Hello everyone! I’m Angie Bowen. I am a political science student at Minnesota State University Moorhead. I love learning about foreign affairs, U.S. politics, and above all, American law. I am going to go to law school next fall and am studying abroad because I want to live in another country before it becomes too implausible later on in life. I chose to study in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan because I wanted to learn Russian and found a program that goes through a U.S. university.
Before I boarded the plane to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I didn’t feel the butterflies I had been expecting. Nothing seemed different. I went to school, worked, and played with my cat. The only that stood out until I left for the airport was that there was a very full suitcase sitting in the middle of my living room. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel nervous. Maybe it’s because I am a compartmentalizer, able to stuff away uncomfortable feelings, maybe it’s because I was just ready to go. Maybe it was because I have been preparing for this for over a year and so I have had plenty of time to come to terms with what studying abroad entails. I also made sure to set my expectations low. By this, I don’t mean that I was expecting to be miserable, just that I didn’t expect my adventure to be magical, or completely wonderful all the time. I knew it would be incredibly difficult and demoralizing at times. What do you expect when you choose to study abroad in a country whose culture and language are completely different from that of the United States? Aside from my mental preparation, I also made sure everything was in order. From the contents of my suitcase and carry on to the paperwork I needed to leave my family, I quadruple checked my affairs were in order, and then I checked again. Daily. Also, I made sure to work out as often as my schedule allowed. Not only would this put me in good shape to fly and live in a new city, but it also helped me cope with the fact that I was going to study abroad. It built up my physical endurance and it strengthened my will and mental toughness.
When I first arrived in my host country, I was, for some reason, taken aback by the amount of Russian they spoke, if not just because I have only heard English being the predominately spoken language. Now that I have lived in Kyrgyzstan for over a month, I am used to it. The people I have to interact with are accommodating to my lack of Russian speaking skills and can communicate with me in other ways. I was at first embarrassed and down about them. Now, I don’t get down about it, I just use those feelings to drive myself to continue to learn Russian. People don’t get mad at you because you don’t know their language; they enjoy your butchered attempts to use the right cases and vocabulary and are overall proud that someone wants to learn their language and live in their city. The language is the biggest difference that took me back right away. The rest were little things, like how the sidewalks are not cared for and that driving etiquette is different. You get used to that stuff quickly. If you don’t, you are just making yourself more miserable than you need to be.
Though there are differences in how Kyrgyz people and Americans live their lives, there are also similarities, which outweigh the differences. The people here, just like in the U.S. want to provide the best lives they can for their children. They value family and friends and are unhappy with politics, just like Americans. Kyrgyz people wake up in the morning, make breakfast, go to work and school, and talk about their day at the dinner table. My host mom is a grandmother, and I am reminded of my grandmother. Now that I have lived here for over a month, I don’t notice the differences, only the ways we are similar.