Like a Rye Bread - Kazakhstan!
Like a Rye Bread - Kazakhstan!
  • Kim Jayeon / Guest Reporter
  • 승인 2011.03.07 22:22
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The night of January was cold and grey.  Russian was spoken everywhere which I couldn’t understand at all, and all the people looked angry.  That was my first feeling toward Kazakhstan.



Almaty, Upper East Side of Kazakhstan


You may imagine about Kazakhstan as wide grassland, cows and sheep, or the country where full of weird people like in the movie Borat.  Those are totally untrue, at least in Almaty.  Different from my first impression of Kazakhstan, Almaty was quite a big, vigorous city.  It is the former capital and still the largest city in Kazakhstan.  Vegetables, bread, and dairy foods are cheap in the market, but restaurants and other retail products are quite expensive.  I had no ideas about prices at first, so I went to the pasta restaurant with my friends near KIMEP (Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Resesarch).  After we finished our meal, we were very surprised at the expensive price, so we had to live on cheap bread for a week.  Maybe, that’s because I lived in Almaty, the city which has many high income people.  There are various races in Kazakhstan.  Kazakhs and Russians constitute the majority, and there are many Koreans, not only who have lived there since the 1930s, but also who are living there for business or study.  Therefore, it is convenient to buy Korean foods and stuff, so you don’t have to worry about food when you plan to go to Almaty.  Not only Korean food, but there are a variety of ethnic foods too.  Fried rice, noodles, and lamb meat were my favorite. You can enjoy various Central Asian foods in Kazakhstan.  You may worry about racial discrimination, but don’t worry.  Kazakhstan is much safer than Russia.  Moreover, lots of Kazakh people like Korean music and soap operas, so they are very friendly to Koreans.  Whenever I took a taxi, the driver asked me if I am a Korean and got talkative about Korean soap operas such as Jumong, or Boys Over Flowers.  I could make Kazakh friends easily chatting about those soap operas.




SMU has been in a sisterly relationship with, KIMEP which is located in downtown Almaty, so it’s convenient to look around the town.  KIMEP’s tuition is more expensive than Korea’s private universities, so most KIMEP students seemed pretty rich.  All the lectures in KIMEP are spoken in English, so it’s good for improving English skills, but not good for learning Russian.  So I feel the lack of Russian skill even though I stayed a year in Kazakhstan.  The other universities, however, such as Kazakhstan National University, have decent Russian language schools, thus lots of foreign students study in Almaty, including Koreans.  KIMEP is a specialized university in business and economics.  It was structured like a university, but there were only business administration, economy, journalism, and politics majors.  Its reputation is pretty good in Central Asia, so KIMEP students have pride of their school.  I took marketing and management classes for a year, and it was an unforgettable experience. Most professors of KIMEP were liberal.  They chose to be angled towards students, not only just showing their dignity.  In all lectures, participation was much more important than attendance.  Some lectures didn’t even count attendance scores because the professor thought “Attendance without participation is useless.”  Furthermore, students didn’t disagree with the professor’s opinion.  Especially in the marketing and management course, discussion without barriers is important to evoke creative ideas, as you know.  I felt awkward at first because this was my first experience to take a spoken English spoken class, but I adapted to this atmosphere and found out it’s much more interesting than just hearing.  Professors listened to students’ ideas carefully even though they spoke inappropriate ideas.  Other students also respected each other and tried to develop the discussion.  This teaching system was effective particularly in presentations.  The most memorable class was Brand Management which had a final presentation about developing a new brand.

Our team mates had frequent meetings to develop ideas and finally made an excellent presentation.  Not only making presentations, but feedback from all our classmates was worthwhile.  Classmates asked questions about presentations and sometimes they added new ideas to our presentation.  Through this experience, I found cooperation among classmates made better results.  Of course, this system could be exist because of KIMEP’s grading system. It’s absolute evaluation, not relative evaluation.  Without stress about grades, studying in an interesting field was fun in KIMEP. Besides, feedback about assignments, presentations, and exams were instant.  I could check each grade so it helped managing my final grade.  I wish Korea’s universities would someday have a free atmosphere in discussion, and instant feedback for every activity in class.




Kazakhstan, Full of Potential

Now, in my mind, Kazakhstan is not a grey country anymore.  Of course, it’s difficult to adapt to an unfamiliar country.  Learning Russian is hard (somebody said Russian is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world), many social systems were different from Korea.  However, I was ready to enjoy adventures, and most of my experiences were exciting.  Kazakhstan is not a strange or mysterious country. It is developing steadily with sparkling potential.  Now, I feel Kazakhstan is like brown rye bread.  It looks rough superficially, but there is soft bread inside.  Abandon stereotypes and open your mind, then Kazakhstan will be your kind friend.










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