Central Asia Sojourn

Central Asia Sojourn

Why Kyrgyzstan?

As a Russian Area Studies major, I wanted to explore the many different republics of the former Soviet Union. The region of Central Asia thus stood out to me for its rich culture and unique past of being associated with the Mongols, Persians, and Soviets. Kyrgyzstan’s nomadic culture also very much appealed to me, since it is very distinct from the cultures of the other Central Asian countries. But I chose Kyrgyzstan mainly because the American University of Central Asia happened to be located in its capital, Bishkek.

Tell us about your program.

The program is called the AUCA-Bard Study Abroad Program. It offers students the opportunity to study with peers from 25 different countries. I will be taking a Russian language class to assist in my developing fluency, a beginner’s Kyrgyz language class, some Central Asian history and anthropological courses, and hopefully an environmental-studies course. In addition, I have been paired with a host family. Living with them has been so wonderful as I have learned about the culture through first-hand experience.

What were your first impressions of Kyrgyzstan?

I immediately noticed the warm hospitality of the Kyrgyz people. I felt so welcome and never left any home hungry. I also paid attention to the diversity of Kyrgyzstan as I traveled to other cities such as Osh, which is comprised of other ethnic groups such as Uzbeks, Russians, and Tajiks.

What other activities have you been involved in?

I have been interning with Development Alternatives Inc., which is a sub-contractor for USAID. Here in Bishkek, it serves primarily to transform and develop the Kyrgyz Parliament in a program called the Kyrgyz Parliamentary Strengthening Program. I have hiked and climbed Ala Archa, an alpine national park in the Tian Shan mountains, and swum in Lake Issyk-Kul, an endorheic lake. I hope to travel to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

What is your favorite part of the experience so far?

Since I fasted for Ramadan this summer in Kyrgyzstan, which is a Muslim-majority country, my favorite part of my daily routine was breaking my fast every day at sunset with delicious Kyrgyz food. The food is outstanding here since it is always fresh and organic.

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