Time well spent in a transitioning, post-Soviet country with a rich history! Past Review

By (International and Global Studies, Middlebury College) - abroad from 06/04/2014 to 12/21/2014 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 know some of these are going to sound cheesy but I learned more about my own prejudices and misconceptions about people. This experience challenged my thinking about the U.S., Russia, Soviet times, propaganda, culture, religion, etc. I learned just how we assume things about each other and the history we learn in classrooms is really skewed and biased. Furthermore, I learned about true friendships, critical thinking, level-headedness, interdependence and interconnectedness, and theoretical tools. It was definitely worthwhile.

Review Photos

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

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.

The classes are mostly taught in English and are definitely not as rigorous as they are in Middlebury. Most of my classes just assigned two articles to read (anth and polisci classes) per week. The essays are not too long either. None of my final papers were over ten pages but were around 5-8 pages. While these classes are not as hard, they are not as easy, especially for people who may need to do interviews (anth) classes. That was the harder part to fulfill for me. Academics are not a problem and the resources were available in my case.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I cannot be thankful enough to for the on-site administrator (Iliyas) doing a lot of work and on time. He was really busy with other international students but he kept up with our paperwork and tried really hard to help the students whenever they got into trouble or just needed recommendations for something to do. He took care of many people and was really helpful.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My Dungan host family was absolutely amazing.

* Food:

Food here (most of it anyway) is organic, inexpensive, varied, and delicious!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Well, it was hard to get into the Kyrgyz group because the groups were more or less exclusive but individually, many Kyrgyz people were nice and helpful. I hung out with many of them. Afghan students are usually very welcoming and they ask people to come and spend time with them. Of course, this all depends on you as well and how much effort you will make! Don't blame the locals if they aren't welcoming--you may part of the problem! If you make effort, they will do so as well, although many possess the curiosity for meeting a foreigner.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I was sick with the flu and was advised to buy the appropriate flu medicine but nothing worse, so I don't know about the more serious stuff.

* Safety:

During the day, I feel really safe but during the night, I was a little paranoid because in some places, there weren't many lights, especially those away from main roads. I advise students to walk in pairs during the night or return early. Also, don't get into fights and don't get drunk too much unless you really trust the group surrounding you. That should be a no-brainer.

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)

Food here is cheaper than in the U.S. In seven months, I spent about $800 while living with a host family, so I think this was not so bad overall. If you can control your coffee-drinking and chocolate-eating habits, then this shouldn't be a problem for you. This of course only applies to foreigners from wealthier countries. For most locals, they cannot buy coffee every day or go to restaurants every week, so please keep this in mind.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $30
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Haggle in the markets if you dare.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • Location (whoo hoo it's in Central Asia!)
  • Location (whoo hoo it's in the capital and in AUCA)
  • Trips (they were all over Kyrgyzstan and well-planned in my opinion)
* What could be improved?
  • Better internships (especially for the summer one)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That some classes may be cancelled and a better understanding of American foreign policy so I can better explain the rationale and history behind the actions.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Governance and Development

Course Department: PSCI
Instructor: Martin Ossewaarde
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The teacher was not well-prepared but he was knowledgeable. If he were more engaging and structured, the class would've been infinitely more interesting but he was not prepared nor could ask questions and direct the class.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Political Anthropology

Course Department: ANTH
Instructor: Ruslan Rahimov
Instruction Language: English (rarely Russian)
Comments: In this case, the teacher was neither knowledgeable nor well-prepared. He couldn't ask questions that really brought the class together and couldn't make the course more interesting. He couldn't engage with many topics and would answer with just "yeah, yeah" even though the answers students gave were wrong. Of course, the students lost motivation by the end and so the class would fall silent more and more, so students were also to blame but this course could've been more structured and more interesting if the teacher had been prepared more to discuss a variety of topics and ask thoughtful questions.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Foreign Policy Analysis

Course Department: PSCI
Instructor: Joomart Ormonbekov
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course wasn't particularly challenging but it was fun because the professor was interesting and he knew what he was talking about. While the fact that he had to miss many classes because he working full-time for the U.N. and we sadly couldn't learn more about many concepts, he nonetheless taught well and explained numerous concepts and brought good substitute teachers. He assessed using quizzes throughout weeks, exams (midterm), and papers (finals).
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Anthropology of Religion

Course Department: ANTH
Instructor: Emil Nasritdinov
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was moderately challenging, especially at the beginning when we had to read 19th and 20th century authors and understand their terminology and writing. But the teacher was very knowledgeable, asked thought provoking questions, and challenged students to form their own opinions. The students were also a responsive bunch so that helped. Anthropology of Religion is in itself an interesting topic but the professor and the students made a difference in making the course enjoyable. He assessed by giving us presentations, exams, and readings.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Introduction to Psychology

Course Department: PSYCH
Instructor: Elena Kim
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course wasn't challenging but it was fun! Elena is known as one of the best professors there because she's engaging and she knows how to break down concepts to make them easier to understand. She was knowledgeable in many topics but couldn't answer all the questions but that's alright considering that she is not a psych major but a gender studies one, so she wasn't familiar with all psych studies. But the course went smoothly and it was engaging, so I would recommend taking classes with Elena. We had exams, readings (one chapter per week), and presentations.
Credit Transfer Issues: