Well that was quick... After ten months in Kyrgyzstan, I’m already at the airport, heading home. It isn’t exaggeration when I say that this has been one of the best experiences of my life and that I will always look back fondly on this portion of my life. Still, I am ready to go. In my time, here I developed new strengths and discovered unknown weaknesses. I traveled and laughed, but at times felt isolated and alone. I felt defeated and then triumphant all in the span of a one hour and twenty-minute lesson. Yet I learned something new every day and gained experiences that will be valuable years from now. In short, I lived a dream I have had for a long time. To live abroad and represent my country while contributing to others’ lives.
I could not have asked for a better institution and coworkers. Everyone I met at the International University of Central Asia (IUCA) was dedicated to the university’s mission and hardworking. I was very impressed by the determination of the students involved in Enactus, IUCA’s TedEx conference, and Model United Nations. I attended the TedEx conference and the Model United Nations and was proud to watch students engage in activities that will better themselves and their communities.
Working at the American Corner in Kant with enthusiastic students of all ages and a staff that was always supportive and helpful was a true pleasure. They made my talking clubs something I looked forward to rather than dreaded. Our groups were never as large as those in Bishkek, but I am glad to have met all of you and hope I helped you.
Another thank you must go to the English Language Fellows of Central Asia. I know the job can be frustrating but the training you provided to my fellow English Teaching Assistant Fulbrighters, local teachers, and me was as important as any US State Department English Language Program. Keep traveling, exploring, and training. Your work is undervalued. Most people do not realize this but the true strength of American Embassies abroad are their local staff. Their tireless efforts make programs and projects sustainable as diplomats are only in country for two years at a time. In Bishkek, Natalia and Gulzat went above and beyond to help the Fulbrighters and I am extremely thankful to them. I hope we will meet again.
Peace Corps Volunteers. I don’t know why you would ever choose the lifestyle, but I definitely respect you for it. While I lived very comfortably on my Fulbright stipend, you were scraping by on $200 a month. The insight and help you have given me was invaluable as I adjusted and worked in Kyrgyzstan. Sometimes it might not seem like Peace Corps Volunteers are making an impact but I can clearly see that they are. One of my students at the university worked with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) friend of mine in high school and it was clear she benefitted from interacting with a native speaker at a young age. Their work is important and its impact may not be visible for years, but the results will come.
So What’s Next?
As much as I enjoyed teaching English at the International University of Central Asia, I don’t want to be a teacher as a career, so now it is time for a new challenge in a new place. As for what exactly is next? I don’t know and right now I don’t care. Thankfully, I have two wonderful parents who will support me as I settle back in the United States and decide my next step. For the time being, I will be in Ohio and wherever the next step will be, I hope to be there at least two years. Since I graduated high school slightly more than nine years ago, I have lived in 18 different dorms, houses, and apartments in nine cities, two states and four countries. For the first time in ten years, I just want stability. Overall, I’m anxious to return to the US. I have a lot of good friends and family whom I have not seen in at least 11 months, so seeing familiar faces will be a positive change. Plus, I think the servers at the local coffee shop in Bishkek are tired of seeing me. I don’t know when I will be back to Kyrgyzstan but I will definitely return to work or at least travel. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed my time here and understand why so many RPCVs and Fulbrighters return again and again. So until next time, Kyrgyzstan, jakshy baryngyzdar.