Repatriates Assembly

“Bolashak” scholarship serves as a social elevator for young professionals

Pursuing a higher education abroad

In 1993, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan issued a special decree on the “Bolashak” International Scholarship, that was created shortly after the country's independence. Since then, the program has been changed and amended several times. An international scholarship of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan gives the hundreds of Kazakhstanis the opportunity to study at leading foreign universities and expand their knowledge abroad.

Over the past 28 years, this scholarship has become a world-renowned Kazakhstani brand. A program has been amended and supplemented since 1993 by the number of new agreements and was expanded in 2005 in order to form the Joint Stock Company “Center for the International Programs”, that aimed to increase the number of scholarships until 3,000. In accordance with the official data, since 1993, our country has created the conditions for the 13 thousand students to study abroad and become the modern professionals.

Since 2008, the opportunities of the scholarship have been provided not only for the studies, but also for the internships abroad. This list includes not only those who study abroad, but also those who are pursuing their master's and PhD degrees in our country. Today, the graduates of the scholarship have implemented hundreds of scientific developments and major projects in the fields of education, health, culture, science and technology.

Upon the graduation from the universities, most of the graduates successfully found a job and now they are actively implementing their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the country. According to the Center for International Programs, more than 40 percent of graduates work in the real sector of the economy, 20 percent of them are in the education and science fields, and more than 7 percent are in medicine and health. Therefore, a quarter of the graduates work as top managers at large companies and government agencies.

In order to become the holder of the scholarship, you need to go through serious of tests and exams. How to apply for the “Bolashak” scholarship abroad and how to study there? Is it possible to find a job after graduating a foreign University? A graduate of the program, Bakhyt Shoiymbek, told briefly about the advantages and disadvantages of the scholarship in her interview for our portal. She studied "Academic writing" at University of Reading and pursued a master`s degree in International PR and Global Communications Management at Cardiff University.

-  A very good afternoon Bakhyt! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where have you studied? What program did you choose for the “Bolashak” scholarship?

- Good afternoon, Aliya! Thank you for inviting me for an interview! In 2014, I participated in the competition under the international program “Bolashak” and won a scholarship. In general, in the same year, a quota for the “Journalism” profession has been announced for the first time. As you know, there was no quota before that. A quota is provided for the civil servants only. The quota is a discount that allows you to take a course for learning the language and study there. In total, I had studied in England for 2.5 years. I studied Academic English for 1.5 year. A teaching system at the Universities of England and our institutions is incomparable. That's why, I was supposed to learn the language as well as training method. So, in the beginning I thought I would just go for a year, and then I studied for 2.5 years in Cardiff, the capital of Wales in the United Kingdom. But before that, I was at University of Reading that located in Reading. There is a mountain, called “Reading”, 20 kilometers near London. At that time, according to our managers, in accordance with their monitoring, the University has been acknowledged as one of the “Best institutions in Language Teaching” for the international students, so I chose this university in a short time to study English in the UK. When I studied a language, there was a certain level of reading before that, but I really wanted to improve it. First of all, I had studied academic English for a year, then there is a university in the capital of Wales, called Cardiff. This university is one of the best universities in the UK in the field of journalism, international PR and communication, as you can see from social media. Then I graduated with a master's degree in “International PR and Global Communications Management”, that means “12 month of intensive training”.

- As a foreign student, have you faced any difficulties entering the University and studying with the scholarship there? If yes, can you tell us a little more about this?

- Of course, they definitely say, “Knowledge is like digging a well with a needle”. Now I laugh with my friends, but if I was offered a master's degree now, I would say, “I would think heavily before I agree”. I did not even know what was waiting for me at that time. So, I agreed gladly with a high enthusiasm. In fact, one of the things that led me there was my childhood dream to study in the UK. And one of the general problems, as far as I know, is that the teachers, lecturers assign one teacher for us, they call her or him “tutor”. This teacher is not only your tutor, but also your supervisor, who controls everything including your mood, mental condition from the moment you entered the University until your graduation. For example, how does this international student study, whether is he capable or not, can he pass the exams? We had weekly meetings with our tutors. Also, we had an opportunity to meet and talk at any time we wanted. Actually, my tutors in the UK helped me a lot. Because when I went there for the first time, I had an academic language course. I have noticed that international students ask unclear questions in English in order to learn English faster. Therefore, in order to know the language at a good level, I only prepared my ears for 1-1.5 months, because it was very difficult to understand. When I went to classes, I thought I would take everything as soon as possible, but when I got into that environment, I faced the difficulties. As you know, the Englishmen in the UK, Wales have their own accents, like the style of speech or speed. Therefore, it was very difficult to understand at the first lessons. I cannot deny the fact that my blood pressure was even falling. Because, I had been thinking so hard and pushed myself to understand better. Because of these, I have been thinking about when my headaches will go away as well. But after 1-1.5 months, it gradually dissipated and my ears started to get used to the teaching process. The most difficult thing for me was to communicate with the English people there, in England. But now everyone needs time. Therefore, we passed the exams with dignity, and mostly understood the subjects. And then, as it turns out, everyone seems to have its own style of learning the things. After working as a journalist for several years and gaining a lot of experience, I cannot say that it was difficult. Honestly, most of my experience helped me a lot. I think if I had just graduated from university, I would have suffered too much. But I was generally morally prepared for the education abroad.

- Just know, you have mentioned that you are a journalist. In general, have you pursued a journalism degree before obtaining the scholarship?

- I graduated from the Eurasian National University in 2003 with a Bachelor degree in International Journalism. Akseleu Seidimbek was one of my mentors. Then, since we had a combination of experience and theory from the first year of education, I started working from the first year as well. Then, when I applied for the “Bolashak” program, I had about 10 years of working experience. After 5 years of graduating with a degree in International Journalism, I decided to be in journalism field for some time. Therefore, I applied for this scholarship in order to improve my knowledge. In general, you feel the moments when you run out of people, and then you see something completely new, change your point of view, in other words, you want to go back, and my journalistic experience helped me to overcome the difficulties.

- Who studied with you on your program? Were there many foreigners, Russian-speaking or Kazakstani students?

- In the master's program, fortunately, one of the main goals I set after entering the “Bolashak” program – I wanted to get into the English language environment as soon as possible. In that place where I studied, there were students from the CIS countries and Kazakhstan. However, in order to learn the language and practice, I mostly interacted only with English-speaking students. For example, since my specialization is International PR and Global Communications Management, our group included more than 70 students from 34 countries, such as the United States, Malaysia, the Philippines, Jamaica, Germany and China. There was one more journalist from Kazakhstan and me, and then there was a Russian-speaking girl, all other students were from English-speaking countries.

- When you studied abroad, what did you do in your free time from studies? Have you participated in any kind of events or student campaigns? Tell us a little about this.

- Basically, when I started my master's degree, they generally use the word “Overwhelmed”, which means you get a lot of information. As our specialty is “International PR”, in addition to the theory, the lectures have been taught mainly by the experts from the international organizations, non-governmental organizations working in this field, as well as from the British government and the House of Lords. I did not miss this opportunity, because we attended our lectures. In general, as usual, we had 12 months of intensive care, and every hour was counted to the minute. There was never a moment when I didn't feel like doing what I wanted to do. Basically, we spent most of our time for the studies. After all, we studied 6-7 subjects in one semester for only 1 specialty. For example, if you study for only 1 specialty and want to pass all subjects, you have to read 5-6 books from the original. Then, I was supposed to read 30 books on 6 subjects in 3 months. Now, I am telling you, how scared and stressed I was at that time. What would I do if I failed my exams? But even then, I really spent a lot of time for my studies. For example, I looked at our colleagues from France, Germany, and two colleagues from the UK, one is a journalist, another one is a PR specialist. They played lightly, laughed, attended the events, but even though got high marks on exams and passed them. But mostly, I spent a lot of time in the library. Because I read those books during the whole day and night. Basically, I used to read and study in the library, at home after leaving the library, and they have the concept “Term”. Anyway, between the terms, during 10-15 days’ break, our tutors told us to go out and take a little rest in order to master all the topics. Or you may not be able to complete your studies. Basically, I had 10-15 days off. We traveled around Europe and visited other places as well. But most of my time was spent at the library with reading. Basically, big events were organized in London as too. We mostly attended the lectures that related to public relations. Basically, we spent a lot of time studying in order to pass the exams.

- Nowadays, there are a lot of students and graduates in our country, who want to pursue or further their studies abroad. As the “Bolashak” graduate, what recommendations or suggestions can you give to them?

- When I was taking the enrollment test for the “Bolashak” Scholarship, I was the head and host of the weekly expert program, called “Target”. Honestly, while working, I ran to pass all the exams. I also used lunch time to learn English because I had no other time. So, I spent 2-3 months of my free time intensively to learn the language. At that time, my level was “Intermediate”. Before going to the UK, my IELTS Reading / Listening was 5.5. If a student's IELTS score is 5.5, the University of Reading will accept these students. As you know, Writing and Reading are very important in journalism. Well, I honestly don't remember most of the exams. I graduated with Honors from my high school and university. That's why, I think that passing the exams is the result of my previous knowledge and experience. In general, I was not prepared for the Kazakh language test and psychological test. Whatever knowledge and experience I have, I just went and passed. Basically, my advice for those who want to study abroad is to have some experience in your home country, especially in your chosen field, before you graduate and immediately go abroad, you have to replenish your education. After all, they say “Students should be enough mature”. When you go there, you need to be a little smarter, full and mature. For example, you have just graduated with a bachelor degree, you have to work, get up at 7.00 in the morning, work at 9.00, sit until 7.00 in the evening, and if you are a journalist, do your job responsibly. I think it will be difficult to go abroad, get a master's degree and study without these requirements and responsibilities. After all, the master's degree is mostly attended by experienced people. We had the youngest, the most experienced people aged 25-27. So, apart from the theory that you have to be on the same level, you need to have the same topics for the conversation, and must have the same experience. We had young students who had just graduated from bachelor's degree and entered the master's program. They faced the difficulties from writing. After all, it is not just a matter of writing the assignments, it is necessary to have experience other than English in order to complete, understand and explain the topic. Therefore, I would like to say to young students who are going to study abroad, if possible, it is better to gain experience as a specialist, to train a little, and prepare yourself for a master's degree. After all, the lecturers come to check your base, tell what they have to say and share their experience. And if you are a young student, I have seen students who do not understand some terminology and they are not even psychologically and mentally ready. Most of them are young students. I think, it is mainly due to the lack of experience, moral unpreparedness for various challenges. Therefore, my first advice is, if possible, do not rush to study abroad, you have to gain an experience in your specialty first, and then, secondly, gain the experience in your field. Today, the time of globalization from English language, we all have access. In general, you need to be more prepared, when you abroad for studies. I have noticed a lot that we have the same thing, “If you touch a poplar, if you don't touch a branch”. Personally, later I started to regret that I did not do it. I had to study a lot of textbooks, including, literature review and prepare to study, depending on my chosen specialty. After all, my first and second terms took most of my time for the studies. Therefore, you need to gain experience first, and secondly, you need to do some research, explore and investigate an information in your field.

- Upon the completion of the program, is it difficult to get employed? Are there any directions or difficulties for getting a job?

- For example, not only for the graduates of “Bolashak”, but after graduating from any university, I think there is no clear method for getting employed. It depends on the person and his needs. For example, after graduating from the “Bolashak” program, of course, you set big goals and obligations, and you want to work at the international level. At least I wanted to work for the channels like BBC and CNN. But in many highly developed countries, it is my intention to stay and work. But, as they say, I have seen it, for example, even though I graduated with Honors, my level of English is incomparable. Although I had some experience, there was a language barrier. Therefore, I think it all depends on the person. It was not difficult to get a job, as if I had a name and something, because I had some experience before and after I went abroad. From this point of view, everyone works according to their wishes and choices. However, although not radical, “Bolashak” program can make a big difference. Not only your education, but also your outlook on life in general, one of the benefits of the program after graduation is not only for the sake of salary or for the sake of becoming a journalist, but also to increase your potential in society. Here, of course, an idea of ​​introducing comes to the mind. You follow in their footsteps and try to achieve your goals. But basically, there are a lot of questions about whether you graduated with the “Bolashak” scholarship or not. Therefore, a person also grows and becomes more aware, when he passes the exams to apply for the scholarship. Honestly, I am very proud of myself now. Because, you feel really grateful that you went to study abroad, graduated and got an education.

- Now, are you working in your specialization, in our country?

- For example, on the place where I went, I noticed how they say that we need to develop the service sector now, but I cannot say it for “Small and medium business”. For example, we are developing areas for the improvement in the field of media and communications with the help of external resources to improve the quality of services. Then, I noticed that the lectures, that I gave, were for the private companies. This is the basis of developed countries. After choosing the field of communication, we explored and knitted to improve the theory and formula of service in that field. Basically, when I went to study and returned to the country, I had an idea that I should work mainly for myself. In fact, after a few years, a person will have these thoughts again. I opened an international PR and media agency, now called “GGQ & Co Global Communications Agency”, and as soon as I arrived, I searched and did some investigations. The main task of our work is to fulfill the orders. Our last order was a big project. In the framework of the program “Spiritual Revival”, it was necessary to develop an intellectual content aimed at increasing social consciousness, the potential of society. As you know, I ran a big project called “I have something to say”. I actually suspended that project. Now we are on vacation in Astana. In general, this program took place on June 2. Then we developed more than 100 live programs. In general, it was intended not only to raise the issues in social programs, but also to contribute to their solution. For example, let's take just one example: when the quarantine was intensified, we got an announcement that many people needed the information in March. Then, we invited the specialists to the studio on a non-stop basis, answering the questions from the audience, and at the same time people from the public answered to our questions as well. We are mainly engaged in social projects. But in the future we are committed to providing the services in the field of communications at the international level, not only in Kazakhstan, but also abroad. We are already implementing a large global project called “Good country”. I am an ambassador of that global project in Kazakhstan. It is called “Good country” not for the economic purposes, but for becoming a good state in protecting an environment. We also have a policy of landscaping. I think this project is a big movement in support of this policy. I learned about this industry when I was in the UK, and now I have heard the trends and movements such as “Global Warming”, that I have never read before, and also I heard about the concept “TOURIST FOOD PRINT”. At the same time, there are big positive trends, such as protecting the environment, people's conscious attitude to the life, the cessation of consumption outside of consumerism. In the future, I plan to do some work in this field. So, let's wait and see!

- Bakhyt, thank you so much for your time and interview! We would like to wish you a continuous success and prosperity in your career!