Temirlan Nurmoldayev, MPP 2nd year: “The student exchange program motivated me to conquer new heights, which I would hardly have noticed, revolving in a circle delineated only by national boundaries”

During the last semester, NU GSPP 2nd year MPP students Temirlan Nurmoldayev and Zhibek Jazykbayeva participated in the student exchange program at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management in Korea. Temirlan shared his impressions from the learning experience within the program.

What did the program give you? What goals did you pursue by participating in it?

It was the first experience of participating in that kind of student exchange programs for me. In general, I am satisfied with the experience, even though I did not manage to travel to Korea and physically attend the lectures. Applying to the program, I pursued two main goals. Firstly, I wanted to try myself in a completely international environment. It was interesting to test myself among foreign students and teachers from different parts of the world, to develop intellectually by participating in scientific discussions, diluted with internationality, and exchanging knowledge and experience with local students. Secondly, I wanted the cultural enrichment. I was very impressed with the idea of ​​getting acquainted not only with Korean culture, but also with the cultures of many other countries, which were presented by international students at the university.

Beyond that, I wanted to be at the country itself, understand their progress and achievements as a major economic power, get acquainted with the local way of life and traditions, and just meet the locals and discover their lifestyle. Additionally, it was a great opportunity for shopping, I planned to buy some cosmetics for my mom and girlfriend. Unfortunately, the COVID prevented me from fulfilling all my desires, and I went to conquer the Korean horizons while sitting in a one-room apartment in Almaty.

What did you like in the program?

The academic part of the program went smoothly and successfully, which became my favorite part of the experience. Thanks to the warm welcome from professors, students, and the faculty, we (Zhibek and me) were able to quickly adapt to local conditions. The awkwardness from communicating in English with foreign students, which was present at the beginning of training, quickly disappeared and allowed us to enjoy the process to the fullest. I would also note the professional achievements of the professors there, most of them are graduates of the most prestigious universities in the world, and their high level of teaching is reflected in their not particularly burdensome, but at the same time extremely effective teaching methods. Interesting discussions, simulations and games helped me learn and keep a lot of new useful information in my mind, and now I try to share this acquired baggage of knowledge in the courses of the last semester of my studies at the Master’s program at Nazarbayev University. According to my feelings, despite the online learning format and unfamiliar environment, thanks to the teaching methods of professors, we did not drop out of the educational process throughout the semester, actively participating in lectures.

It is worth noting the administrative component too. The Department of Student Affairs of Korea University provided us with timely assistance on any question from our side. Thus, we received the qualified assistance in registering subjects, accessing the electronic system of subjects (analogous to Moodle at NU), uploading assignments for verification, and many other requests. The only thing I want to advise to the future students is to take into account the three-hour difference between Kazakhstani and Korean time (perhaps in the future, with offline study, this aspect will lose its relevance, but nevertheless). I don’t really advise, when studying remotely, to take classes starting at 9 am or 7 pm KST, unless, of course, you are not a cyborg 😀

Did you experience any difficulties due to the online format of learning?

Despite the remote learning format, we managed to socialize within the university community quite successfully. In general, the exchange program in Korea is a good opportunity to expand one’s social circle and therefore enrich the social capital. A peculiar approach from professors to the organization of interesting and exciting lectures will not only keep you involved but will also allow you to be quickly adapted to the international environment and acquire useful contacts. Thus, I met many classmates, with some of whom I keep in touch to this day. In addition, a bonus for especially active students is the prospect of trying themselves as the teacher assistants. This, in my opinion, is another great opportunity to demonstrate the leadership skills.

Unfortunately, I was not able to know Korea physically. The physical trip to the country, no doubt, would be more effective and beneficial. Nevertheless, even the minimal experience of communicating with foreign teachers and students was like a breath of fresh air for me to discover and understand the amazing culturally multifaceted, multinational world. This experience allowed me to shake my deeply rooted foundations of thinking within the national scale and moved me to think globally. For instance, I realized the importance of professional competitiveness not only within our country, but globally too. Communication with students from different countries made it possible to understand how the people from different states differ from each other, and at the same time how close they are in some way. Communication in such environment helped to realize how different or similar my level of the professional knowledge, skills, or even English to the foreign students, many of whom are native speakers. This motivated me to conquer new heights, which I would hardly have noticed, revolving in a circle delineated only by national boundaries.

Will you advise new students to participate in the exchange programs?

Of course, I would. I am sure that everyone will find their profit from participating in the programs like this. I am convinced that it can become an important milestone in the professional careers of many future politicians, researchers, experts, and people who will play an important role in the development of Kazakhstan. However, you should always remember that by participating, you represent not only yourself, but also the university and the state.

Any final conclusions?

In conclusion, I want to express my deep gratitude to Nazarbayev University, GSPP, to all those people thanks to whom we took part in the program. Many thanks to Madina Kuvanysheva for her support and excellent supervision of the whole process, Karina Khalilova for assistance with visa and other technical issues, as well as our program coordinator Professor Peter Howie, the NU GSPP Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Professor Colin Knox and the School’s Dean Professor Weng; and, the staff of the Registrar’s office, Department of International Cooperation, Office of Bursars, and finally, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Mrs. Loretta O’Donnell.