Seeing Central Asia for Myself Past Review

By (Berea College) - abroad from 08/27/2012 to 12/14/2012 with

SRAS: Bishkek - Central Asian Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The program what I would consider "intense" in energy required, but it was worth it for me. I was looking for an opportunity to see Central Asia for myself and that's what I got (the external travel involved in the program was excellent). I also really wanted to maximize my opportunity to gain skill in Russian and that really did happen with my host family and the Russian courses I was taking.

Review Photos

SRAS: Bishkek - Central Asian Studies 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 coursework as about what I would have expected of my home university: rigorous but manageable. However, we also traveled most weekends for the program and had extra lectures on top of our basic 18 hours of classes, so that made the workload very intense at times and difficult to manage. The lectures and teaching were good quality and informative, but I did have a very difficult time finding resources for research papers.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my home stay!!! Because I was taking language classes it was ideal to be immersed in a situation where I was speaking that language even during rest times at home. My host mom was like a second mother away from home and we got along great. The home stay was one of the best parts of the abroad experience for me.

* Food:

Kyrgyzstan is not necessarily known for having the greatest food in the world, but we ate a lot of good basic things and I liked most of it. The meals were not balanced (a lot of bread, meat, pasta, and oil) and by the end of the semester I was feeling the need for some veggies. However, I did really love the fresh bread and butter and I really appreciated that my host mom always had something on the stove top.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt pretty well integrated with the local culture. I didn't make a lot of local friends there because the language institute I was at had few Kyrgyz or Russian students. However I got to know my way around the city pretty well and felt comfortable in restaurants, public transport, and markets. By the end of the semester I several people had mistaken me for being Russian!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

There were no major health issues for me.

* Safety:

I felt safe in Bishkek where my program was hosted. I didn't go out a lot at night, although I did walk home after dark most evenings, but when I did I usually felt comfortable. I just stayed in lit, populated areas as much as possible. The few times I got lost, local people were very helpful.

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)

The cost of living in Bishkek is really low and it's easy to be frugal there if you want to be.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Usually around $50


* 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

We had 12 hours per week of Russian language classes in Russian, plus I had a home stay where I spoke Russian about 90% of the time (there were times when I spoke English with my host brother, but my host mom did not speak English at all). So those were great opportunities to speak Russian. Where I had trouble was when we went on excursions on weekends or longer with classmates, because there wasn't a lot of encouragement to speak Russian then.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 0
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? I wholeheartedly recommend a home stay if you want to focus on language learning. Usually I was very tired after a full day of classes and if I had lived in the dorm I would not have made the effort to practice what I was learning. Going home to a host mom who wanted to talk about my day in Russian forced me to practice even during down time. I also found it helpful to start a very basic diary in Russian and get help from my Russian teachers to check and correct it along the way.

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

  • 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?
  • Home Stay
  • Outside travel included
  • Russian classes
* What could be improved?
  • Resources for papers
  • Communication about textbooks required
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? There are no particular things I can things of.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!