My reasons for studying abroad were to increase my language learning ability, and most importantly to learn about a culture different than my own. Language learning can take place in many forms but learning culture cannot be replicated. Being able to truly immerse myself in Tajik culture can only be optimized from living in the country for a significant time. One of the benefits to studying in Tajikistan for an academic year is the ample opportunity for cultural exchange. So far, two instances that have been great sources of cultural exchange was participating in Eid Qurbon celebrations with locals and giving a presentation at the American Corners on my university.
Before coming to Tajikistan I did not know anything about Eid Qurbon. This is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims all over the world. The Islamic celebration acknowledges Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah. This experience was both a learning opportunity as well as a chance to experience how Tajiks celebrate holidays. On the day of Eid Qurbon I woke up and got my first glimpse at this celebration. Family and friends convene at the house. The day is filled with prayers, food, and fellowship amongst loved ones. I tried different foods that I had not been exposed to before that time. My host family had loved ones come from different parts of Tajikistan. This was a great opportunity to practice my language skills with people who have different accents. Overall I really enjoyed this experience, learning about their culture, and being able to share my own.
There are a large number of Tajik students interested in studying at universities in the United States. Tajiks have been such a critical element to my study abroad experience. The warm and welcoming personalities I interact with make my time in Tajikistan incredible. I learned a lot from them, much of which transcends language learning. I wanted to do something that may help them so I decided to volunteer at the American Corners and give a presentation on college life in the United States. I remember how stressful applying for college was when I was going through the process. I shared with them some techniques that would make this process a little bit easier and talked about some fun things to look forward to outside of academics. I discussed different types of scholarships and student involvement opportunities, and provided pictures to give them a glimpse of what a college campus looks like. By the end of my formal presentation they were excited and more prepared to begin their college applications. After the presentation I opened up the floor for questions from Tajik students that were physically present, and the students who Skyped in from the American Corners in Khojand. Overall this was a worthwhile opportunity for me to share with them my experiences and help them put their best foot forward when they begin their applications.
These are just two experiences of the many that I’ve had in Tajikistan. I plan to continue to engage and learn as much about Tajikistan and its culture as I can. While many Tajiks are interested in American culture and the English language, it’s easy to see the similarities that exist across cultures between two countries that are so far apart from each other geographically. These cultural exchanges will benefit long after I leave Tajikistan.
By: Perry Copes II
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Academic Year 2014-15