Program: American Councils Abroad: RLASP (ACTR)
Term: Full Year 2017 - 2018
Studying abroad has had a tremendous impact on my personal and professional development. I have been challenged to think and behave in new and unfamiliar ways, and I am incredibly grateful for that. Other than this being the best way for me to improve my Russian language, I have also developed new cultural competencies and cultural humility. I have gained an increased awareness for not only Almaty, but for the greater region of Central Asia.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: I think [studying] abroad gives you the opportunity to experience your own identities in different ways, which can be both a good thing and also very challenging. You take your identities with you, but now the cultural context is different. The understanding of social issues and constructs can be different depending on the country or city you choose to study abroad in. My biggest advice would be to lean into that discomfort and to engage respectfully in conversations around identity.
One of the best things about this study abroad experience has been living with my host family. In many ways I got lucky because we get along really well, and have had no major problems! If you have the opportunity to live with a family, I would suggest trying it. It has helped me adjust to the country, and every day I feel excited to come home from school and chat with my mom or play with my sister. It has also helped me build a network of people here who truly care about me and want to see me succeed while I'm here. They have helped me with homework and projects, and given me cultural experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise. The hardest part about leaving Kazakhstan will most certainly be leaving my little sister, but with the help of FaceTime and WhatsApp I know we will keep in touch.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: It is a lot easier to make a place feel like home than it seems when you're imagining moving overseas for a year. I was scared to leave home for so long, and thought that I wouldn't really get comfortable, but it wasn't true. Also, the more you travel and experience new cultures, the more you realize that despite location and language, people are more similar than they are different. Being able to create cross-cultural relationships, and to experience someone else's culture is worth feeling awkward and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
One of the hardest things about studying abroad in Kazakhstan has been the long winter. It starts to get cold in November, and doesn't get warm again until the end of March or beginning of April. The snow is beautiful, but when it gets really cold it makes it hard to go outside. I have adjusted to the cold with layers, and also forcing myself to stay active and get in the sun as much as possible. We have access to the mountains here, so taking day trips just to get fresh air has been really helpful!