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No Language – No Freedom!

December 2nd, 2008

Let me share my experience with you: if you are in a foreign country and you don’t know the language spoken in this country- you are totally dependent – that is exactly what I understood being as an exchange in Germany. Local people give you no respect no matter how smart you are. It takes you much effort to do  some basic things: starting from charging your sell phone with money and finishing with registration at the migration police.

Even if you had  an intensive course of a foreign language before your trip and you can say “Help me please!”  it was not garantied  that you would be understood. Even a  phrasebook  is of a little help. Sure you can ask how to find way to your hotel but can you be sure that you will understand the answer? Good thing if  you came from one european country to another. Languages can be different but there are still many similarities  (not only in terms of languages by the way).Now imagine you go to China….Can you grasp 4 tonalities? In order for you to feel lost you don’t even need to go to China and deel with its specific signs.  Try to go to a country where another alphabet is used.  If you are not familiar with cyrillica, you can’t even read the street names in most of  FSU countries.

That’s all well-known information but still – if you go to a foreign country make sure you know at least some elementary phrases and you can pronounce them correctly.
Thank God almost everyone speaks English in Germany otherwise I won’t be able to communicate. Though I have a German course it takes much time to come to a level of expressing your thoughts freely. Hopefully by the end of my trip in Germany I will have talked to German peolpe in their native language.
To sum up I can say that the more languages one speak the more useful it is. Also the more languages one understands the easier the process of studying a new one goes.

I’m  just wondering if the principe “Quality not quantity” can be applied to languages?

Welcome to Germany!

November 11th, 2008

Why “Welcome to Germany”? What do I do in Germany? Good questions! I am in Germany in Berlin as an exchange student. I know it must sound strange as I study English philology over here and it should be taught in english-speaking country but believe me or not German universities are very good as far as English is concerned. One more thing – Freie Universität where I am studying is called ‘American University’. Most of the professors studied in the USA or Great Britain so I don’t study ‘German English’.

At least 6 months I am going to be in Germany as a student of Freie Berlin Universität and I am absolutely convinced that it will be an incredible expeience for me. Besides for English philology I am going to study German language (as now I don’t speak German at all). It’s just a great chance to get to know German culture, meet differnet people from all over the world and bring my experience to Kazakhstan afterwards. Having become an independent country, Kazakhstan started to develop in different directions. Its main priority is education.

There are various programmes which give students lots of opportunities to study abroad. The most popular and reliable programme is presidential scholarship named Bolashak. Every year about four or five fairs “Education without borders” are held in Kazakhstan (usually in Astana and Almaty). There is also so-called Erasmus Mundus programme which is quite new (2 years)but very good one.
So nowadays every student who can speak a foreign language can find a programme he is interested in and study in the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia and other countries without any tuition fee.

To be perfectly honest it is not very easy to get a scholarship because of the fact that usually there are many applicants, exams are tough and obstacles are endless .
In May as a student of Eurasian National university I applied for Erasmus Mundus programme. I wanted to study english philology so I passed TOEFL exam, translated my school living certificate and paper with my current grades at university into English, wrote a resume and motivation statement, got 2 recommendation letters, sent all documents to Netherlands where the head-quarter of Erasmus Mundus programme is located. I almost forgot about my application form when in september I got a letter of award. I didn’t expect it at all as I knew that only 8 students all over Central Asia would obtain this european scholarship but somehow I became one of those lucky people.

I have a firm belief that this trip will be of a huge benefit for me both in a professional and personal way. It is not just education but intercultural exchange, travelling and what is very important it is the way of self-fullfilment. I am sure that this scholarship wasn’t given to me coincidentally. I want to prove that I really deserve it. I will do my best and take every opportunity that is given to me.

Education differences: Kazakhstan and Germany.

October 10th, 2008

Being a third-year student in Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan, I obtained a european scholarship named Erasmus Mundus and came to Germany to improve my knowledge of English linguistics and literature. I just started studying at Freie Universität Berlin but I can already tell the difference between two systems of education.





1. There is more freedom in terms of what you study and how much. Students can choose whatever they want: there is always an opportunity to take a course in politics even if the major is philologie. 1. All courses are compulsory.
2. There are no fixed groups, every student has his own schedule that he can change on his own. There is a tendency to individualism. 2. Groups are formed of 15-25 students (depending on a major) that study together all the time. There is a schedule for the whole group for the whole period of study. Groupmates spend lots of time together not only at university but also go out very often. Thus in 4 years they become good friends and keep in touch after graduating from university.
3. There is no fixed time of graduation from university. Courses can be taken as many times as needed, exams can be delaid. In my opinion it is not always good to have no restrictions at all. Sometimes student graduate from university being 30-year old. At this age they only start building their career. 3. Everyone is supposed to study 4 years (except for those who are going to become doctors). Course can be taken one more time in case of failing an exam. Exams can only be postponed in case of disease. Usually students graduate from university at the age of 22-23. Bachelor degree is enough to get a highly-paid job.
4. Professors can be argued with. The atmosphere in the classroom is too liberal: students can eat and drink in front of a professor. 4. Professors are regarded as authorities whose opinion can not be wrong. Students’ attitude to professors is very respectful.
5. Personal relationships are not involved in final assessment: when a term paper is being read professor has no idea who this work belongs to. Sometimes it happens that a professor doesn’t know names of all his students. 5. Personal relationships have a lot to do with the final assessment especially when it comes down to oral examinations. Professors and students can be very close though there is always a distance between them.
6. Most students study 4-5 days a week and have 3-4 lectures or seminars a day. Each class lasts 1,5 hour. Homework is not given. Everyone has clear understanding of what he is going to listen to on a lecture. Handouts are available couple days before the lecture, they can be printed and read before hand. 6. Everyone studies 6 days a week and has about 5-6 classes a day each of those is 50 minutes long. Homework is something thar every student is supposed to do every day. Material given on a lecture is absolutely new to students. Notetaking is compulsory.

To conclude, it can be said that though a new system of education was introduced in Kazakhstan about 5 years ago, it still looks a lot like an old soviet system (not necesserily bad one). For me it is a great chance to get to know a western system with all its freedom and innovative technologies. But there are usually two sides of the medal that I am sure I’ll face.