Tattybubu Aidarova is the Kyrgyz FLTA (Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant) at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University Bloomington. Here, she talks about her country, Kyrgyzstan, and adapting to life at IU.
- Can you introduce yourself briefly and tell us a little about your background?
My name is Tattybubu Aidarova, and I am 25-years-old. I grew up in in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. I studied in a local school in Jalal-Abad, and for college I attended Ala-Too International University in Bishkek. I studied English Language and Literature Education there for five years. During this time, I developed my passion for discovering new teaching methods and implementing them in a classroom environment. This is what led me to work in a variety of different institutions during my academic years. Following those positions and the completion of my university degree, I went to Vietnam through the AIESEC Global Talent program with the intention of pursuing personal and professional growth. Spending almost two years there helped me develop my interpersonal skills, my adaptability and my independence, and also put me in contact with people from a variety of different countries and cultures, both in social settings and through cooperation in the workplace.
After returning to Kyrgyzstan, I worked on teaching projects for university and secondary school students. My last job was at a feminist organization in my hometown of Osh. I was coordinating a project that was aiming to eliminate discrimination based on age, gender and ethnicity. As part of this project, we organized various trainings and workshops for youth, including European Voluntary Service exchange programs and study visits to Sweden for youth workers from Kyrgyzstan.
I had been working there for about half a year when I found out I had been chosen for the Fulbright Program here. My husband and all of my friends and family were supportive and encouraged me to come here.
- How many sections of Kyrgyz language are you teaching?
I have one student who is learning intermediate Kyrgyz. He is a linguist, so he’s really into grammar. It’s great fun! I’ve never actually taught Kyrgyz before, only English, so it is challenging at times.
- What classes are you taking here at IU?
I will be taking two classes each semester. This term, I am taking a Gender Studies class about women and war. I am interested in this class because gender inequality around the world—including in Kyrgyzstan—has always been important to me. I see a big problem in the way women are treated in Kyrgyzstan. I am thinking of applying for a master’s in this field in the future. Not every university in Kyrgyzstan offers gender studies, but maybe one day we can change that.
The other class I am taking is about less commonly taught languages. I really like it. I think it is useful for teaching Kyrgyz here in the US.
- Is this your first time visiting the United States? If so, what are your thoughts?
It is my first time, and so far, I love it! I have never lived in a university town before and I feel very lucky to be in Bloomington. It is the perfect place for visitors, especially students. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful. And there’s always something going on, events after events. Sometimes all you need is just time to enjoy all the goodies that this town offers.
- Is there anything you miss from Kyrgyzstan that you haven’t been able to find here?
I do miss bread—the bread that is made in clay ovens. I haven’t tried all of the bread here so far, but the bread I have tried tastes too sweet to me. Other than that, I haven’t been here long enough to miss too much.
- What is your favorite thing to do at IU so far (when you're not teaching or taking class)?
I really like to go to the different events. Each month, there are many different exhibitions around the fountain in Arts Plaza. I am volunteering at the Lotus Festival this coming week. The Student Rec Center is also an amazing place. I go to yoga and swimming there every week. I have also started to take Latino dance classes. I constantly look at all of the posters around campus that advertise lectures from professors and other speakers. We also have a monthly meeting with all the Fulbrighters at IU where we get to know each other, including our cultures. There is a diverse community of Fulbright fellows here, which is amazing.
- Do you think learning the Kyrgyz language is difficult for a native English speaker?
It is a difficult language, but it doesn’t have tones like some languages, which makes it less difficult for a native English speaker. Once you learn the grammar, it is easier to learn. Also, if you have studied any other Turkic languages, then it should be very easy to learn. Or, if you learn Kyrgyz first, then you should be able to easily learn other Turkic languages such as Uzbek, Kazakh, Turkish, or Uyghur. For a complete beginner, however, yes – it can be quite difficult, especially because there is a lack of Kyrgyz learning materials available.
- Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Kyrgyzstan?
Kyrgyzstan is one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2019. It’s becoming a desirable place to travel. There is beautiful nature, high mountains, endless valleys, clear rivers and lakes, organic vegetables and fruits, beautiful horses, wild eagles, rich culture, and canyons. It is a great place to go if you want to experience authentic nomadic life. After traveling to over 15 countries, I realized people barely know where Kyrgyzstan is or what it is like. It is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. For people from the West who have never heard of Kyrgyzstan, it might sound scary, but it is quite safe to travel there.