Eva Kuras reflects on the beating the summer heat while living abroad on the Eurasian Regional Language Program in Dushanbe, Tajikistan as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient.
The first week was the hardest. The heat was intense: dry but still sweltering. I worried that my jean skirt was too short, although it almost hit my knees. My host family was friendly and welcoming, but there were so many new Tajik words and the pronunciation was so different. I quickly found that in order to adapt, I must find cafes with good A/C and Wifi, and I must learn some basic Tajik expressions and pronunciation.
That helped a lot. After class, I soon had my go-to spot for a Tequila Sunrise that happened to also have some of the coolest air-conditioning in town, while on the weekends I hit a roof-top swimming pool for extra relaxation. I began coming to my Tajik teacher with all my questions about Persian-Tajik language variation, and my weekly meetings with local Tajiks speaking native-Persian helped me acclimate as well.
In an immersive 8-week language program, the quicker you can acclimate, the more you can focus on absorbing your target language. Thanks to American Councils’ Eurasian Regional Language Program, I had daily intensive language classes and a homestay in a country where the people speak a variety of Persian (my target language) as their native tongue. It was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it.
The key to survival – like always in life – is to have fun! I showed up to class every day and put in the work, but in the evenings I explored the town, as it was cooler, and on the weekends I went hiking in the nearby mountains.
Some of my favorite moments, looking back, were random conversations with locals (in Tajik of course): an elderly shopkeeper talking about the beautiful mountains of Tajikistan, a waitress asking for advice on effective language study techniques, a laughing Uzbek-Tajik taxi driver recounting his experiences with foreigners . . . and of course, I won’t ever forget the kindness, delicious food and chit-chats about devilish cats, family life, and changing neighborhood habits with my dear host mom.
I have mostly photos for souvenirs, although my Tajik host dad and my Persian literature teacher gave me a couple special gifts as well, and through these as well as my memories I will remember Tajikistan as a country of a very unique and proud people, whose culturally hybrid heritage is their strength.
About Fulbright-Hays Scholarships from American Councils
American Councils for International Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad, to provide scholarships for advanced overseas Russian and Persian language study. Learn more about the eligibility requirements here.
About Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad
The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, commonly referred to as the Fulbright-Hays Act, was made law by the 87th U.S. Congress under President John F. Kennedy on September 21, 1961. Senator J. William Fulbright and Representative Wayne Hays introduced the legislation, which represents the basic charter for U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchange. 2016 marks the 55th anniversary of this landmark legislation. More information about Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad can be found here.