Voices of UCA: ‘UCA is a springboard for my future…’ - Suiuna Dadybaeva
Suiuna Dadybaeva, 18, was born and raised in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyz Republic. Her interests include photography, literature, baking, blogging, sports, and everything related to music and fashion. She also volunteers in her community. Suiuna is studying Computer Science at the University of Central Asia (UCA).
This interview is part of a series featuring UCA undergraduate students’ reflections after completing their first year at UCA. This series is a joint collaboration between the University of Central Asia and Aga Khan Foundation Canada.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Central Asia?
I had several university options in my hometown and abroad. During the selection process, I considered many factors, such as the universities’ curriculum, programmes, faculty, facilities, and international reputation. The University of Central Asia met most of my needs, and I believe it is the right choice for me.
At first, I registered for the Economics programme because I was introduced to that subject while at the Bishkek Academy of Finance and Economics. However, during my year in the UCA preparatory programme, I changed my major to Computer Science as I strongly believe that technology is the future. Moreover, I am sure that with a degree in computer science, I can achieve my career goals.
Tell me about your first impressions when you started the school year.
I remember having mixed feelings at first because UCA was completely new to me. Imagine being taught in the Soviet education system for 12 years, and then switching to Western education in one click.
First, the language. I had to make the Russian-English translating mechanism in my head come automatically. Second, new ways of teaching and learning. Teachers in my hometown made me care a lot about theory, but at UCA, putting what you learn into practice is everything. Last, but not least, critical-thinking and in-class contributions. I do not remember my thoughts being genuinely welcomed before coming to UCA. In my previous studies, the teachers usually explained everything, answered your questions, and never asked for your opinion. On the other hand, at UCA, students are expected to contribute to the classes, to work in teams, to speak out, and to give feedback.
As one of my favorite teachers of all time, Roza Kazakbaeva from UCA’s English Faculty, says "There is no 'wrong' in this classroom. Each, and every opinion matters."
Coming from Bishkek, can you describe your experience living on campus and in Naryn, a smaller community in the mountains?
I would not say that I completely adjusted to living in Naryn, as there is no place like home. This was my first time living in another region of Kyrgyzstan, so moving to Naryn was a new experience. My parents visited the UCA campus in September 2016 and were impressed by the facilities. UCA’s accommodation, dining hall, medical insurance, internet connection, library, gym, playroom, lounges and much more were all built and provided at a high standard. I felt comfortable and safe.
Can you tell me about the faculty during your first year?
Truly professional. Amazingly supportive. Tremendously inspiring. The work they have done throughout this year can be seen in the growth of every student. Their abilities are just beyond my imagination. They would teach during weekdays, do extra tutorials after classes, and be a mentor on weekends. I missed one month of classes and mid-term exams due to an injury. When I returned to school, members of the faculty helped me catch up.
What do you like the most about the student life on campus?
I really enjoy trivia night. On those nights, teams consisting of students, faculty, and staff compete in a question-based competition covering different categories such as geography, politics, music, films, and history. Moreover, campus celebrations (festivals, birthdays and holidays) are a lot of fun too.
Do you feel like you have grown personally/academically after completing the preparatory programme?
I have taken English courses before, but most of my English knowledge was from listening to hip hop music and watching Game of Thrones. I needed the preparatory program to upgrade my English proficiency. Now, I think in English and express myself freely.
Furthermore, I have learned a lot in the Calculus course taught at UCA, and now I understand the significance and connection between Biology, Physics and Chemistry thanks to UCA science courses.
In terms of personal growth, because UCA is so different from anything I have done before, I was out of my comfort zone and started the process of “self-cultivation”. Throughout the first year, I improved my abilities in critical thinking, team building, time management, public speaking and leadership. Furthermore, I have learned to accept other cultures and embrace the differences.
As part of UCA's five-year undergraduate programme, students complete an intensive preparatory programme year. Developed in partnership with Seneca College in Toronto, this programme is designed to help students attain the necessary English and critical thinking skills to succeed at the university level.
Can you explain how the preparatory programme has prepared you for your second year?
My improved English skills will make it easier to follow the Liberal Arts curriculum. Academic integrity – in terms of writing original papers with a creative approach, giving citations and avoiding plagiarism – will be a basis for my second-year studies.
Do you have a favorite memory from your first year to share?
On 16 January, there was a terrible airplane crash in Bishkek, which took the lives of 39 innocent people. That day the UCA Diversity Club and the Manager of Student Affairs, Erik Krauss, started a fundraising campaign for the victims. Erik pledged to double the amount raised by the students from his own pocket and he promised to dye his hair pink if the students raised over KGS 30,000 (Kyrgyz Som, approximately US$440). Two weeks later, during a Charity Night event, students raised KGS 80,000 (US$1,170), and Erik's hair was pink one week later.
I remember thinking at that moment that despite our cultural differences, UCA has a big warm heart.
What do you aspire to become in the future? In your opinion, how does studying at UCA help you reach your dream career?
UCA is a springboard for my future. Not only academically: I see all my experiences at UCA as the preparation for my future.
I plan to get my Master's degree and build a career in a field related to Computer Science. In the future, I would love to achieve financial freedom, do what I love, and contribute to positive change in society in the fields of economics and politics in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.
If you could share advice to incoming students, what would you tell them?
Engage in activities, be open-minded, balance academics and social life, and keep in contact with your old life during the school year. Also, keep your GPA high but remember that your health is higher in priority.
Edited for length and clarity.
The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000. The Presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan, signed the International Treaty and Charter establishing this secular, private, not for profit University, which was ratified by the respective parliaments and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are the Patrons of UCA and His Highness the Aga Khan is the Chancellor. UCA’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies, by offering an internationally recognised standard of higher education, and helping the peoples of the region to preserve and draw upon their rich cultural traditions as assets for the future. UCA brings with it the commitment and partnership of the Aga Khan Development Network.