Amazing Experience Living in Bishkek December 15, 2023

By (Russian Language, Literature, Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/19/2023 to 12/23/2023 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was absolutely worth it. I think I learned a lost about how to appreciate and adapt to other cultures while you are in them every day, I think I learned more about what being impendent looks like (when you are so far from what used to be familiar so how to support yourself). I think I also just gained a lot of life long memories in a place I probably never would have seen in my life otherwise.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes and general academics at the University in my experience were not rigorous at all in the slightest and a significant step down from any US institution I have attended. Frankly, this was not a problem for me, I enjoyed my free time and generally academic-stress free environment. I would attend my classes and complete the small amounts of work I had without any complaints, but for some students I know this was a major concern and they were super frustrated with the decrease in quality of education. I will say it was a little shocking how little other students at AUCA prepared for or attended classes though. The facilities on campus were nice with multiple libraries- I never really used the library resources but from what I heard everything was good there. My Russian classes taught through Bard were more "rigorous" you could say, but even then I never felt I was too stressed with workloads. I really did appreciated how tailored the Russian program was to the 3 and 4 of us taking Russian classes and thought our teachers were really strong.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I have only positive things to say about the admin. I had to go to the police and hospital during the program and the administrators made sure someone was with me the translate and help out. At times they were disorganized but never in a way that caused any issues. I also felt pretty cared for as a person by the admin and so if I was sick or had any issues they reached out. They were also super helpful when we registered for classes and made sure we all got into the classes we wanted, even if they were full or had pre-reqs so that was a major help.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was the light of my life and were so amazing. I talked to them almost every day (unless I was out late and they were asleep when I came home) and really felt like a member of the family. I even got to attend a few Kyrgyz birthdays and celebrations with them. Logistically, I had a great room in the city center with a desk, queen bed, and closet / dresser. My commute to school was a little longer, but very simple. I felt like everything I had asked from the program on the housing form I got so that was great too. I think my host family was my favorite part of my experience- they truly made me feel at home in the city.

* Food:

Once my stomach adjusted to Kyrgyzstan it was fine, but you do have to get over that food poisoning hump in the beginning to get there (also readjust to not drinking tap water). I enjoy the food in Bishkek- although after a while it can get pretty repetitive (potatoes, meat, bread) and its not always very seasoned. You have to try all the classics: plov, manti, oromo, beshbarmak, lagman, boorsok, etc. But there are also good Georgian, Russian, and some Korean restaurants around as well. The cafe at AUCA was also very good and had a lot of options so that was a relief.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got a sports injury while here and the program was very helpful and supportive with both logistics and academics, but getting health care here was a little scary. I did not feel very medically safe in the hospital and at one point got an xray with zero protective gear on. I was also prescribed a number of medicines that I did not feel comfortable taking. The care was very cheap compared to the US so that was a plus, but otherwise I would try an avoid interactions with the medical system

* Safety:

I feel very safe in Bishkek and would often walk home late at night alone. The worst was slightly awkward conversations in cars about marriages but even then no one was aggressive or pushy.

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

I really really loved my time in Bishkek and am so so glad I went. I think it was everything I was looking for but also so much more.


* 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)

I typically spent about 5-10$ a day on lunch and a coffee/tea at a cafe. the bus I took to school round trip cost about 25 cents (USD) so that was not a major expense. Bishkek is much cheaper price wise than the US for daily life- even things like the movies/bowling/karaoke etc are in the 5-10$ range.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Write down a budget plan and revise it after you become familiar with the location. Also use cash over card (avoid fees and easier to track)


* 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

I was in the language track so classes were in Russian and my host family and I only spoke Russian. However, any group excursions or events we were all speaking English

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
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? Advanced Russian
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Also listen to music, watch TV, and even look at like memes in that language. Just get used to using it casually.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
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?
  • My dinners with my host mother and sisters
  • Exploring the mountains of Kyrgyzstan (on horseback!)
  • The small conversational classroom experience
* What could be improved?
  • Program orientation was a little exausting
  • The first week of Russian crash course was not very structured or helpful
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I think all my logistical questions were answered in the orientation packet and beyond than that I had zero expectations.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.