Bolashak: Kazakhstan Invests In Its Future

By Sholpan Kozhamkulova

It’s graduation time. Graduates across the U.S. happily clutch their hard won diplomas and lunge into the future. Their friends and families applaud their success. There is a special group of graduates whose families are on the other side of the globe. They came to the United States for the opportunity to get a Master’s degree in business administration, engineering or other specialty on a presidential scholarship from Kazakhstan. They hope to bring back knowledge and experience that will help them and their young Central Asian country succeed in the future.

“It is a brilliant idea to send young people who will acquire the knowledge and bring it back to Kazakhstan,” said Assel Rustemova, 25, a 2003 Graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., who now teaches at one of the most prestigious graduate schools in Almaty.

Kazakhs choose their words carefully. When choosing a name for the scholarship program they decided to call it Bolashak, which means “future”.

Since 1993, at the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the government of Kazakhstan has selected through tough competition the country’s most gifted young people and sent them abroad to study. In addition to business administration, Bolashak scholars are majoring in economics, oil and gas engineering, agricultural, transport and computer engineering, accounting, software engineering, international relations and public affairs at universities in many countries.

In reality Bolashak scholarships are the best and the most effective investment a young country can make in its future.

“A country like ours needs to invest in knowledge and the younger generation so they can help our country to be more prosperous in the future,” explained Leila Kulbaeva, a 2004 graduate of Columbia University.

Bolashakers, as they call themselves, are pleased to have won the scholarship, but the post-victory euphoria melts as they realize that two years of studies is a time of daily hard work.

“Those two years were among the most important and wonderful in my life. Full of hard work and a lot of fun,” noted Amir Aisautov, a graduate of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

“Studying abroad is not all about just getting knowledge; it’s also getting life experience,” said another Bolashaker Gani Nassimoldin, 26, a 2003 graduate of Stanford University in California. 

During the past ten years, the program has sponsored more than 800 for Master’s degrees abroad, with more than 500 at U.S. universities. The Kazakhstan government chose to sponsor graduate school programs to save time and money. Basic higher education in Kazakhstan, on the level of the bachelor program, is still quite strong. Coupled with two years of work experience it gives scholars the opportunity to successfully manage the challenge of western universities, such as those in the U.S. and Canada.

Bolashakers successfully attend the best American graduate schools, including Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins. Bolashak also sponsors Master’s programs in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The program grows every year, with more students studying at the best universities. Bolashakers return home to jobs in the Government, oil and gas, and high-tech industries, which are key for the country’s Strategy of Industrial and Innovation Development.

The Bolashak program is unique among the former Soviet republics. Kazakhstan still remains the first and only country among them to have such a program. It offers Kazakhstan not just the taste of foreign experience, but enriches its society with fresh ideas.

Ms. Kozhamkulova is  a 2004 Bolashaker graduate of American University in Washington, DC.

(This article was run as a Special Advertising Supplement in The Washington Post on July 13.)

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Kazakhstan's Echo

A monthly publication of the Embassy of Kazakhstan
to the USA and Canada with views and comments on developments in and around Kazakhstan
August 10, 2004                                               No. 10