UCA Summer Camp Participants Learnt in Different Ways

The tree-lined pathways of Sinegorie Pansionat resort at Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan buzzed with excitement and conversation. Although in the heart of Central Asia, you only heard the English language.

The lively discussion came from groups of students wearing bright orange tee shirts identifying them as University of Central Asia (UCA) Summer Camp participants. The Summer Camp took place from 17 June to 6 July 2015. Participants came from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, making up a talented cohort of 76 students, selected through a competitive admissions process that had as many as 850 applicants.
Summer camp participants playing a narrative game during lunch break.

Led by an international and Central Asian team of staff, the UCA Summer Camp provided a unique academic enrichment experience for participants to improve English and math skills, receive critical support to enter university, and engage in recreational and other activities.

Camp participant Viktoriya Artyuchshenko from Tekeli, Kazakhstan described the Camp as a chance of a lifetime; “After just one week, my English has improved a lot. I am even learning new English words in the math classes! I am making new friends and we all work together to help and learn from each other.” Artyuchshenko studies at School #3 in Tekeli, and hopes to become a translator after completing university education abroad.

US English Instructor Samina Lakhani working one-on-one with students during class.

“The UCA Summer Camp provided multiple opportunities for learning - in formal classroom settings, during recreational activities and even during unstructured activities in which staff and participants shared experiences and ideas,” said Summer Camp Director Myrza Karimov from Kyrgyzstan.

Upgrading English skills was a key part of the Summer Camp experience, with 42 hours of English instruction and an English immersion environment provided.

“Central Asia is home to diverse communities. Russian and national languages are spoken and many people are bi- or even tri-lingual. In an increasingly globalised world, English is another language that can open doors,” said Dr Ariff Kachra, UCA Dean of Academic Affairs. Many universities, including UCA, offer their programmes in English. English immersion was a key element of the Summer Camp to help ensure the global competitiveness of Camp participants.”

A competitive and fun peer monitoring system held participants accountable.    

Students received 100 monopoly dollars at the start of the Camp. Staff and students could demand a monopoly dollar from anyone they heard using a language other than English,” said Malika Giles, UCA Summer Camp Programme Manager.

Participants also received 24 hours of mathematics instruction, with a curriculum that allowed for different levels of ability and the opportunity to apply what they learned outside the classroom. Participants who finished early were challenged with additional assignments formulated at a higher level of both math and English language. Extra math sessions were offered for students needing additional support. Recreational activities integrated the application of mathematical concepts, such as calculations of force and which angle to hit the ball, during sports sessions.

Tajik teacher Bunyod Tusmatov challenging students with new mathemical concepts in English.

Nigina Kholova from Dushanbe, Tajikistan enjoyed the multiple learning opportunities at the Camp; “It is important for me to learn English from native speakers, and it is great to learn in a different environment and practice with students from other countries. We are not only improving our English and math, but are also preparing for university admissions, which is very helpful for my goal to pursue medical education.

Kholova was one of many students who travelled to Kyrgyzstan for the first time for the UCA Summer Camp. Her favourite activities were the English courses and evening programmes.

The Summer Camp gave Burmakan Jakypova from Kurshab, Kyrgyzstan, more confidence to speak English; “I am a bit shy, but I have made many new friends and am more confident in my English classes. I hope to become more outgoing and read more English books after this camp.” Jakypova attended the Camp to improve her English and hopes to study international relations at university in Moscow or Kyrgyzstan.

Volleyball was one of many sports activities at the UCA Summer Camp where students practiced mathematical concepts while having fun.

When we first arrived at camp, I found it difficult to always speak in English, but now I feel like my speech is getting better,” said Murod Qoimdodov from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. “I really liked the debate evening programme as it made us think about different issues and helped us improve our critical thinking skills.

Qoimdodov hopes to improve his English and math and continue his studies in Kazakhstan or the Mediterranean region.

Students making paper aeroplanes as part of an interactive activity during an evening session on how to choose a good University.

The Summer Camp staff-student ratio of one to four provided unique opportunities for individualised and small group learning. Three to four students were often partnered with one counsellor for discussion groups and other activities.  

This approach really gave students a chance to practice conversational skills and it gave us an opportunity to connect with the students,” explained UCA Summer Camp Counsellor Canadian Amyna Fidai.

Many Summer Camp participants made strong connections with individuals of different nationalities. Two to four participants from different countries were housed in cottages, and all Camp activities were fully integrated, allowing for important exchanges.

Qoimdodov explained what he learnt from his new friends; “
I have met many people from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and we have shared stories and our cultures. As we are all Central Asian, we have actually found there are more similarities than differences.”

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