As the last week of the Eurasian Regional Language Program rapidly approaches, I feel it is appropriate to give some of my thoughts about various things I have experienced in Tajikistan since arriving in early June.
Since I was inundated with questions about safety before I came, this issue can be addressed simply by stating that I have not once felt even moderately uncomfortable in Dushanbe. While safety is very important, it should not keep anyone from coming to experience this great city. Many times, I felt safer in Dushanbe than I did in big cities in the United States.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the program has been getting to spend time with my host family and get to know them better. They have been incredible in every way possible, from spontaneous trips to the amusement park to taking care of me when I suddenly became ill. I can honestly say that for the last two months, I felt like I found a new home in Dushanbe, not just a place I lived for eight weeks.
Another concern that many students had (and judging by our experiences, justifiable) was getting sick in Dushanbe and how they would be taken care of. While I was not one of the more serious cases of illness in our group, I woke up one morning in relatively poor shape. My host family immediately gave me some great medicine from Russia, and in the span of a day I was doing my calisthenics routine before bed again. While there will most likely be some issues with food or water causing some kind of illness (usually very mild), with the care available here, whether it be local medicine/remedies or the urgent care facilities, there is little to worry about regarding illnesses.
Seeing as it is one of the primary reasons we all participated in the program, I should probably comment on my classroom experience. I was the only student studying Uzbek here, so I have been receiving one on one instruction for the entirety of the program. My two instructors have been great, in that they developed clear and concise syllabi and on several occasions, even let me choose class discussion topics that I was interested in and wanted to learn more about. While the course load can be rigorous at times, I feel much more confident in my Uzbek language abilities now than I did at the beginning of the program.
Another great part of the program was the many excursions we went on around Dushanbe. The variety of the trips was good, in that week to week we were experiencing something different. While I personally was not able to travel outside the city, several of my colleagues were able to travel around the country. This kind of flexibility is great when there are so many inexpensive transportation options, and subsequently opportunities to see more of Tajikistan.
Having traveled to the former Soviet Union before, I felt like I had a good idea of what to expect upon reaching Dushanbe. I am pleased to say that I was very wrong. The incredible hospitality of the Tajik people still amazes me on a daily basis. The scenery of the country is also stunningly beautiful and its culture very rich. But don’t just take my word for it, come experience Tajikistan for yourself!
By: Derek Peterson
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Summer 2013