Alumni Articles, Kazakhstan

“My Heart Was Singing At The Sight Of Kansas Plains”

Aida Zhumabekova

Aida Zhumabekova ’11

My story began after I received a call from American Councils office. I still remember that happy glory voice on the telephone line congratulating me with my soon departure to the USA. I knew it was a start of something big. I became a FLEX program finalist. I was lucky to be one of the three students to go to the old great Kansas. I knew it was my place as soon as I first stepped out of my plane.  Some are dreaming about California and New York, some about astonishing views of Washington or Maine, but my heart was singing at the sight of Kansas plains. I could not be happier with my host family. I became a part of their family, a proud daughter of the Lane family. There is no need to say how much this experience has changed me.

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My year abroad had opened my eyes and I could not put myself to rest after I came back home. The vibrant, magnificently arising power was throwing me to undertake more challenges, to see and experience more than was offered. As I finished my high school I applied to the Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan for direct admission. My energy and enthusiasm could not allow me to even consider long Foundation program option. I needed it all, and I needed it now. I was accepted. Astana met me with the traditional melting sun and dry hot winds on the prairies of constructions and glass made buildings. I went to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences hoping to find myself in the career of a politician or anthropologist. Nazarbayev University is a great place to be in, and I could tell it, but something inside me was still unsettled and wild. Only now I realize that it was not about people and place. It was about my dream to study in the USA. I am only a sophomore in Mount Holyoke College in Massachusets, USA, but I have a long story. I underwent application process, transferred my credits, applied for insanely hard to get scholarships and now I am who I am- an international student in the US college. As always, America opened another side of me. I plan to major in Computer Science Engineering and minor in Mathematics. I regret nothing and even more, now I am free. Free of that eating desire to be somewhere you have been only once but somewhere you lost your heart in.

Right now I work at American Councils, Almaty. ACCELS office became a sacred place for me where all my dreams shape into a challenging idea and a set goal. I work as a Coordinator of the Uni project, which is unique portable reading room for public spaces, which aims to temporarily transform almost any available urban space into a public reading room and venue for learning. The Uni Project is funded by the U.S. State Department and is being implemented with the assistance and cooperation of the Almaty Children’s Library and I work on it along with a strong FLEX team, which members were chosen among a competitive applicant pool of FLEX alumni.

My story began with a single call and ended in unexpected beautiful journey to the world full of amazing possibilities and dares. FLEX has opened so many doors and ways for each of us and still, it is only a beginning.

Written by Aida Zhumabekova ’11

Fall, 2013

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