, in particular, the products of cultural - social activities of the human beings. Thus, I have a direct path to the United Nations or other organizations of this type.
- What are the prospects for the students of the Anthropology Department?
A clever and a good student always have perspectives. He even can create them on his own for himself. For the students graduated with Honors at the Department of Anthropology almost all directions are opened, even a part of the exact sciences. You may wonder and argue that this is impossible. However, it turns out that possible. I understood it myself. Anthropology - is the science of strategy.
- Tell us about your favorite classes in the Anthropology Department. What are they interesting for?
I am very interested in the direction of "Development Anthropology", so I am interested in everything that is connected with it. You know, if there is a Department in AUCA that is moving along well-trodden path, it is definitely not the Department of Anthropology. There is so much different and new in this Department, that any student of AUCA will find an interesting class for himself.
- I heard you have very interesting internships, where you go to excavations in the regions. Have you passed this internship? Tell us about it more in detail.
Actually, this is an archaeological practice, when we travel around the region, exploring the ancient monuments, and try to fill the gaps in the history. There is also an anthropological internship, when we can be sent even to another country to study certain social problems. For example, in 2012 we went to Kazan and St. Petersburg to study Central Asian migrants. It was very interesting. First of all, we won the grant, as it should be in accordance with the procedure. The main theme of the study was "Migrants and town or cities of migrants". Our group wanted to find out how workers adapt to foreign cultures and the problems they often face. We spent 2 weeks in Kazan, then the same in St. Petersburg, collecting data on migrants: citizenship, purpose of stay, place of work, etc. Then we made special cards that contained the percentage of migrants in different parts of the city. Finally, we compare and analyze the data collected from the two cities. I can write an entire article about it, if I go on to details. J
Returning back to archaeological practice, I passed it in Naryn, and we slept at an altitude of 3750 meters. We still had time to visit Son - Kul, where the altitude is 4000 m. Excavations were conducted daily. There, I have learned that an archaeologist must have a good drawing skill. He should make a lot of charts and maps. Well, and of course, dig. But do not just dig a shovel, but carefully remove the soil using special tools, layer by layer, to make sure we do not damage the artifact. After finding an artifact, you should enter data on the map. As a result, there may be an old puzzle, which can be a real discovery. At the time of my archaeological practice, we have not made the discoveries, but we have found many artifacts of the Stone Age and few from the Bronze Age. Also, I had an opportunity to study Mongolian burial and touch the real balbals (usually stone monuments dedicated to the kings and great warriors). In Son-Kul I saw a huge cemetery of kings, stretching from one coast to the other. It was a very bright moment in my life.
- Does the fact that anthropologist is a pretty rare profession scare you? Don’t you think that it would be difficult to find a job on this profile?
Fear has big eyes. Of course, I am a bit concerned that anthropology is not that developed in Kyrgyzstan, as in United States or Europe, but I do not consider it a problem. You know, good anthropologists are as "freelancers", they will always find a job on the profile, because anthropology, as I said before, is the holistic science.
- What good advice would you give to students who want to enter the Anthropology Department?
It can be discussed for a long time about the pros and cons of the Anthropology field. There is something in one science that is not in the other. In anthropology all sciences are intertwined. The student should be able to think critically. Anthropologist can only be compared with the spy agent, who he can adapt to any situation and find the right solution. So, dear friends, if you have any doubt, leave them and come to study at our Department. And most importantly, get the maximum! Then no one can impose their game to you.
"Anthropology is not just a theory, but the practice. It is not something abstract and distant, it is all around us"
- Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you study and work before the AUCA? What projects did you work on? Maybe you can tell us about some kind of achievements you have.
The choice of the profession - Archaeology I have made back at high school. While studying at the Faculty of History at National University named after J. Balasagyn (KNU), I have made my decision on the area of my interest - Archaeology of the Stone Age. Since there is a lack of educational institutes especially for archeologists here, after graduation, I got my postgraduate studies at the Institute of Archeology at the Ethnography SBRAS (Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences) in Akademgorodok near Novosibirsk. Three years passed very fast. In summer, there was a field work and school in Altai and Khakassia, and the rest of the time there were exams, work on dissertation, trips to the conferences. I think I was very lucky, I gained a lot of knowledge in practice, and I was surrounded with people who helped me when it was, there were many people to take an example from. My first independent and largest project was my dissertation, which was devoted to a series of Paleolithic in Western Kazakhstan. As you probably know, The Stone Age is unique by the fact that almost all the archaeological materials of this period are made by stone tools. The Stone Age takes 99.9% of the history of mankind, and often stone tools are the only ones, that can help us to shed some light on what was happening on the Earth back then. Imagine, thousands and thousands of stone tools, and each of them are being thoroughly examined, described, drawn, classified, analyzed, and as a result, we can say who made and used them, what kind of lifestyle did they have when it was initially used as stone guns. In about two months after I graduated my postgraduate studies, I began to work at AUCA.
- How long have you been teaching at AUCA?
Since January 2007, it is my sixth year of work here.
-Why AUCA but not another university?
I have been asked many times about it, and usually I used to jokingly reply that nowhere elseI was offered a job. If to be serious, this is somewhat the truth, the Department of Anthropology of AUCA needed archaeologists, so they offered me a job.
- In the overseas, there are many universities with the Department of Anthropology. Why did you decide to teach here in Kyrgyzstan?
As a representative of my generation, who had studied abroad I was also faced with the dilemma of choosing work and country of residence. Naturally, I am a very homely person, I missed my native land, to close and dear to me people, here are my roots. Even now, when I have to leave for the conferences, internships, studies it is hard for me, I always want to return and just for the sake of my beloved work I perform such feats.
- What courses do you teach?
At AUCA I'm teaching such courses as Introduction to Archaeology, Archaeology of Central Asia, Eurasia’s Prehistoric Art, Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Co-evolution of man and culture, peoples of Siberia and the Far East.
-Anthropology is a rare profession. What kind of work on this profile can be found in our country?
While analyzing where our graduates work nowadays, I can say that anthropologists have a broad scope of "application”. This means that an anthropologist can work almost anywhere where it is needed to know the people and their fields of activity, on the market, policy, analysis, fundraising, movies and etc. Therefore, among our graduates you can meet teachers, managers, researchers, translators, analysts, consultants, etc. If one wants to focus on working as an anthropologist, then I can allocate the research sector - all universities, museums and research institutions of the country. For example, the Aga Khan University recently became very active in terms of anthropological researches and offering the anthropological courses. NGOs in Kyrgyzstan, a large number of NGOs are seeking for young professionals with knowledge of the region. Government agencies, it can be counseling departments and analytics.
- AUCA students, what are they? What differs them from students of other universities?
Yes, they very much differ in their motivation for learning, responsibility, hard work, activity and curiosity. Most of them are realists and know what do they want.
- What advice would you give to prospective students of anthropology? What does one need in order to study at this department?
First of all, a sincere desire to study anthropology. The problem is that what is anthropology is not well understood. But above all, for the humanities it is a huge field for the activities and opportunities, anthropology as a science which studies the a unique phenomenon as person in his biological and cultural aspects, this is not just a theory, but the practice. It is not something abstract and distant, it is all around us, by which we live, and all the charm lies in the fact that it is not only us, but also all the others, from the world of mankind.
"Anthropology is a science without bottom and borders."
- Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Kant, in the Chui region, which was famous for its sugar factory (Kant means sugar in Kyrgyz. My parents contributed heavily to my education and future. They always supported my passions when I was young. I was a member of chess club, played in parody shows, sang soviet hits, and improvised historical stories. At university I decided to study history because I loved looking at historical documents, working in the archives, comparing information, and participating in scientific conferences. After graduating, I worked at a school, and then at Kyrgyz National University. In 2000 I defended my Candidate dissertation, and in 2009 my Ph.D.
Since 2000 I have been director of the “Center of Museum Initiatives” which trains museum managers, helped restore the Shakh-Fazl Islamic monument from the 11th century, and conducted research of bio-cultural diversity in Naryn region. All of these projects gave me the chance to learn about the cultural, material wealth, and inexhaustible spiritual heritage of the Kyrgyz people, one of the most ancient peoples in the world.
I am also a member of the Commission for Researching the History of Kyrgyzstan under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, and a member of the Dissertation Council at the National Academy of Sciences in the Kyrgyz Republic, where I supervise 6 applicants. I have participated in the Fulbright program, and I have won research grants from OSI – CARI, CARTI, and CDC. I have published 2 monographs and more than 20 scientific articles.
- Why do you work at AUCA now when you could be working almost anywhere?
Before AUCA I was dean of Kyrgyz State University. My job was mainly administrative and bureaucratic. In 2006 I received an invitation from AUCA, and I felt it was a good opportunity for me to grow. Since that time I’m grateful to be part of a modern and dynamic university, which is one of the three best universities of Central Asia. I like the words of the computer genius Steve Jobs, “My job is not to be soft with people. My job is to make them better”. AUCA gives professors opportunities to become better and stronger both professionally and personally.
- What courses do you teach?
The History of Kyrgyzstan; History of Central Asia; and Anthropology of Kinship, Nations and Cultures of Central Asia.
- Anthropology is a rare profession. What kind of jobs can graduates find in Kyrgyzstan?
Here anthropologists can find themselves in institutions such as international organizations, universities, and embassies. For instance, our graduates are working in the US Embassy, IREX, ACCELS, and several NGOs and businesses. Of course, the labor market in Kyrgyzstan and in Central Asia is not always offering well-paying positions for anthropologists, but around the world, we are in demand in several areas such as social planning, migration policy, minority groups, poverty control, and social development. For example, the director of International Monetary Fund, Jim Yen Kim, is an anthropologist.
- How are AUCA students different from students of other universities?
The mathematician Pythagoras said, “Waking up in the morning, ask yourself: what do I need to do?In the evening before going to bed, ask: What have I done?”Most of our students follow his words. They are active, energetic, and pragmatic. They have initiative, compassion, intellectual flexibility and communication skills. I do believe that our students and graduateswill be a guarantee of prosperity for Central Asian countries.
- What advice would you want to give to potential students of the Anthropology department? What is necessary to enter to this department?
I want to paraphrase the words of an outstanding thinker of the 11th century Jusup Balasagyn, “Cognition is a sea without bottom and borders.” Anthropology is a science without bottom and borders. The world has a lot of unexplored and unknown knowledge about humanity, culture, language, habits, and traditions, sitting there for our students to discover. Secondly, students have the chance to go on archeological excavations and ethnographic expeditions. Finally, universities and research institutions in the USA and Europe need postgraduates and applicants from our region, because they bear the unusually rich and diverse culture of Central Asia.
"I fell in love with AUCA when I visited it during the Open Doors event."
-Why AUCA? Why Anthropology?
I fell in love with AUCA when I visited it during the Open Doors event. I really liked the atmosphere in the university that day and remember being so impressed with the students and faculty. I decided to choose Anthropology because it was something that not everybody was interested in, but it really spoke to me when I heard the presentation.
-Tell us a little about your department and what makes it special?
Our department is the smallest, but also the closest. We know each other very well, and we all support each other in our academic pursuits. We are proud of our faculty, who receive grants and publish their scientific research. During my four years I discovered a lot of new things about different cultures and nations, and why and how societies change. Also I developed a lot personally through relationships with my professors and peers.
-Where do you want to work after graduation?
After graduation I want to get into an MA program in order to get a deeper understanding of cultural anthropology. If I do not get in right away I am planning to work in a research agency or an NGO. A lot of NGOs need specialists who can add cultural context to their projects.
-What career choices do Anthropology students have?
-We can work almost anywhere: social services, research, businesses, they all need people to help them understand the world around them. A lot of our graduates work on advocacy programs, conflict studies and human or minority rights. It really depends on the person, what he/she wants, and their goals for the future.
-Tell us, please, about your favorite courses from Anthropology department.
-It’s really hard to choose because I got great inspiration out of all of my courses. I really loved a couple of courses I took that dealt with religion and its history, especially in Central Asia, where we have had a mix of both Eastern and Western religions. I also enjoyed the research and methods course for anthropologists.
-Did you participate in summer schools or special programs abroad?
Well for anthropology we do not go to summer school, we do summer research outdoors. It is unforgettable! For example, with the help of my department and CASI, I went to Kazan and St. Petersburg to conduct research. I got to look at cultures and how they vary depending on their location, and I got to apply the theory I had been learning in class.
-But you also get to do some excavating, no?
-Yes, we have the best experiences! At the end of my freshman year, our group went to Issyk Kul to do an archaeological dig for artifacts. It was a real chance to “touch” history, and all of my friends were jealous after they found out what we were up to.
-Anthropology is a rare major, but you do not seem scared about your future career.
No, it did not scare me when I entered AUCA, and I am not scared now. There is a demand for talented anthropologists, because it is a rare specialization, and lots of organizations need them. Anthropology can really be used in every sphere of activity.
-What useful advice can you give to our prospective Anthropology students?
Do not be afraid of picking a major you like, just because your friends might be applying to more popular programs. You need to do what is right for yourself. Also, do not be shy in class, because you never know when your thoughts might have an impact.
"I want to visit all of the European countries because each of them has merits and a different view of the world."
- You are a freshman in the European Studies department. A little time has passed since you’ve entered. Please tell us why you chose AUCA.
I don’t regret entering this department or this University. It is the best and most interesting department for me. I like the American-style education system because it allows students themselves to select courses which are convenient to them in terms of time. Moreover, AUCA has a vivid student life, high-quality professors, and promotes an environment of individuality. Students here really do enjoy studying, and are not simply attending lessons. Finally, the University offers many overseas opportunities to its students.
- Tell us about your department. What have you already learned? Why do you like it?
I like the classes, which are very interesting. In this department I can study European culture, history, and policy. I like it because the things I study are interesting and I learn something new in each class, which is why I try not to miss any classes. We have international faculty members from Turkey and Germany teaching us, and they hold our attention in class so well that I don’t want to miss a single word of what they’re saying.
- What do you want to be after graduating?
I want to work at one of the various European organizations, but before that I want to get an M.S. After getting my masters I’ll try and join the U.N.
- What kind of jobs can students of the European Studies Department get after graduating?
History is taught in the department which makes me think that students can work at a consulate or enter political life after graduating. Also, students can work with international organizations, or even work as translators.
- Do you have to learn another foreign language besides English?
From the 2nd year on we will have an option to learn either German or French.
- What European countries do you want to visit?
I want to visit all of the European countries because each of them has merits and a different view of the world.
- Have you ever participated in special programs or summer schools?
Yes, I participated in the FLEX program for educational and cultural exchange.
- How do you spend your free time?
Usually I work at the AIESEC International Youth Organization, where I learn a lot of new things. I also sometimes attend other clubs at AUCA. Our university has a diverse body of clubs.
- What valuable advice can you give to prospective students of European Studies?
As our professor Gorkem Atsungur always says: “If you like European Studies, then success will be yours.” Therefore, if you are interested in this wonderful department, then try and enter. We will be glad to see you among our students!
"I plan to continue my studying and build career in political sphere"
You are a senior student of the European Studies department. Almost 4 years have passed since your entrance to the university. Tell us, please, do you regret your choice? Why AUCA?
I can’t believe that I’m already a senior student! Time flies! How can I regret the most important choice in my life? When I was studying in USA, I began to search for information about universities. Studying overseas and returning to motherland were my priorities. My residence near my parents was very important for me. I applied to universities in Kyrgyzstan, Poland, USA, and even in India! Eventually, me and my family chose American University of Central Asia. I think this is a great start of my life. Studying with my friends in international environment, meeting new people every day, opening own talents, attending all classes with pleasure – all of these are dreams of any student! Each day at AUCA – is a real holiday! And isn’t that what youth wants?
Tell us a little about your department. What new have you learnt? What did you get from this department?
My department is the best! Most careful faculty is working in our department! They came from different countries: Germany, Poland, France, Turkey, Italy, United States, and Kyrgyzstan – it is very important! They use modern education technologies, develop critical thinking skills, share their knowledge and experience, and create very friendly atmosphere. Our department is unique! We can select second foreign languages – German or French. After second academic year, student can speak second foreign language fluently. We have French club, every year our department organizes student research conference in philosophy, history, political science, linguistics, and culture.
Where do you want to work after graduating?
At the moment, I plan to continue my studying and to build career in political sphere. I want to emphasize that I received excellent knowledge in various areas like political sciences, economics, law, philosophy, history, culture, cross-cultural communication etc. But the value of knowledge consists not only of theory; but also practice. Knowledge and skills received in AUCA gave me the chance to complete my internship at several ministries of the Republic of Tajikistan, Counterpart International, and UNDP. It was a great opportunity to practice my foreign language skills with representatives of different cultures.
What perspectives students of the European Studies department have?
Relying on practice I can rightly say that interdisciplinary knowledge at out department promises to provide us with good vacancies and perspectives. The goal of European Studies is to prepare graduates to work in non-government or national organizations, on international level, mainly in Europe. NGOs, professional associations, public institutions, administrative organs can be also outstanding job places for graduates.
What countries of Europe do you want to visit? Why?
My childhood dream was to visit Berlin. That’s why I selected German as second foreign language. In my third year at AUCA, I visited number of cities of Germany and Belgium within the scope of educational trip. This trip helped me to see all theory on practice and to realize my childhood dream. Now I want to visit Spain (I want to improve my Spanish), France, Norway, Sweden, and, of course, Italy!
Tell us about your favorite courses of European Studies.
Each course in our department is filled with diligence of our professors; therefore, each course is unique! Our teachers include us in curriculums besides theoretical part, they give us the opportunity to participate in discussions and debates; they make every course rich and interactive.
How do you spend your free time?
I love reading very much! During 4 years of my life in Bishkek I have collected my little library. I’m so glad that I succeeded in participating in AUCA’s social life: in events like Initiation, Diversity Week, Drama Theater, and New Year Party for children.
Senior students are writing honor thesis. What is the subject of your thesis? Why did you select it?
“Perception of European Union Activities in Tajikistan by Tajik Government Officials” – this is subject of my senior thesis.
Due to I am a citizen of Tajikistan and a student of European Studies Department, I’ve decided to connect two significant spheres of my life to make a major contribution in development of relations between European Union and Tajikistan. My internship was in Dushanbe, where I worked with representatives of public structures and international organizations. It influenced on my senior thesis subject. Also I observed opinions about EU activities in Tajikistan.
What valuable advice can you give to the prospective students?
The future of our countries is in our hands. That’s why it is very important to be able to make right decision. I wish to all future entrants to be aware of desires in time, to select subjects rationally, to learn to manage time, and to participate in social life of university. AUCA became second home for me, these 4 years flied very fast! I will always remember student days, rises and falls, happy minutes, every teacher, light-hearted students… Value every minute in university, because I’m already missing it!
Graduate of 2003, with a major in Economics and a minor in Business Administration, Aziz Soltobaev is now a proud owner and founder of an innovative and successful e-business company in Kyrgyzstan. His experience and secrets of surviving in the modern world of business is a real case study for those who consider themselves entrepreneurs.
Do you think that entrepreneurship can be learned?
In my case, I guess it is in my blood. At the age of seven, I was gathering apples and apricots in my grandmother’s garden and selling them at the market. When I was 9, I borrowed from my father a truck full of cattle feed, which I then sold to farmers in Sokuluk region during the summer break. One summer, I was selling soft drinks on the railway route from Bishkek to Balykchi. Later on, I sold a newspaper on the weekends.
What does money mean to you?
It is just a means of realizing dreams and plans. Money does not affect the way I live, wear or do things. One of my dreams is to build an astronomical observatory and restore the planetarium in Kyrgyzstan. I would like to be involved in more educational projects.
What was your path to entrepreneurship? Can you say you are enjoying it?
During my University years I was involved with SIFE, working on the Kyrgyz Business News (KBN) Project with a BA student Mirhat Alymkulov. We gathered business and economic news, compiled a digest in English, and disseminated it among our subscribers worldwide. In 2001, together with Zulfia Abdullaeva, we founded the “Intelligent Translation Service” as part of the “Intelligent Club”. We collected translation requests and distributed them among 30 students. Essentially, we were helping students pay for their tuition. In spring of 2002, I prepared a business proposal for the food-processing industry and won the National Business Plan tournament. It was recognized as the best project in agriculture-related field out of 100 applications. That summer, I had an internship in Moscow as an operations manager, read Robert Kiyosaki books and decided to try myself in business. When I returned to Bishkek, my friend Konstantin Bondarev and I launched a pancake business and called it “Bifast”. It was supposed to become a fast food chain like the Russian “Teremok – Russkie bliny”. Our kiosk was on the Sovietskaya-Kievskaya bus station. We were in business for one year, after which our project failed, because local people preferred to eat samsy and hamburgers rather than pancakes. I had a lot of fun working on all of these projects.
What role did AUCA play in your life?
AUCA changed my life and I am grateful to my alma mater. It was a great transformation from an ordinary high school graduate to a proactive, goal-oriented person. I met most of my best friends at this University. AUCA defined my way of life.
Do you miss the good old times at AUCA?
University life was one of the brightest times in my life—sleep-less nights preparing class projects, the small Kitchenette, lines at thecomputer labs, troubles with university server during computerized finalexams, and talking in the library. I remember when, together with John Atwood and Co, we were repairing benches next to Marx and Engels. It was fun.
Please tell us about your current business project, i.e. Sveto-for.
I worked as an investment analyst after graduation and completed several business projects. Nevertheless, my brother and I decided to find out an optimal business model that would be compatible with our background. After an in-depth market research that took us six months, we decided to launch the online store Svetofor, which was unveiled on August 31, 2004. Originally, we were selling books. For the next few years, we dedicated 90 hours a week to this project. Today, it is the leading e-commerce company in Kyrgyzstan. We also engage in some trading activities with Hong Kong.
What do you do in your free time?
Periodically, I take a vacation and go to China to study its language, culture, and economy. I really like this county, and I believe we can learn an important quality from them– these guys know how to work! I greatly admire their work ethic. I also like to meet and talk to interesting people over a meal. If any of the readers propose something interesting, I would like to meet and share a meal.
If we could introduce you to anyone, who would it be and why?
George Soros. I am very thankful to this person and his activities in Kyrgyzstan. I have been actively participating in Soros Foundation programs such as the Debate Program, the English language resource center, where I myself learned English, the library of School of Future Elite, and the Economic Club where we played different economic games.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I am a fan of Warren Buffet and from his essays “Lessons for Corporate America”, I follow his advice to top managers. He asks, “How would you run company if you knew it would be your only source of income for the next 100 years?”
And what does it mean?
It changes your perspective of how you should run a business.
Do you plan new business projects?
We plan to expand the existing business and revive some of our previous projects. Additionally, my team and I are looking for a business project that would interest investors from the Silicon Valley.
And what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Never give up! Believe in yourself and others will follow you.
Is there anyone you would like to thank who has influenced you greatly?
My group mates: Akmal Malaev, Erik Mambetakunov, Umed Temurshoev, Rustam Khalikov, Ruslan Karabukaev, Olga Rusina and everyone who participated in group projects with me. I greatly enjoyed class debates with other students and teachers, joint class projects, and case discussions. I am much obliged to my leadership skills mentor Natalia Slastnikova, my Organizational Behaviour teacher Camilla Sharshekeeva,my lifelong teacher Aleksey Kolpakov. Also, I would like to thank Munara Myrzabaeva for knowledge in macroeconomics, Bruce Wilson for strategy formulation lessons, Jamilya Sopukeeva for Investment Analysis, Raymond Linsenmayer for Corporate Finance, and AUCA’s financial committeeforscholarships. I could not imagine myself today without their great contribution to my life.
What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur?
When we did business in Kyrgyzstan, we had no ties, connections, or a good uncle in the law enforcement. We were amongst the many AUCA graduates with Western business thinking and no understanding of business in Kyrgyzstan. In the past seven years we have experienced hostile take-over attempts, several criminal cases, numerous lawsuits, unjustified and non-sanctioned “inspections”, arrests of goods in customs, attacks on private property, and once, there was an attempt on the life of my closest partner in Kazakhstan. This latest event was one of the reasons why we temporarily suspended business activity.
Do you have a slogan which keeps you moving in the most stressful situations?
Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is the book I live by. My slogan is his expression, “Everythingcan be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
What would you say to the current AUCA students if you were to address them in a speech?
Do not think on the scale of “Begemot”, but let it be something more global. You are capable of much more than you think, and you can develop your potential in.
Azim, you have finally graduated from AUCA in 2012, while you were supposed to do it earlier. What is the reason for such an overdue graduation?
Last couple of years I've stayed behind my classmates because was not doing so well academically. I started working and work took a lot of my time. I’ve had a rapid career growth. I was promoted and then started working on my own projects. I was in PR since my junior year, first in advertisement agency, then in Megacom as director on corporate communications, also worked on election campaigns of candidates to Presidents and political parties.
Ruslan, what about you?
I successfully graduated from Business management in 4 years. Once, I was almost expelled due to my frequent abscences. I’ve opened my first canteen in my senior year. A woman was cooking “samsy” and I was a cashier. My first start-up ended as full bankruptcy. After this failure, I decided to finish my studies and then get engaged in business.
Why did you decide to start small-scale business?
Ruslan: Azim and I spent a lot of time together, I was in public catering, I had some dining rooms. While Azim had experience in marketing, so he proposed we open a café. Azim attracted clients and I was in charge of the kitchen. I try to stay out of his marketing and promotion issues and he stays out of utility ones.
Azim: This is the key to how friends could be doing business together. We demarcated our functions and that helped us to reach common view. Both of us after graduated did not wanted to limit ourselves to work in companies. Always wanted to create something of our own.
What is the main feature of “Olives” cafe?”
Azim: We had some concrete ideas on business organization that’s why we decided to start a café that would generate income. Plus, Ruslan had great experience in that already.
What skills acquired in AUCA helped you in business?
Ruslan: AUCA taught me to achieve goals and never limit to what has already been achieved.
Azim: AUCA provides confidence in your abilities, teaches how to “sell” yourself to employers. Also, AUCA system is useful in a way that the subjects are taught by US textbooks and in my sphere of PR this is really relevant as this direction was born in AUCA.
What advice would you give to fresh businessmen? What they should focus on?
Ruslan: Once, I’ve opened a canteen and was pressured by some people who tried to take away business from me. But, I defended it in the end, even though the documents very already validated for other people. So, my main piece of advice would be – just to start business. In certain period of time you will possess set of skills and knowledge based on your own experience. And, of course, you have to be confident in your abilities and capacities.
Azim: You have to understand that responsibility totally lays with you. You have to treat business seriously, it’s not a game. And, in my opinion, before seting up a business, you have to gain experience in companies, so you would learn your capacity and how companies with big resources are implementing their ideas.
What else do you do besides “Olives”?
Ruslan: I teach “Banking” in financial technical school for fourth year now.
Azim: I also do PR. Together with Ruslan we carry out media campaigns, also do political and commercial PR. With other AUCA alumnus Ruslan Akun we shoot video-reels. At the moment, I work at Electrical Stations as PR Director.
How you know each other?
Azim: We are former classmates. We made friends because both of us lived far from school and made long trips on “marshrutkas” together. We had a lot of time to talk.
Why did you chose this name for your café?
Azim: First, we wanted to open café for foreigners. We wanted our café to be associated with foreigners, people working in international organizations, foreign companies and tourists. We were interested in this segment. My girlfriend Altynai proposed we name «Olives.»
Ruslan: That’s because we did not have any other options on mind
Azim: No, I proposed we name it “Friday and Friday.” But, this would end up sounding like well-known American chain of cafes, so we abandoned the idea. Still, as we focus on Italian and American cousine, “Olives” fits in with the concept.
Near the entry to your café there is a sign “Koldo Shop”, does it have anything to do with “Olives?”
Azim: It’s neighboring our café and is ran by my girlfriend. It’s a social shop of different hand-made products. The set-up of the shop is quite interesting: the suppliers are orphans, people with limited abilities and pensioners with low-income. The main goal of the shop is not to generate income, but to provide assistance to vulnerable people.
What are the best memories of AUCA?
Ruslan: I remember critical skills classes. AUCA is associated with this subject as most of the skills that I use were acquired in this class.
Azim: If I had an opportunity to return to 11th grade I would definitely choose AUCA. I regret that during my studying at AUCA I was not able to deeply feel the social life of our university as I was working all the time. I wish I could participate in different events, but I still feel that AUCA is the best place to study. Here, students are motivated and encouraged by instructors/professors and assisted in gaining confidence in their abilities.
Azim and Ruslan: Spirit of freedom, creativity and self-realization.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Azim: I see myself as successful person in my sphere that already had set up a foundation, place of my own where I manage people and teach new specialists. I would like to share my experience how to succeed without sponsor support.
Ruslan: I see that both of us are millionaires. We are respected and are opinion matters. We know people. And that is when we would set our foot in politics. I see us changing our country for better.
From fleeing the Taliban with his family from Afghanistan to Pakistan, to barely staying one step ahead of hunger and the menacing Pakistani police, as a refugee in Pakistan, to trudging through the snow, to his graduate courses at the prestigious Brandeis University near Boston, the life journey of Mirza Amiri ‘07, Economics, is an inspirational tale of perseverance, hope lost and regained, and dreams fulfilled. Mirza kindly took time out of his hectic schedule as a graduate student on full scholarship in the International Business School at Brandeis to talk about his remarkable path from his war-torn homeland, his life-changing experience at AUCA, and his plans for the future.
Beau Gordinier: Tell me about your life before getting to AUCA?
Mirza Amiri: Life became very difficult for us once the Taliban took over Kabul. When I was young, before the Taliban came, I always wanted to study abroad. When the Taliban took power, they closed down the university and I lost hope that I would ever achieve this dream. When we fled to Pakistan, things got even worse. The Pakistani that smuggled us into the country stole everything we had, and once we got there we faced constant discrimination. It was the worst days of our lives living in Pakistan. We lost all our money, our home, even our clothes. We didn’t know if our friends and family were dead or alive. The police were very hostile and stole from Afghan refugees all the time, and sometimes they planted drugs in your pocket and demanded 100,000 rupees to get out of jail. When I tried to find work, the most they would pay you was often 50% or less than the wages of Pakistanis. I really lost hope of ever achieving my dreams because all I could think about was how to find work to survive.
Finally, when the Taliban was driven out of Kabul in 2002, my family agreed to let me return there alone to work for Focus Humanitarian Assistance of Canada. It mainly focused on repatriating Afghan refugees back to their homes in Afghanistan. I was hired as the assistant to the director, and most of the decisions were influenced by me because the director knew very little of the country.
Soon I was promoted to head of operations and supervised the repatriation efforts at the provincial offices. The most important thing about this experience was that I regained hope and confidence and I realized I had leadership skills and I could greatly contribute to my country.
BG:What are some of the key skills and ideas that you learned at AUCA that helped you move on to a graduate program at a prestigious American university? How did AUCA prepare you for your graduate studies?
MA: AUCA played the role of a ladder for me, which helped me climb up towards the peak of my aims. AUCA prepared me for the graduate program academically. That is why, I feel comfortable here after only 2 weeks. AUCA improved my language skills. I am not only fluent in English in my school now, but I speak in Russian also to some of the international students from CIS countries. AUCA also improved my presentation skills and it is one of my greatest strengths. Professor Valeri Hardin served as a personal advisor for me, although he was not in my department. He was my English instructor, but he advised me in all spheres of my life. He still is my teacher, my advisor and above all a very good friend of mine.
Economics professor Liudmila Konstants taught me about Economic research, which made me a researcher. From her class, I learned how to study and how to work hard for myself. I am very grateful to all of my professors.
BG: What would you tell young men and women in Central Asia about studying at AUCA? What advice would you give AUCA students wanting to pursue graduate studies?
MA: The only thing that I could advise to the people in Central Asia or Afghanistan is that a person who makes their way to AUCA is lucky. Not only is AUCA one of the top university in the region, it is an educational bridge between east and west. With the knowledge and degree from AUCA, one can easily compete in the job market, as well as pursue graduate studies in the west. For AUCA students, who would like to pursue graduate studies, take full advantage of the facilities and opportunities there. Take the required courses in English, sharpen your writing skills by contributing to the student newspaper or perhaps repeating the composition courses as an audit, and try to maintain an excellent G.P.A. Also, for those who want to enter MBA, economics or finance programs, work hard on your math skills so you can score high on the GMAT or GRE tests.
BG:Tell us about your experiences working in Afghanistan this past year. Who did you work for and what is the nature of the organization? What did you learn from this experience? Beyond the troubling security situation in Afghanistan, talk about some positive developments there and tell us about what you think needs to happen there to really pull the country out of crisis and on the path to peaceful development?
MA: I worked for the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) as an investment analyst, analysis section head, and deputy director of the Research and Policy Department. I assumed three positions in a time span of around 7 months. AISA is the only modern, government-linked organization in the country that supports either local or foreign investors to improve the private sector in the country and attract foreign direct investment. AISA is a “one-stop shop,” which issues business licenses, provides consultations and supports and organizes investment promotion programs in the country and abroad.
During my tenure at AISA, I learned how to apply the theories from my textbooks to real life situations. I learned about the economy of Afghanistan. I learned that security, infrastructure, low education levels, and corruption are the main obstacles to the economic development of Afghanistan. Despite the immense structural developments, economic reforms and growth, the crisis in the country has not completely diminished yet. At this point, any short-term solutions to the crisis is very controversial since a lot of foreigners are working to exacerbate the situation, which would benefit them in one way or the other. The long-term solution to the crisis in the country is education. One day, this educated generation will pull the country out of crisis.
BG: How are you settling into your new home in Boston? Any first impressions about the United States?
MA: My settlement did not take me that long. I feel at home here already and have been doing well with everything. My first impression about the U.S. came prior to my arrival at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. Everybody who was standing in the queue of visa applicants was complaining about U.S. visa difficulties. This was true. My visa process and security clearance took so long that I missed the first two weeks of classes. I am still trying to learn about the culture, traditions, food, parties, characters, and the reason behind the smiles that people show me as I pass them on the street.
BG:Why Brandeis? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
MA: I chose, Brandeis University International Business School for its program, which is my favorite, and for the scholarship that I was awarded. I am studying International Economics and Finance, which are my favorite branches of economics. For now the plan is to earn an M.A., and later I will see if I want a Ph.D. With this degree, I am sure that I will acquire a high ranking position in the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, where I worked prior to coming to the U.S., or to the line ministries in Afghanistan (Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Economics, Central Bank of Afghanistan). Being in one of the afore-mentioned institutions, I can easily notice my contribution to my war torn country.
BG: What does your family think about your move to the United States? Were you inspired by anyone in your family to achieve such academic success?
MA: My father has always been the main pillar supporting me. My family members in Afghanistan have been suffering economic hardships without me, but still they have accepted the tradeoff and have sent me abroad to study. Although I am the first one to acquire higher education in my family, since our older generation did not have opportunities due to the barbaric political system and ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan, I have always followed my father’s footsteps.
BG:What fond memories of AUCA pop into your mind now that you are living so far away?
MA: It is so difficult to move from a small house like AUCA to a large house like Brandeis. At AUCA, I almost knew everybody and used to say HI about 200 times daily, while here, it is impossible to do that. So far, wherever in the campus I go, I remember AUCA since some sort of comparison flashes into my mind. I miss the small campus of AUCA. I miss checking books for free from AUCA library. I even miss the noisy reading room of the library.
At the 2009 Commencement ceremony, the James Wade Emison III Alumni Leadership award was granted to Shairbek Juraev, in recognition of his leadership both to both Kyrgyzstan and to students from throughout Central Asia. Mr. Juraev graduated from AUCA in 2000, Summa Cum Laude with honors in International and Comparative Politics. He has also earned a Master of Science in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has been contributing to the development of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia for many years through work for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the Institute for Policy Development. Since 2007, he has been a faculty member at AUCA, and he has been chair of the International and Comparative Politics Department since 2008. At the start of the 2009-10 academic year, Mr. Juraev will begin a new appointment as AUCA’s Dean of Academic Development.
The James Wade Emison III Alumni Leadership Award honors the memory and legacy of James Wade Emison, an extraordinarily committed member of the Board of Trustees of American University of Central Asia from 2002 until his death on December 28, 2005. This award is conferred on the alum who best exemplifies leadership qualities in public service and individual integrity.
What do you feel as a recipient of the James Wade Emison III Alumni Leadership award? Do you think it important to give out such awards that recognize leaders in our society?
It was a great honor for me to receive this award, but also huge responsibility. Such awards come with higher expectations that you have to meet.
Receiving the award was of course a very pleasant event, and I can assure you that I am not at a stage in my life when one would expect any sort of awards for any achievements. I truly believe there are many young men and women who qualify for this leadership award.
Why did you choose politics as your area of study?
I have been interested in politics since childhood. When I was nine years old and just starting to understand the events outside of my family, I witnessed the collapse of Soviet Union and the creation of a new independent state. The early 1990s was an exciting period for people interested in politics, even though it was also a nervous time for those interested in business or economics.
Do you think that leadership is a gift that a person must be born with, or can anyone become a leader?
It very much depends on what do you mean by “leadership”. I believe leadership is not something to be found in only certain types of people. It comes from having vision, training and will, and I believe everyone can develop these. A true leader should have a broad and deep vision, be able to see the roots of problems, contextualize any particular event and see long-term challenges and opportunities. A true leader must be ready for a life-long learning process and beware of self-indulgence. And of course, a leader must have a strong will in pursuit of goals; very rarely do dreams come true easily. Most importantly, a good leader is the one who lives and acts in a social context, who serves his community.
In your opinion, what qualities should a good leader have in modern society?
First, leaders must be competent in what they do. It is too easy and tempting to act in a populist manner, and become known as some sort of “leader.” The new leaders of Kyrgyzstani elite must demonstrate they know what to do and how to do it, and that they can learn whenever they need. Second, leaders must be men and women of principle, able to withstand to a great pressure of temptations. It takes great will and vision to persistently enforce rules. Making “exceptions” kills the chances for institutionalization of any good rules and laws. Third, the leaders must permanently maintain genuine connections to their community.
Do you think that international experience is necessary for becoming a leader?
I do not think it is necessary, but I believe international experience can greatly broaden the vision and understanding of this world. As the Kyrgyz saying suggests, the one who has seen more knows more than the one who lived more. Kyrgyzstan is a small country, and the only way we can develop is through building constructive and productive relations with the outer world. International experience helps in this way.
What advice would you give future leaders?
I would advise students to take advantage of all the opportunities that AUCA offers. It often happens that a small number of students disproportionately benefit from all sorts of grants, trips, and so on, just because the rest remain uninformed. Students should make an effort to find out about exciting opportunities, and they should keep themselves open to new things that come up. University years are indeed the period when students have the maximum freedom to pursue opportunities, and what students do with their lives now will correlate with the rest of their lives.
What was your experience at AUCA as a student?
I studied Political Science at Bishkek Humanities University before transferring to International and Comparative Politics at AUK. By the time I graduated, AUK became AUCA.
The establishment of AUK was a reflection of changes happening in this part of the world. AUK grew, and now AUCA is an important agent and leader of change. Change for the good of this country and this region. This understanding came as a result of my AUCA experience.
What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?
I currently chair and teach in the International and Comparative Politics department. We have been working on maintaining the high academic standards established in this department over many years. Apart from teaching, I am also involved in some research projects involving water, energy and related issues.
I plan to continue focusing on research and analysis of politics, possibly coming up with some new projects for myself. Pursuing a PhD is always an option, though every year I keep finding new reasons to postpone it.
Tongtong Tina Zhao, an AUCA graduate from China, BA, Cum Laude, Business Administration 2002, is also the coordinator of the AUCA Beijing Chapter. Tina kindly agreed to give an interview to AUCA magazine.
As an AUCA graduate, please share how you discovered AUCA and your reasons for choosing it?
I was attending the preparatory course at Bishkek Humanitarian University, and Vladimir Liu, the AUK Chinese teacher and Professor at the Humanitarian University, recommended this bi-lingual university to me. After a conversation with AUK’s President John Clark, I decided to choose AUCA as my undergraduate university, which proved to be a very good decision.
As an international student, what did you find most unusual? Were there any cultural shocks?
Kyrgyzstan is a religious country. I tried to learn more about Islam and Christianity during my first few years, but after a couple years it just became normal. AUCA is a diverse university. I studied Japanese as a second language with a Japanese professor, Fukuchi Yoichiro, took a legal training course with an Australianlecturer, Daniel O’Connell, visited the Israeli and Dutch embassies in Almaty with an
American professor, and had Korean, Chinese, and African-American classmates. I have fond memories of Kyrgyzstan. Since my graduation I have visited Kyrgyzstan several times and will do so again in the future.
What is your professional experience?
I joined Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s Beĳing office in 2008, and before that I worked for O'Melveny &Myers LLP. I also earned a Juris Master’s degree from the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). I like logical thinking, and the business professional life suits me.
What was most difficult for you in academic life?
The language barrier was the most difficult part for me, especially during my freshman year when I had difficulties with courses taught in Russian, such as Kyrgyz history. I bought a tape recorder in “ZUM”, and used it to record the lectures, which I would then go over after class. However, I am very thankful for the excellent presentation skills and the solid English and Russian language skills I gained during my study at AUCA.
What makes AUCA a special place?
AUCA is the keeper of my fondest memories and very special moments. Thank you to all those people who helped make my 5 years of living in Kyrgyzstan some of the most wonderful years of my life. I enjoyed my student life at AUCA, it was unique. I remember the Initiation party, the Halloween room we planned, Thanksgiving dinners, “angels” on Valentine’s Day, our visits to orphan homes… it’s impossible to list everything.
How do you see the role of alumni in supporting and promoting AUCA?
There are many outstanding AUCA alumni dispersed throughout the world every year. They make this magic place well-known, and I believe some of our alumni will lead Kyrgyzstan to success in the near future.
Zahidullah Jalali graduated from AUCA in 2008, majoring in International and Comparative Politics. Currently Zahidullah works as an assistant to the Deputy Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Afghanistan. Zahidullah managed to find some time for us in his busy schedule to share his thoughts and reminisce about AUCA.
Zahid, why did you choose AUCA?
A scholarship made it possible for me to enroll in one of the programs at AUCA. The liberal arts education, experienced instructors, and friendly and free environment contributed to my decision to attend the University. By the way, I am really happy I made this choice, because I was able to accomplish what I wanted.
Was it difficult to leave Afghanistan?
Not particularly. Perhaps it was a little more difficult in the beginning, since it was my first experience away from my family and home.
We have many Afghan students, especially women, studying here at AUCA…
This is true, and I would like to say that the Afghan scholarship fund is a major investment and contribution to the education of Afghanis. It is very generous of AUCA and the scholarship fund to invite Afghan students, particularly women, to study at AUCA. Onbehalfof mygovernmentand my people,I wouldliketo express gratitude to all involved parties, including the Kyrgyzgovernment,forfacilitatingthis process.I hope this project will continue, and the next generation will be able to benefit from an AUCA education.
What difficulties did you facewhen you first came to Bishkek?
While it was a new country with a new environment it was not strange. The only problem we faced was the language barrier, and it was indeed challenging in the beginning. We did not have an opportunity to learn Russian or Kyrgyz in Afghanistan, so it took us a while to overcome this obstacle. Imagine your landlady coming to your flat, she does not speak English, you do not understand Russian, and there is a guy on the phone translating what we want to say to each other. This sounds comical, but we actually had this experience.
Why did you decide to return to Afghanistan instead of living in a more peaceful country?
That is an interesting question. I should make it clear that I dearly love my country and want to stay here, especially in these difficult times. I was educated for this purpose, and it was my wish to return to my country to serve it with all that I could. It is true that there are challenging problems here, but fleeing is not the solution. I am not a person who is only concerned with my own wellbeing. I feel a huge responsibility to my country and its people.
Now, you are with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…
Initially it was challenging, since I found myself in a new environment, but now I enjoy my job. Though we have a tough working schedule and long working hours, it is a good experience and I am happy with it. Moreover, I have been interested in foreign affairs for a long time, and my family and friends have always supported me.
How does AUCA’s liberal arts education help you in achieving your goals?
I think AUCA is a place where a student not only attends lectures, but also learns from its free and friendly environment and multicultural atmosphere. I benefited greatly from the knowledge AUCA imparted on me, such as freedom of speech, critical thinking, time management skills, tolerance, and respect for others.
What are your fondest memories of AUCA?
Recalling my days at AUCA, many memories stand out in my mind. However, due to space limitations, I will refrain from recollecting all of them. Perhaps the fondest memory of all is when the Afghan team won first place in several competitions during diversity week.
What do you see as the role of alumni in supporting and promoting AUCA?
I believe alumni play a significant role. It is our responsibility to support AUCA, and to show our dedication to the institution where we were trained.
Is there anyone you would like to thank who has influenced you?
I would like to thank my parents for their constant support, my instructors for teaching and encouraging me, and my friends for their moral support.
“If you want to achieve things in life, you've just got to do them, and if you're talented and smart, you'll succeed”
She currently works for the Meridian Securities UK in London. Some people are born to be leaders and role models. She has achieved great many things in her life and will continue to be viewed by her former classmates and colleagues as somewhat of a role model. Without further do, let me present our former student, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a professional, a leader and breathtaking beauty Ekaterina Erichsen.
Ekaterina graduated from AUCA Business Administration Program in 2001. Later, she received her MBA in International Management with a focus on Global Management from the Garvin School of International Management. Ekaterina has already worked in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Germany and the UK. Before Meridian Securities she worked for the likes of SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Group and Deutsche Post World Net In-House Consulting. Alongside her successful academic and professional careers, Ekaterina is happily married with a son.
When reflecting on her time back at AUCA Ekaterina has only the fondest memories. “AUCA has been and always will be very special for me. First of all, it was a launch pad for me as a professional. Not only it allowed me to acquire a solid foundation of knowledge and skills required to be competitive on the world market, but most importantly my experience at AUCA expanded my horizons, showed me new heights to strive for and set my mindset to the ‘nothing is impossible’ mode. And I think that the latter is what differentiates AUCA from all other schools in the region. The four years spent at AUCA were a very exciting, eventful time and are forever engraved in my memory. I am sure that the friendships and strong bonds we formed back then will last a lifetime!”
Ekaterina cherishes her memories at AUCA and the strong personal bond with the university, which she was able to form while being a student. This very day she continues to stay in touch with her former classmates and AUCA friends. “On personal level, I am in touch with a lot of friends, alumni of the school. AUCA created lifelong friendships, which remain strong no matter what part of the world you are in! To this day, it continues to surprise me to see what amazing things AUCA alumni have achieved and continue to achieve and I feel so privileged to be part of this group!”
Ekaterina is the quintessential alumni ambassador. “I am very proud of my degree from AUCA and will always recommend this school to prospective students. I am very accessible to current students who want advice and will always do what I can to assist. I feel it is my duty to pave the way for students as other alumni have done for me. It is one of the many ways to increase exposure to AUCA and increase the popularity of the school. Even today, I feel as though I am an ambassador to the school as I work my way up the corporate ladder.”
“I would like to wish the alumni community to keep working hard and accomplishing your dreams. The education earned from AUCA will open many doors and for the doors that will not open so readily, perseverance and tenacity will help you achieve your goals. We, the AUCA alumni, need to continue to strengthen our network, work together and above all welcome future AUCA alumni to our group,” said Ekaterina and made us feel so proud to have her among our outstanding alumni.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing”
Kubat is the Managing Director for Central Asia in Aiten Consulting Group and has worked in the past for such big names as Deloitte and Touché, where he received a double promotion that propelled him professionally and KPMG where he began his career path after graduating from AUCA.
On the personal side five terms that Kubat Alymkulov can be described with would be –determined, honest, noble, driven and a huge Manchester United fan. Wearing a crisp white shirt and tailored suit, Kubat is a down to earth young man with a strong character, who likes skiing, staying up late cheering his favorite football club and the film Bumer. He enjoys music and literature and named ChingizAitmatov among his favorite authors.
The foundations of his professional success were laid at AUCA. When entering the university, Kubat’s interest in finance determined his choice of department he wanted to study and led him to the professional heights he is at today. Kubat always took his studies seriously and had great appreciation for his professors, two of which played an important role in inspiring and encouraging him on his way to success. Olga Galimova helped Kubat to pass his CAP (Certified Accounting Practitioner) and to receive his ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). Today Kubat speaks fondly of her professionalism and individual approach to each student. The second professor that influenced Kuban is Irina Nizovskaya who taught critical thinking and taught her students to appreciate and understand the importance of it.
Kubat was ecstatic during his graduation ceremony. It is hardly surprising given that he graduated with honors. It also made him feel somewhat sad as the realization of yet another chapter of his life being turned has dawned on him. But Kubat felt that this was also the beginning of something new and extremely exciting.
When asked what motivates him in life, Kubat pauses for a minute and then answers in a clear voice – “Self-realization!” He went on to add that the desire to prove himself of being capable of achieving his goals plays an important role. Double promotion, diploma with honors, excellent final school grades… But his determination and commitment is not exclusively professional. Kubat has a black belt in Karate and won championships in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
“I would like to thank two individuals who have not only influenced me but have made me who I am today. I would like to thank my mother who has always been there for me in both good and bad times. It is because of her love and undivided attention I am who I am today. Also, I would like to thank my Karate instructor who has taught me the essence of discipline and hard work. I can honestly say that without the help of these two people I would have been a very different person”.
‘Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings’
We seldom come across individuals who genuinely make us wonder how much a human being is capable of doing. Professional resume of our next featured alumnus makes one wonder if he ever had a moment of free time. This is the story of Kumar Bekbolotov - an intelligent and ambitious man who achieved great professional success and continues to grow and learn as an individual.
In his young age Kumar a published author and has already held two senior professional posts– he is currently the Executive Director of the Soros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan, and previously held the position of Country Director of Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Kumar graduated from AUCA in 2003 with a BA in International and Comparative Politics. The same year he went on to pursue his Master’s degree in Political Science from the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary. Upon his return, Kumar began working at IWPR as a Program Coordinator. Only a year later he was appointed the Country Director of the IWPR in Kyrgyzstan. This promotion was due to his commitment and hard work that he demonstrated. His next promotion brought him to the Central Asia Program Director at IWPR in 2007. Kumar was in charge of the strategic leadership of IWPR programs in the Central Asian region.
As an addition to his very impressive professional career, Kumar serves as an Advisory Board member for the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia based in Bishkek. In 2007 he also worked as a part-time instructor of Kyrgyz Politics course at AUCA. Kumar is also an expert for the Institute for Public Policy and holds an international elections observer status.
Nargiza is an ethnic Uzbek and was born in a small village in the south of Kyrgyzstan, close to the city of Osh. She was always at the top of her class. She realised that the education level and living standards in her village were incomparable to those in Bishkek. At best, she would have studied at Osh State University had she stayed behind.
The opportunity Nargiza longed for arrived when she went to study in the US for a year through FLEX student exchange program. However, it was by no means an easy ride. While in the US she realized that she was not quite “the best”. She had difficulties communicating with others due to a language barrier, which damaged her self esteem. Once back in Kyrgyzstan she tried her best to improve herself and decided to try entering AUCA. Her parents were rather skeptical about her chances to gain entry into such a highly competitive institution. But Nargiza was determined to give it a try not to have any regrets later. She was utterly delighted when she passed the entry exams and attained a scholarship that was reasonable enough for her and her family. Nikolai Shulgin, Dean of Student Affairs, took note of her talents and persuaded her to join in activities such as the Drama Club. Nargiza was very active in her freshman and sophomore years and served on the Student Senate and participated in many fundraisers for orphanages through the FLEX Alumni Office.
Nargiza is now viewed as somewhat of an icon in her small village which has only three others who visited the US. In the neighboring city of Osh she has come to be known as “the smart girl who speaks excellent English.” She hopes to travel more in search of a place that she could call “home”.
Nargiza now realizes that law, although being her major, is not her only focus. She wants to continue helping people and thus she hopes to obtain a Masters degree in law with a focus on Human Rights. Nargiza would like to give back to her community. She hopes to start a foundation that will work to promote gender rights, as in the south of Kyrgyzstan it is a dire issue that needs to be addressed.
When asked about how her life could have been differed if she never entered AUCA or visited the US, Nargiza replied that she would have been an ordinary girl with an ordinary life and probably married already – “I don’t have rich parents; I have to achieve everything on my own.”
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”
Isa is a graduate student at the Law School of Cornell University in the United States. Before Cornell, Isa received his LL.M in Corporate Law from Erasmus University in Rotterdam having graduated in top 6. He is a member of the LL.M Association Executive Board at Cornell and has been serving as an arbitrator at the International Court of Arbitrators in Kyrgyzstan. Having already done so much Isa has graduated from AUCA’s International and Business Law Department only in 2006.
While at AUCA, Isa focused on Civic Law. When asked about AUCA, he stresses how important was the high quality of education that he received there. “AUCA provided me with a high-level legal education that has allowed me to practice law in one of the most prominent law firms in Kyrgyzstan,” says Isa.
After his graduation, Isa clearly knew that he would go on to obtain his masters degree abroad. “I have decided to continue my education, because I realized the need for an international education in order to be able to help my country. I believe that individuals should always welcome further education and be able to build upon the foundations that they have already built” explains Isa his motivation to continue education abroad.
After AUCA, Isa went on to receive his Master of Law (Legum Magister) from Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Once he completed his master’s, Isa returned home where he worked at the Grata Law Firm as a Senior Lawyer for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Offices and also lectured on Private International Law at AUCA. “I have had the chance to study in several fine foreign academic institutions. Not arguing against the criticism towards the education system back home in the Kyrgyz Republic, I still would like to highlight the deep academic knowledge that AUCA provided me with. I am strongly convinced that the personal motivation of a student and drive is one of the main elements of successful education.”
On the personal side Isa is very modest. “It is rather difficult to describe yourself. One might feel a personal connection or relate to a much wider range of characteristics than he or she objectively does. An issue of impartiality complicates such self-evaluations even more and I am of the opinion that the most accurate description should be made by those close to you, namely your family, friends and colleagues. I recall being referred to as modest. I believe that modesty in tolerance to the wrong of the world should be welcomed. In addition, I regard integrity and dedication as important qualities. Constantly striving for improvement and development should be an integral part of everyone’s lives, no matter who they are”.
Having been to many fascinating places around the world, Isa finds the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan to be the most mesmerizing of all. To him the natural wonders of his home country are linked to his emotions and a deep feeling of personal connection. “I consider myself a lucky person as I have had the chance to visit many captivating and beautiful places such as Montmartre, Hamlet’s Castle, and Niagara Falls. However, nothing can compare to the scenes and natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan. One of the most beautiful scenes would be observing at sunset the surface of the Issyk-Kul Lake from the massive old stone on top of the mountain in the village, where I spent almost every summer of my childhood. It is more than just the scene that you see, it is about the associations, emotions that accompany it; another beautiful place for me is a bench by the children’s sandpit in my courtyard”.
In addition to his academic and professional careers, Isa underlines the vital importance of family and friends. In his own words his every achievement would not have been possible without the support of his family and friends. “I try my best to be a good son, grandson, brother, relative and friend. I feel privileged to be able to observe and try to absorb the wisdom and experience of the elder generations that I am blessed to have in my life. I am thankful to my family for the opportunities they endow to me every day.”
Ten years since graduating from what was then the American University of Kyrgyzstan (AUK), Elbek Muslimov’s focus on his career in finance has fueled his rise to a management position in one of the world’s largest financial services companies in the world. He is currently a Vice President at Citigroup Global Markets Limited in London and trades structured credit products and local currency bonds in Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other former eastern bloc countries.
Prior to joining Citigroup, Muslimov worked for three years as an associate at Deutsche Bank AG in London in their Emerging Markets Structured Products Group. In 2001, he graduated with an MBA from the School of Management at Yale University. Elbek began his career in finance working first with USAID and the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan, then with Citibank in Almaty.
When asked about the impact AUCA had on him, Elbek replied: “AUCA gave me a great career jumpstart by providing a great environment for networking and providing exposure to professionals and community leaders. I made good friends and received great support from faculty and staff much needed at the time. I am very happy to see that a tiny entity that began as the Kyrgyz-American Faculty (KAF) has grown into a full-fledged regional university.”
Elbek also fondly looks back on all the ski trips he took with AUCA classmates. “The ski trips were great, even though Stas Karpovich managed to break his foot every time!” In 2005, Elbek got married in Tashkent to his girlfriend Umida, who he met in London. In addition to starting a family, Elbek plans to keep working while the markets are growing, and later he hopes to return home and start his own business
Perhaps one of the greatest skills that AUCA students gain is the ability to manage time and balance several responsibilities at once. Ulugbek Salymbekov practices this skill on a daily basis as he juggles several leadership roles and business enterprises in entertainment and shopping mall expansion here in Bishkek. Not only is he the current President of Dordoi Plaza, Ltd., Ulugbek is also the Vice President of the Dordoi Association, General Director of Cinematika, Ltd. (which operates the Oktyabr and Vega Cinemas), the President of the Sports Journalists Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Vice President of the Dordoi Football Club. Earlier this year Ulugbek stepped down from his role as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of JS Commercial Bank – Kyrgyzstan after serving on the Board for seven years.
In 2000, Ulugbek honed his business acumen while earning an MBA at the University of Southern Europe in Monaco. Though Monaco is known for its casinos, Ulugbek kept his nose in the books and graduated summa cum laude, or “with highest honor.”
Ulugbek, a film buff, also gets great enjoyment from bringing the latest blockbuster movies (especially digitally animated films) to his theaters in Bishkek. Of his experience at AUCA, he says he gained knowledge, friends, patience, and the desire for constant self-improvement. He also fondly recalled Valentine’s Day 1995, when he won the “Love at First Sight” competition with Aselya, who was then an office manager at KAF.
Our special guest and author of AUCA success story is Cholponbek Jumashukurov. He graduated from AUCA in 2002, majoring in Business Administration, and currently works as an analyst at Farallon Capital, a private investment firm based in San Francisco. He won an FSA FLEX scholarship to study at a high school in the U.S. and afterwards entered AUCA. He received his MBA from Harvard University and has experience working in the investment and banking sector. Prior to Farallon, Cholponbek worked at Deloitte and Touche, McKinsey and Goldman Sachs.
What was your experience at AUCA?
AUCA was great for me, I wouldn’t exchange it for any other university in the world. I made my closest and best friends there, including Adilet Dadybaev, Taalai Nasirdinov, Kanybek Konokbaev, Azamat Ibraimov, Chyngyz Jamankulov, Bek Chalbaev, Ulan Kojomuratov, and Edil Azhibaev. I met many wonderful and impressive individuals like Almaz Bazarbaev, Asel Kasenova, Aijan Soodaeva, Daniyar Ilebaev, Elnura Osmonalieva, Mirlan Karabukaev, it’s impossible to name everyone, the university was able to gather truly exceptional talent. I hope one day these people will lead Kyrgyzstan.
In terms of education, AUCA gave me a particularly strong knowledge in accounting (Tatiana Filippovna), macroeconomics, (Munara Artykovna), and management and organizational behavior (Kamila Dushebaevna). Later in my career I always felt I had solid foundations in these subjects.
AUCA is obviously a very important part of my background. It is becoming more well-known as more alumni spread around the globe each year. Though the American-style grading system was a big plus, 10 years ago when I studied, it was less known. Therefore, it was important to differentiate myself from fellow students. I was very fortunate. I feel that it played a key role when later applying to these fine institutions.
What are your thoughts about success? Can you claim you are a successful person?
It is too early to tell whether I am successful or not. In terms of my achievements so far, I think they were due to a combination of a lot of luck and hard work.
In terms of hard work it has been important to set the correct long-term direction and be very focused and disciplined in executing it.
I have also been fortunate in having the right mentors at different stages. It is very important to find and stick with a person, from whom you can continually learn. I also keep a list of lessons I learn, but I’m not disciplined in actually reading them later.
In general, I am a relaxed person. There should always be a work-life balance. I like to party and probably did actually party too much during my freshman year at AUCA.
And talking about the years at AUCA – any more fond memories?
One of my great memories is the Halloween party during my 2nd year, when my friends and I prepared a scary room, which was so popular that it caused a long line. We charged a fee to enter and won the best room award, and were rewarded with a huge cake. We used part of the money to buy a large bottle of Coke for us. Sweet memories: fun, cake and soda!
To your mind, what else makes AUCA a special place?
First, what I liked most about AUCA is the lack of corruption and bribes. It is really unique in post-Soviet countries, and AUCA is much different than some other local universities. Secondly, AUCA’s scholarship program and admission process provided great opportunities for students from Kyrgyzstan’s provinces, who usually come to Bishkek with no special social ties to enter better colleges. I saw many talented students from rural areas be able to study and excel there. Finally, AUCA’s care and respect for students makes it a truly special place. I remember how the school’s administration did everything to improve students’ lives, how it increased computer lab and library hours so students could better prepare for exams, how the university assigned a special budget which the student senate could distribute for various projects.
You are an alumnus now and can look back and make judgments about education and its meaning. How do you see the role of alumni in supporting AUCA?
It is a gradual process. As AUCA increases its alumni base and the existing base matures, the alumni should be able to provide more serious support for the university. This will work as long as AUCA keeps providing a good student experience and continues investing in keeping alumni connected. The support from alumni should not be limited to participation in fundraising activities, but more importantly giving back through sharing knowledge and experience with current students. I know some examples of my peers who voluntarily taught subjects in AUCA after earning degrees abroad. Over the years my friends and I did a couple of presentations to current students on the management consulting industry, telecom sector, retail banking, professional services abroad and how to apply to top MBA programs abroad.
We also know that AUCA became the place where you met your wife. Could you kindly elaborate on this?
I met Saltanat in Bishkek, but not exactly at AUCA. We studied there at different times but obviously still share the same university background. She studied economics, and now is continuing her education here in the U.S. Saltanat has a unique personality, which is tough to find; and I am very fortunate that we are together.
If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
I would not really change anything. There are a couple of mistakes, which I strongly wish I had avoided, but they are in the past.
Your craziest dream?
The Kyrgyz Republic proudly entering the list of top 10 countries in the world with the lowest corruption and crime rates; the best education, healthcare, and business opportunities. The fiercest national debates are on how to allocate country’s large reserves and how to more fairly conduct the hugely popular Kyrgyzstan citizenship lottery.
What do “Harvard boys” do in their free time?
There are probably many stereotypes about Harvard and its alumni. I enjoy spending time with my family, reading books, watching movies, playing soccer and watching team sports. I like to read as much as possible. As famous investor, Charlie Munger, says, reading is the best way to become wiser. I have a long list of books I want to read.
Again, my work-life balance is important. Success does not equal happiness. As Ingrid said, “Success is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get.”
So, what's next for you? Any ambitious investment plans?
I like where I am now. Directionally, I would like to continue investing in myself and becoming a better professional. The three best investments in life are your education, your health and your relationships. They all usually pay off well.
Anyone you would like to thank who has influenced who you are today?
Yes, professionally I am thankful to several people, including Tatiana Parfenova and Kamilla Sharshekeeva, my favorite AUCA professors; Julia Mikhailova, my manager at McKinsey; Michael Kho, my senior buddy at Goldman; and Bill Duhamel, my previous mentor and the man who introduced me to value investing. I was also heavily influenced by the books, essays, and speeches of Stephen Covey, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.
Alina Murzaeva is a product of the International and Comparative Politics department class of 2007. She completed her Master of Science degree in International Humanitarian Law from the London School of Economics and in Public International Law from the Diplomatic Academy under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic. Currently, she serves as the Communication Legal Officer at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where she contributes to the promotion and implementation of international humanitarian law in Kyrgyzstan.
How come you chose to promote and strengthen humanitarian law and work in the sphere of international relief?
It has been a long journey. I have tried several different careers, starting from banking and editing a so-called "glamour" magazine. However, I feel in a very comfortable place now. International law is the passion of my life. Actually, public international law was my minor at AUCA, and I should say that I left my heart at the law department. Also, though often criticized, I do believe in the humanitarian values that international law aims to deliver, and this is exactly the reason why I am with the ICRC.
At the same time, it is really a great pleasure to work with students. I often come to the international humanitarian law classes at AUCA, and to be frank, it was a shot from out of the blue to see how talented our students are. Each of them possesses individuality and a fantastic personality. I am very happy to have an opportunity to continue targeting students by providing support and various opportunities.
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Hate it or love it, I am still number one. A bit more than five words, but I do not like limits anyway.
Sounds very ambitious! I ask all my interviewees the following question: what are your key ingredients of success?
I think there is no single "right" recipe of success that is valid for everyone, since it is a matter of personality. As for me, I am sure that no success can be reached without passion for what you do. Personally, I am crazy about my job, where you clearly see the added value one can deliver. So let us say a little bit of luck multiplied by self-dedication equals success.
And what principles of success you have got from your alma mater?
The most important thing AUCA taught me is to think. Our wonderful professors made me broaden the scope of my consciousness and urged me to stay critical, which allowed me to graduate with honors. In addition to that, I have clearly learned how important it is to be an effective and strong leader, yet stay a team player. These kinds of investments are priceless, and one day they will bring in revenue.
If talking about personal growth, our university provides a strong and firm foundation for future development. For me AUCA is, indeed, a special place, since I have met the people who became my life comrades here. That is the greatest gift the university could have presented me.
Even now I often reminisce about my graduation day. It was a dreary, yet warm feeling. I remember standing in line for my diploma and I was thinking, "This is probably it. Now you will receive this beautiful paper stating that childhood is leaking away. But I damn like that!" I looked at the faces of my classmates and professors, and I realized how dear they are to my heart; I spent four years of life with them, and I confess that it has been a great journey.
Do you have any regrets?
No regrets at all. You know Richard Aldington once said, "Live and make mistakes, because this is the life". This is why I just live with mistakes, which I actually love.
Since you mentioned Richard Aldington, what actually motivates you in your life?
I am afraid to get bored of life, and that keeps me moving, exploring and discovering. The more you achieve, the higher another goal is being set up for you. Perpetum Mobile is my credo. Otherwise, the danger of being stuck in between would be inevitable.
Never thought of changing anything in your life?
I would not change any little thing. I should say that for some unknown reason I was granted, from above, the wonderful life I have. I am a happy person, and I am thankful for that every single minute. But if I would need to change one thing with a magic wand, I would have transmitted Bishkek to Issyk-Kul, since Issyk-Kul is my soul.
Someonehas strongly influenced your life views…
That is definitely my mom. She is the most amazing person in this world. My modest brain just cannot understand how a person can combine so many huge features in one. My mother is a brilliant businesswoman, but my younger brother and I have always been surrounded by her love and care. At the same time, she is the perfect wife for my daddy, with dinner ready and ideally ironed shirts. Always stylish, she never stops on what she has already achieved, because this woman learns something new every day.
Is she the only person who has influenced you to be who you are today?
First of all, I want to thank my dear parents for being my foundation, my support and my driving force. All I do in this life is dedicated to my mom and dad. Secondly, I want to express my gratitude to friends just for being the way they are. Thank you for being crazy sometimes, just like me. And last, but not least, I would like to say thank you to my professors who contributed to the formation of my personality and to my life in general. The lessons you have taught me are priceless! Wish you all the best, and thank you very much for everything!
Besides saving the world, what else you do in your spare time?
The two most important things in my life, and, I believe, in the life of every person, are friendship and love.
What can I say? I am an unbelievably lucky person. I have the best of best friends ever, who make my life so bright and beautiful. Friendship by itself is a rare phenomenon, and it is hard to underestimate how fortunate I am to have my real friends around me. Real relatives might grow under different roofs, and this is true for me, because all of the people I call "friends" are my family. Thus, I dedicate most of my free time to my friends and of course to my little sweet doggy Masya. In between, I am trying to continue playing tennis and drawing. Meanwhile, I am madly waiting for the first snows to come, so that the snowboarding season will be opened.
As a member of the AUCA Alumni Board, how do you see the role of alumni in supporting AUCA?
To be frank, AUCA alumni are not playing the very role they should be playing in the life of our alma mater. Given the strong moral ties, alums have to be more involved in the activities of the university. Here, I believe, the administration and the Alumni Board have to cooperate closely. Surely, there are many brilliant ideas of how to make the AUCA family a home for everyone. Alums can provide the bridge between the students and AUCA management, representing the practical example of what an American University student can achieve. I look forward to being engaged in this kind of work. I communicate a lot with alumni of different classes of graduation, and all of them are willing to contribute to the development of our university.
AUCA is proud of many of its brilliant graduates from all over the world, and every success story is precious and worthy of attention, because it is our extreme joy to see our students growing and pursuing great careers and achieving new heights. Chyngyz Jamankulov graduated summa cum laude in 2002, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in banking and finance. At the moment, Chyngyz is responsible for managing credit risk of retail lending products such as personal loans, credit cards and mortgages in his capacity as Head of PFS Credit at HSBC Bank. He joined the Royal Bank of Scotland (former ABN AMRO Bank) in 2007 in a lateral move to broaden his skills and areas of expertise after spending five years with Deloitte in internal control and audit advisory. Chyngyz recently became a part of HSBC Bank after it acquired the retail banking assets of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Kazakhstan. As any professional in his filed, he can be characterized as a serious, purposeful, hard-working person, and at the same time curious and fair.
His AUCA years were a special time for Chyngyz and he keeps fond memories of his friends and studies. He reminisces, “AUCA provided me with a solid academic foundation and a close circle of friends. Its excellent reputation helped me get a job at one of the best employers in the market. Unwavering adherence to its core values and its vibrant and inspiring culture make AUCA a special place. I will always remember an energetic and pleasant atmosphere that was always present in the corridors and cafeterias of the university.”
Chyngyz had the privilege of taking classes from many outstanding professors who shaped his thinking. In particularly he mentioned Tatiana Parfenova, an accounting professor, and Chinarbek Otunchiev, a visiting lecturer on capital markets. He is grateful to his professors for the example they were to him, of loving knowledge and being always willing to learn. Talking about being an AUCA alum now and what it means, he is sure that alumni can promote the AUCA brand through their personal successes, through passing their knowledge and experiences to students as visiting lecturers, or assisting them in job related or other queries. Last but not least, they can directly contribute to AUCA through participating in fundraising campaigns. Chyngyz believes it is vital to stay connected and be thankful in a practical way to the university.
When asked about success and how he would describe it, Chyngyz said that it is imperative to have a clear vision and work hard to make it happen. As for regrets in his life, he quoted a famous song “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention…” Another component of this successful entrepreneur is to live with the maxim that each day he should learn something new. This is his biggest motivation. If some free time is there, he is a keen supporter of Arsenal and always enjoys a chance to watch a good football game. He also likes taking long walks and having deep conversations with his wife. Family and friends are important for Chyngyz and he highly values close relationships with them.
Speaking about his plans for future, our hero says: “I plan, in the short run, to continue to work in retail banking in Kazakhstan and, possibly, in other countries. In the long run, I would like to return to Kyrgyzstan and apply my experience in risk management in my home country.”
Tilek Mamutov and Aijan Jumukova are both graduates of AUCA. Tilek graduated in 2005 from Software Engineering, whereas Aijan is an alumna of Business Administration`07. They were married in 2009 and now live in Dublin, Ireland. Tilek is responsible for software engineering and IT project management at Google Inc, while his significant other works as an audit senior at Ernst & Young.
Tilek, so how did your story start?
Tilek (T): I do not believe we were formally introduced. She even thought my full first name was Tilekus, because that’s how our friend Boka (Bolushbek Abdyjaparov) wrote my nickname in the official AUCA Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team database.
We first talked to each other, when we were both on the AUCA SIFE team early in 2005. But then I got appendicitis, and she would come and visit me, help me walk and get me better. But when we were just SIFE teammates, I had to do crazy stuff to get noticed! I even sang full songs in Punjabi.
Aijan (A): I remember once we wanted to organize a movie night in the students’ room. We wanted to watch Madagascar 2. So I was inviting everybody to the movie night, but it turned out that Tilek wanted to watch it only with me, and he had to secretly tell people to let us watch the movie alone!
T: It’s very difficult to imagine how we would meet each other if not AUCA. She could have hired me as a web-master though, and for her I would have made the best website ever for free.
What else do you do to make Aijan the happiest woman on Earth?
T: Well, one thing for sure is that I try to make her laugh all the time. It is difficult always to come up with good new jokes though. So while I keep trying and learning, the process may be a little painful for Aijan. But it’s just when she is happy and smiling, I feel like I don’t need anything else in my life. Aijan is a very hard-working and stunningly beautiful sweetheart! What I love the most is that with Aijan I can really be myself.
A: My first impression of Tilek was that he was smart, funny and friendly. I liked the fact that he had many friends and he cared about his friends a lot. Tilek likes surfing the internet, which is no wonder given his profession, but sometimes Tilek loses track of time, he may even forget to eat!
Since you mentioned the work, why did you choose such career paths?
A: Although I specialize in marketing and management, I found it more efficient to build a career from a more specific area like accounting. Having technical knowledge in one area opens doors to many other opportunities in your career. Also number crunching and financial analysis are very interesting and challenging for me.
I have been working at Ernst & Young for 2 years. My job revolves around technical accounting principles and interpersonal client relationships. I have to mention the high quality education I received at AUCA. I have never felt like I lacked some fundamental university knowledge. On the contrary, I often felt that I know more than many of my colleagues at my level.
T: As for me, I loved math in school a lot. When I was in 5th grade, for the first time in my life, I saw a personal computer and algorithms you could write for it. I realized that math is more applicable and productive, and it can really make people happier. This is when I decided that this is something I definitely want to do.
At Google I develop internal web applications, which help analyze and improve search quality. If you don’t know what web spam is and don’t see it in Google search results – it probably means that our work has some effect. Also, I try hard to have as many Google products as possible better localized for Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz language. Unfortunately, I don’t have official time allocation for it, so it is more like my hobby.
And what foundations for your success were laid here at AUCA?
A: I have only fondest memories of AUCA: brilliant teachers, a warm and friendly atmosphere, amazing student concerts, and kitchenette! Entering AUCA was, undoubtedly, the best decision for my future. I did quite well at AUCA, graduated with GPA of 3.56. But studying at AUCA gave me more than excellent knowledge, it gave me this constant need to improve and challenge myself. For that I am really grateful.
T: Same for me, although I did not do exceptionally well in terms of grades. Actually, I had all types of grades including some rare ones like “incomplete”. The explanation for this phenomenon is that I was studying very hard only when the subject seemed to be really useful for me, like software engineering, or interesting like Italian. I definitely made life more difficult in terms of finances for my parents than Aijan though.
I also think a lot of extracurricular activities in AUCA made a big difference for my career advancement, including the SIFE team, where I sharpened my leadership and teamwork skills. Actually, even my first job was at AUCA: I was in charge of our website during the summer after my freshman year!
What do you think makes AUCA a special place?
T: Friends. I made amazing friends at the University, and memories with my best friends and other great AUCA folks are really some of the warmest. The first memory that comes to my mind is how we organized AUCA ski trips with my best friends Boka (Bolushbek Abdyjaparov), Kuka (Kurman Otorbaev), Nurik (Nurlan Kulcharov) and Vova (Vladimir Dolgiy). It was fun to gather very early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, buy some snacks in “Narodnyi” and ski the whole day in our beautiful mountains.
A: Besides excellent professors and computer and library facilities, I think AUCA has this friendly, almost family-like, atmosphere that makes students want to stay there and never go home! It is these little things that made AUCA special for me: posters and photos when it was somebody’s birthday, ski, Issyk-Kul, mountain trips with other students, cozy student room, room #104, SIFE and endless meetings, and many others.
T: Academic freedom, free of corruption, academic honesty, especially on teachers’ side, is a great example for Central Asia of how institutions can be of a great benefit to society! It is really inspiring to be together with great people and extraordinary students from many different countries, most of whom have scholarships for academic achievements. Great international and local teachers who helped us see where we stand in terms of knowledge and where we should aim. I hope other universities in Central Asia will learn all those things from AUCA.
Mind sharing with us your key ingredients of success?
A: I cannot point out a specific number of ingredients of success. However, I know for sure that hard work, self-confidence, and being a kind and approachable person are a good start.
T: I wish I knew the ingredients! Some of my recommendations, though, would be:
1) Be very positive! Since all events and things have positive and negative sides, make sure you are aware of negative ones, but concentrate on the positives. This approach should reflect, for example, when applying it to your resume. Remember all the good things you have done and what the most positive thing about them was. Being negative is definitely not an ingredient for success, in my opinion.
2) Find what you love, what motivates you, what you want to achieve. No need to set exact deadlines, but at least choose a general direction. Actually, none of my career paths were exactly how I planned, but I realized later that it was exactly what I wanted. For me, what I love is programming, and what motivates me is the awareness that I help people by means of technology.
3) Always continue learning, both theory and practice. For IT specialists, practice is especially important I think. Also learn things outside your core profession! In my case, knowing at least on a basic level several languages always helped me in my career and personal life. In general, try to always be as curious as a child.
4) Work as hard as you never worked before, when you need it the most. I may have been lazy sometimes or not organized, but when it came to crucial moments like graduation exams or going through the Google job process, I tried harder than ever.
5) And the last, but not leasT: be nice. Unfortunately, many people forget about this while working hard on climbing the career ladder.
Sounds very inspiring and optimistic! Let me ask you this question: if you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
T and A: We would try to meet each other earlier.
A: You know it feels absolutely awesome to be married! Not only did our marriage make us happier, but also I think it made us better people. Of course, there are small bumps on the road, but we try not to sweat the small stuff and enjoy our lives.
T: Marriage is the thing for us, I think. We like to try new things together. Together we quite often run, play tennis, surf and wind surf. During the winter we love to ski. We both had no hesitation and got married relatively early – when we were 24 and 22. We are aware of many difficulties that marriage brings, especially over time. But we are confident that love and huge mutual respect will keep our marriage amazing, until we grow old together, live happily and die on the same day.
So what's next for you?
T: My plan is to move Google Headquarters to Issyk-Kul, and I would allow not only dogs in the office, but also sheep. Drinking kumys will be a required part of the interview process. I also dream to create a free electronic education system for everyone in the world. You would be able to choose any courses to study from any type of educational system. Those courses would be provided and recognized by different educational institutions. But speaking seriously, together with Aijan we dream of opening a resort in Issyk-Kul.
Anyone you would like to thank who has influenced you to be who you are today?
T: Parents, parents, parents. They spent enormous amount of effort to raise me and my brother.
Teachers of course played a big role: my high school math teacher Svetlana Eduardovna Mirau, teachers at AUCA, especially Sergey Nikolaevich Sklyar and Nancy Leland who were very strict, but, apparently, it was very useful for my development. Many other teachers! And the AUCA staff was very helpful! I am sorry I can’t list all the names, but please believe me, I remember you and I am very, very grateful! Of course, my friends were always there for me in the most difficult moments, and obviously Aijan.
A: Parents, of course, first of all. My sister Nurzat who insisted on choosing AUCA when I graduated from school! The whole business administration department was always supportive. Also Elmira Tursunbekovna Musuralieva – for her shiny personality and excellent lectures. Mahinur Asanovna Mamatova – I absolutely enjoyed her classes; and Galina Gavrilovna Tremasova – she was the best English language teacher I have ever had.
T: Also, a memo to all alumni. The mentorship role from the alumni side is very important. While professors try hard to teach the most important and core subjects, it’s difficult for them to be fully updated on recent needs from employers’ side. This is one of the fields where alumni can help students to grow. Also, from my experience, I remember that it feels very different to hear about the “real world” and how to become successful from people who went through the same system and almost through the same courses as you do. Financial support of AUCA is obviously important, even small support, I think, is nice in terms of expressing care, which is important not only to university staff, but also to students who are studying at AUCA.
A: I also see great opportunities for alumni in supporting AUCA. I think AUCA would appreciate not only financial support for high-achieving students’ scholarships, but also non-financial support. I realize that all alumni are busy with their lives and work after graduation, but I think many AUCA alumni would be flattered to participate in career fairs, share their ideas, advise them to visit as guest lecturers, and talk about practical areas or new methods that they apply at work.
Elnura Osmonalieva is a promising independent filmmaker and producer. She came to AUCA in 1998 after a student exchange year in the USA as a FLEX program participant. Being very interested in camera work, photography and drama, Elnura joined the Journalism department, but later transferred to the International and Comparative Politics department. Today Elnura is back on the filmmaking path. A few months ago she won the International Almaty Film Festival with her film “Shaken Zhuldyzdary”. In addition to her new hardware, Elnura was also the winner of the Best Director Award at the Master Class of Ernest Abdyjaparov and was the Main Award Winner at the Second Auteur Film Festival for young filmmakers of Central Asia.
Elnura, you have just returned from the film festival in Amsterdam. What was this trip all about?
The International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) is one of the leading documentary events in the world. It offers an exclusive training program for emerging filmmakers, producers, and film students from home and abroad. Each summer the IDFA Academy organizes summer schools to help filmmakers to strengthen the narrative of their films. I was invited to attend the IDFA summer school to work on the “Pasture in the Skies”, a documentary film I am working on this year with Jasper Osmund, a well known editor from Denmark. Thanks to this workshop, I now know much more about structuring a documentary in its script stage and later during the editing.
I assume you have often heard this question: is it easy to be a young film director?
Filmmaking never seemed to be, nor did it turn out to be easy. The work of a filmmaker requires a lot of input - intellectual, artistic and physical, and when combined with producing, the workload doubles. You follow your artistic desires and then you find yourself in a situation where you need to prove something to others through your films. Every single person in your audience comes to watch your film with the desire to be satisfied. The challenge comes in brushing away the expectations of others and following your own vision. This includes brushing away the desire and expectation to succeed. Filmmaking also heavily affects my personal life. In Amsterdam I met a number of people who had decided not to have children, so they could focus on filmmaking only. It struck me again, this realization of how much commitment cinematography requires.
It is a lot of fun, nevertheless. Meeting people and working with people who are usually fun, different, not-normal in a good sense. Traveling and having the privilege to create something that everybody has an interest in. “Cinema” and “film” are magic words, and most people want to be a part of it, either through being in a film or by watching it.
I get much support from my husband Tolondu Toichubaev who did a lot to get the post-Soviet Kyrgyz cinema off its dead zone. He co-founded a production company “Oy Art” together with Aktan Abdykalykov, and with great input from Altynai Koichumanova “Oy Art” was able to produce successful films and push around the idea of independent filmmaking. The result is a new group of film makers with prizes from big festivals and people`s interest in Kyrgyz cinema.
So how come you chose this path? Is there anyone or anything that has influenced your decision?
My mother Nasiba was the main person who gave me my backbone. Most of the things she taught me in life really helped. My father Madalbek gave me a philosophical attitude to life and my favorite quote from him is “kop bolso olturot”, which means “don’t be afraid, the worst thing enemies can do is kill you”. I was lucky as a FLEX student and had wonderful parents there as well – Veryl and Larry Andersen. My host mom taught me how to be a professional at work and combine career with family. She had hosted twelve students before I arrived despite having two jobs and each of her host students thought she and her husband were these incredible host parents.
As for the filmmaking, it was a decision that did not come overnight or an idea that struck me one day. I have always felt the urge to create and as a child and teenager, I wrote poems while dreaming of writing books. I often imagined having a house somewhere high in the mountains among woods and writing. However, I was also very intrigued by images. My father was an amateur photographer as a student and took photos with black and white film. One of his photos was among my favorites: two smiling boys, his younger brothers, standing, facing the camera holding a large dog by its front legs. The dog looks calm and pretty happy and even its tongue is sticking out merrily. On the tree next to them, a cat is looking at the dog, fully concentrated and ready to react at any moment. I loved to look at this photograph. It gave me a wonderful feeling of childhood, carelessness and it was full of life because of their smiles, the way the camera captured a moment of leisure, and fun witnessed by a cat from a very different angle.
While growing up, I used to watch films to see how they were made by trying to understand how the camera moved and where the cuts were. I also learned that this was best done, especially with music videos, if the sound was turned off.
As a FLEX student I had my host parents’ video camera for one year and took class on media communications and loved looking at the world through the camera lens. My tutor told me that I had “a good eye” and a local television station invited me as a camera operator to a number of events. I still dreamed about writing though.
Later, however, when I was confronted with a blank piece of paper to write up an assignment at a journalism class, I felt a great loss and that feeling lingered for a number of years. This desire to write now helps me to write scripts and proposals to get funding for my films.
And when you decided to go “pro”?
I chose to get serious about making films in 2006, during the time I was graduating from AUCA, because I felt a strong urge to do what I saw director Ernest Abdyjaparov do at the set of the “Pure Coolness”.
Two years later, when I was talking and talking about wanting to make films and reading some literature, I made my first short film. A personal mischief that occurred shortly before the making of this film, and lingered on for a while after I completed it, really set me strongly in the direction of film making, as it was the only thing that could keep me distracted. Now filmmaking has turned into an obsession I love to have, the profession I cannot do without, and turned out to be the kind of life I have been looking for without even realizing it.
Eugene Grishkovec said that “Young filmmakers do not shoot real films, but rather dream about money and house in Nice”.
My energy in filmmaking mainly comes from the desire to bring change to Kyrgyzstan, promote creation of an open society and live in an environment that is not hostile to people who are different, who want a better life or future and who want to formulate their own independent opinions and choices.
Your last movie “Almaz”, what is it actually about?
“Almaz” is about the strength of hope, and desire to be happy despite the odds. The film is made primarily for the Kyrgyz audience, although everybody told me it was a wrong approach and one should make a film for all of humanity. With this film I wanted to target the Kyrgyz audience primarily. The reason for this was one of my major frustrations with Kyrgyzstan as many young people, as well as parents, seem to have lost the understanding of how important education is.
For many, poverty and hardships justify a life where education is not a priority, because there is never money for it, or because they see that it is not educated people who succeed, but those who are corrupt. There seems to be no understanding of the long-term value of education both for personal development and satisfaction, as well as professional accomplishment. Therefore I decided to make a film to tell a story that would refute these ideas, senses, and stereotypes.
How did you find a hero for this movie?
I met Almaz by coincidence at the Center for Protection of Children (CPC) a couple of months after I started working on this film project. He was really the person I was looking for – bright, positive, sincere and really strong. Almost immediately I knew he could help me let others know that studying was worthwhile and that challenges, even the hardest ones, could be overcome.
I found funding and we started shooting. I must admit that I did not have much sense about how the film would come out, but I really wanted to tell Almaz’s story in a way that would not bring pity to him by becoming yet another film on poverty and children, but inspire, cause admiration and recognition.
Since “Almaz” is about hope and happiness, what does “happiness” mean to you?
I do not think I know what happiness is for me, as I always seem to be struggling. I often feel happy, and the main source of my happiness is my daughter Churyok. For the time being I am rushing through life like somebody is after me. There is very little time for contemplation. This makes me miss my teen years as I seemed to be much wiser and less frustrated back then.
What do you think about the prospects of cinematography in Kyrgyzstan?
Tough question… If we manage to get ten or twenty people educated in the best film schools in the West then we might have a rather noticeable change. Otherwise, no increase of funding will be able to help Kyrgyz cinematographers make better films. It is not just the issue of money. It is also an issue of understanding the modern world, the modern cinema industry, and film making techniques and approaches. I gave up on my belief in somebody making great films without learning about cinema or about directing, script writing, and editing after the IDFA summer school in Amsterdam. Just a week of talking with people who had the knowledge and experience gave me so much artistic and technical value.
And what values for your success were laid at AUCA?
I had great professors who taught me to be creative, persistent and responsible. I learned to formulate my thoughts in writing. AUCA gave me the belief that everything was possible if enough effort was made.
When I visited AUCA for the first time, twelve years ago, I was still a high school student. Back then I thought, looking at AUCA students that they must be some divine creatures because they looked so busy and important with their concentrated faces and backpacks. I just could not believe that just a year later I would be one of them. Therefore, being admitted to AUCA was already achieving a benchmark for me.
How did you do at AUCA?
I had a GPA of 3.6 while having one or two part time jobs. Because I needed to work, I never excelled to the extent I wanted to, in any of the courses I took. I was always rushing, stressed or busy. I remember being always late for 8 am classes, because I would stay up till 3 am after work studying. Therefore, I avoided taking a class that started at that time if it was possible. Despite this I was part of Amnesty International Club, KVN and “The Star” for a while. I also participated in three large debating tournaments on behalf of AUCA and came out the winner of the Central Asian Championship, CIS Championship and did well at the International Competition in Glasgow.
With several academic leaves, related to work and travel, I finally graduated in 2006. I still wonder whether I would have been able to gather my strength and finish my studies, if not for my husband who was telling everybody we met that he “was living with an uneducated person”. Everybody laughed but I saw his point. So I came back for that last semester, and although I could not complete my senior thesis, which was about the Kyrgyz State Television not fulfilling its obligations, I did enjoy the preparations for the state exam on Kyrgyz history, which I successfully passed.
Unfortunately, I missed the graduation ceremony, because I was away at the filming of “Pure Coolness”, where I had a small role. It took ten days of filming, and the director did not let me leave even for one evening. Therefore, I do not have this sense of closure with AUCA. It just feels like I am on a long academic leave again.
But is it still a special place for you?
In some ways AUCA was not as exciting as my high school, where the head teacher was gay and was dating another male teacher, both married; another married female teacher was seeing a student, and the oldest teacher of all was harassing female students on a daily basis. AUCA was “normal” in that sense.
My fondest memory of AUCA is always having people, both professors and students, willing to help. It is the concentration of talented youth, committed and qualified professors, and staff who communicate with respect and desire to make the best of their time at the university.
I loved studying in AUCA also because the students were told to be, and really were, the owners of the place. I think that our student petition in fall 1999 to replace the toilet soap, which had a stinky smell, was really the pinnacle of student activism. It could not get better than that and, of course, the administration told us that we had no shame.
Most of the best things I have in my life come from AUCA – knowledge, skills, contacts, impressions and inspiration.
I think alumni should stay in touch via alumni meetings, come to meetings with students, recruit high school graduates and consult them about the enrollment procedures.
I believe our readers would love to know what your favorite movie is.
I have not watched that many films or as many as one would expect a filmmaker to watch. From those, which I have seen, I like Fellini’s “8 ½” and “Empty House” (3 Iron) by Kim Ki-Duk.
So what's next for you? New movies?
I have to learn a lot. I still have great doubts about my talent as a film director, but for the time being I would like to keep making films, as I, now, cannot imagine my life and myself without it.
Any plans of winning Oscar?
Although I understand the importance of it and enjoy festival screenings of my films, I was never really interested in film festival success. I often feel like making a film is very similar to writing poetry, and how could you dream of writing a poem that could win a prestigious award? You either write it or you don’t.
At AUCA we have a Student Movie Club, where students get together to film movies. Any advice to them?
Try getting movies that get into the selection of competition programs of the main international film festivals. Certainly watch the classics and, if interested, watch documentary films – they have the added value of representing true life stories. Please invite me to the screenings – I would love to watch some films with you.
Yuliya Rutskaya, a famous singer in Kyrgyzstan and beyond, known for her talent and sincere love of her country and its people, is also an alumna of the American University of Central Asia. Yulia was nice enough to stop by AUCA after she returned from a performance in Minsk.
Yulia, how long has it been since you last visited AUCA?
It has been about a year. There is something very special about this place, because every time I visit, I see smiling, friendly faces. AUCA creates a certain atmosphere and spirit. I studied at another university in Bishkek, and I saw clear differences between its approach to life, knowledge, and education, and AUCA’s. AUCA’s high standards of academic honesty made it hard for me to accept some of the practices of the other university, and I decided to leave.
Please tell us about your academic and career choices, which seem so unusual. You are an ICP graduate, right?
Yes, I graduated from AUCA in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations (IR, now International and Comparative Politics). I grew up in a family of diplomats, and in my early years I was surrounded by intelligent people and interesting guests who discussed politics, international relations, and history. I remember wanting to be like them and promote peace around the world. At the age of 13 I decided to study politics.
I graduated from high school, went on an exchange program to Denmark, and upon my return had a choice to either study at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations or AUCA. I decided to stay in Bishkek and enroll in the IR program at AUCA.
And what about singing?
I graduated from the Music School, and when I was a freshman here, I was fortunate to meet the person who would influence the rest of my life. Muhtarov Husein Muhtarovich is an Honored Artist of the Soviet Union, professional singer, and the perfect teacher. He was passing by the classroom where I was practicing a song for Initiation with three other girls. We wanted to create a girls’ version of the Backstreet Boys, a very popular band at that time. He heard me singing and suggested that I attend his vocal classes. I agreed, and what started out as a hobby or extra-curricular activity became the beginning of my singing career. By the end of my first year at AUCA I already had fans among our faculty and students. I started to participate in various contests, first as an amateur, then as a professional.
What does it take to be a professional singer?
I always prefer to sing live and it is a requirement in any international contest or show. Many of our local singers do not follow this principle and prefer to use prepared studio versions of their songs. But in order to be a professional, one should be ready to sing live at any time, which requires hard work, of course. Another important thing is that I never sing in a language I do not understand. I refuse to merely memorize words. I do not want to be dishonest with my audience.
How many languages do you know?
I speak and sing in Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish, Spanish, English and Belorussian. Very often, people are surprised to find out that I sing in Kyrgyz. Once, I heard a song in Kyrgyz and loved it so much that I had to sing it. I did everything possible to find the author and ask for his permission to perform the song. Furthermore, I genuinely love Kyrgyzstan, and I consider it an honor to represent my country internationally.
Recently, I returned from a music festival in Italy where I received an award. I was the first to sing at the concert. Usually it is very difficult to open a show. However, I decided to sing a Kyrgyz song and sing from the heart. At the end of the festival, I was stunned to hear my name announced as one of the winners. A jury member from France, Anne-Marie David, said that even though she did not understand a single word, she enjoyed the song immensely and decided to give me the award.
That’s great! Congratulations! Going back to your time at AUCA – how did you do?
It was not easy, but I managed to finish my academic tasks by myself and on time. My professors did not display any preferential treatment toward me. In fact, very often, I had to prove to them that I knew the subject.
For a long time after graduation, I was combining my professional singing career with a job in my field. I worked as an international relations specialist in places such as the Embassy of Belarus in Kyrgyzstan, DFID, TV and radio. I was even a member of a political party, and, a few years ago, I became a Goodwill Ambassador against HIV in Kyrgyzstan. Combining two careers is always challenging, but to be honest, I enjoy it because it suits my inner being and my character. I demand a lot of myself.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
I like photography, and plan to attend a seminar to gain some professional skills. Also, I enjoy traveling and exploring new countries and cultures. I find great inspiration in listening to other country’s folk music. Now, for example, I have a CD with modern Georgian national music, and I listen to it for hours on end.
Yuliya, what is happiness to you?
Happiness is when you do not ponder whether you are happy or not. Of course, it includes the wellbeing of your family and those close to you. Finally, happiness is enjoying the work you do and having the freedom to make your own choices.
What is the most precious piece of wisdom ever given to you?
Nothing in life is accidental. Any event that occurs, any person that you meet, has a purpose. Every encounter carries a lesson, and our task is to learn what those lessons are.
Who are the people who have influenced your life the most?
My mother and father, Husein Muhtarovich, and the professors at AUCA have had the biggest impact on me. Looking back, I understand the importance of the education that I received at AUCA. Usually, the career of a singer suggests a very narrow path, but I have had an opportunity to fully realize my potential as a singer, and apply my skills in other fields. I am very thankful for that.
Earlier you mentioned that you had a choice between Moscow State Institute and AUCA. If you had the chance, would you change your mind and study in Moscow?
No! I have never regretted my choice and I would not change anything. I am never ashamed to say that I am an AUCA graduate, and will always be thankful to my alma mater.
What do you think the role of AUCA alumni in the local and international community is?
There is something different about AUCA alumni. We are special in that we carry on the principles and attitudes we received here in our lives, and in society. I think it is very important for us to be united and to combine our strengths in order to change this world for the better. Many of my close friends are AUCA graduates, and at this dramatic stage of our country’s history, I believe we can do much to help.
His hobby is reading The New York Times and Kommersant. He likes U2. His favorite movie is “Day Watch” by Timur Bekmambetov. The first thing he does in the morning is turn on his laptop, then he makes some coffee. What he hates most is boredom. His friends call him “Kadyyyyyr”. Introducing Kadyr Toktogulov, a product of Journalism Department ’03. Currently, Kadyr works as a correspondent for The Dow Jones Newswires in Almaty, and also writes stories for The Wall Street Journal.
Kadyr, in journalism, there has always been a tension between getting the story first and getting it right. What do you value the most?
Getting it right is the most important. Though if you get it first and right at the same time, you are doing your job correctly.
Mr. Chesterton once said that journalism consists largely of saying "Lord Jones is dead" tothe people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. What is journalism for you?
Journalism is really about getting the truth to your readers. It is not about pleasing the people you write about. The public deserves to know the truth about their governments, leaders, public officials and things affecting their lives and future.
Even Napoleon Bonaparte believed that hostile newspapers are to be feared more than a thousand bayonets…
News needs to shape the future. Freedom of speech is what will help a society, including ours, tackle challenges and find solutions to the problems it is facing. It is a fundamental part of any prosperous society.
The path of a journalist in Central Asia is a not an easy one. I think “per aspera ad astra” best reflects what it means to be a real journalist in this region. Do you agree?
I agree, because in this region, journalism has often been used by politicians and government officials for their own benefit, without consideration of the long term implications of a society lacking freedom of speech. Working for a foreign news organization provides protection from big risks, although presently, journalists’ impact on events of this region is quite small.
You covered major news events in Kyrgyzstan, including the parliamentary and presidential elections, and the Tulip Revolution. You reported on the bird flu outbreak in southeast Turkey, enlightened us about the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, followed the parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan, described the uprising in Andĳan, and informed us of the launch of the Soyuz TMA-8 from Baikonour. It all sounds very exciting…
My editors and I choose what issues and events to cover. Anything that is interesting to the world and has the potential to shape the future needs to be covered. All of the assignments you mentioned helped me grow as a journalist, taught me a lot, and gave me confidence in my ability. Covering the launch of the Soyuz TMA-8 from Baikonour was by far the best assignment. It gave me an opportunity to look back at my childhood dreams, one of which was to become a cosmonaut. During those four days at the spaceport, I felt a child-like happiness seeing the astronauts and the launch pad.
You recently participated in the townterview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and AUCA students. What was your role there?
My role was to help the audience ask their questions to Secretary Clinton. I also had to make sure that I would not be accused of favoritism by giving the microphone to the people I know, so I chose questions at random. It was a great experience to be part of the townterview. She is an impressive leader.
So how did you choose this path?
I was curious about journalism and it was my curiosity that led me to it. When I started high school, I met a couple of guys running a radio station in my hometown of Osh. I got involved in a few radio programs there. That was enough for me to choose journalism as a career after school.
What qualities should a person have to become a good journalist?
Curiosity, commitment to the truth, and above all else, independent thinking.
So how do you look back on your time at AUCA?
Critical thinking and academic freedom are what I loved most about AUCA. The whole atmosphere of the University was always fun and unrestrictive. It is the freest university in the region. Being able to meet great friends and just hang out in the cafeteria between classes is very special. I always tell people that I am an AUCA alumnus and that it is the best place to get an undergraduate degree. I would like to donate more than I have in the past, and I will try to arrange that soon.
Kadyr, what's next?
I am coming back to Kyrgyzstan. I have lived in Kazakhstan for almost 5 years and it is time to start heading home.