Trekking throughout Kyrgyzstan Past Review

By (Russian Area Studies, Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/21/2014 to 12/17/2014 with

Bard College: Bishkek - Study Abroad at American University of Central Asia

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much about Central Asian history, culture, languages, and customs while living in Kyrgyzstan. Anyone interested in learning a Turkic language, understanding the complexities of the Soviet Union, practicing Russian, or living a nomadic life should definitely consider studying abroad with this program. It was definitely worthwhile, and I wish I could do it all over again.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our international students advisor at AUCA was so wonderful and accommodating.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had originally requested to live with a host family in Bishkek; however, I ended up being placed in an apartment with three other peers my age. Although I enjoyed living with them, I eventually requested to move out and live with a host family. The on-site administration as well as the Bard coordinators really helped me solve this issue in a stress-free way.

* Food:

The Kyrgyz diet is primarily based on meat, potatoes, and noodles. If you are a vegetarian, allergic to gluten, or lactose intolerant, Kyrgyzstan would not be the best place to study abroad. There are, of course, vegetarian and dairy free options. It is quite difficult to find food that doesn't have gluten in it though.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt pretty integrated because I had been studying the local language as well as Russian, the lingua franca of the region, and used them to communicate with locals and learn about their culture. I tried my best in participating with various cultural activities on and off campus as well.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to go to both the dentist and doctor's offices at one point and both were extremely helpful and professional. The health center at AUCA was also very accommodating. The only problem I encountered was trying to find clinics that provided certain vaccinations.

* Safety:

Bishkek is a pretty safe city, but during the summer local women tended to dress more conservatively than women in the States for example. I would advise following their example in order to stand out less. On marshrutkas (mini-vans/public transportation) beware of your items. These rides can be dangerous since drivers pack up to 30-40 people in 10-15 seater busses. Hold on tight!

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent approximately $100 every three weeks. Everything is very cheap in Bishkek.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? RUSS 301,302,303
How many hours per day did you use the language?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Program's staff
  • Trips to various towns within Kyrgyzstan
  • Kyrgyz hospitality!
* What could be improved?
  • Housing assignment process
  • Class registration
  • Better interaction with local students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had branched out more at the beginning of the program. I realized that towards the end of my program, I suddenly began making so many great friends whom I wish I befriended earlier on the program. I would advise future students studying abroad to not be afraid of befriending the locals right away despite being embarrassed of language skills and such.