“To me, going abroad always seemed like a huge luxury. In Kyrgyzstan, where I’m from, the standard of living is not very high. My family doesn’t go on a yearly vacation to a new country, for example. But, in 2014, I was chosen to be the Young Ambassador of my country for the summer Youth Olympic Games held in Nanjing, China. I was not an athlete, so I believe it was a great chunk of luck that I was selected, due to my volunteering experience, extracurricular activities and good command of English. My mission was to make sure athletes participated in events, so that they learned more about the Olympic movement and its values. The trip to China was amazing, but the event itself was more than inspiring: living in the Olympic village with representatives from all countries… How great is that? It felt like the whole world was concentrated in one place, without any geographic or political boundaries. There I knew I wanted to study abroad. The problem was, again, money. I was accepted to an Erasmus Mundus joint Master’s Degree program in Journalism, Media and Globalisation, but it was so expensive, I had to decline the offer. A couple of months later, I received an email saying that the program got additional funds. It was insane. During the preparations, I couldn’t believe everything that was happening to me. Until my first day of school, when I heard my name called amongst other students’ names. Now, I finished my studies and I’m looking for a job in Amsterdam. I have a few months left to do so. Hopefully, I can stay here.”

“I like Amsterdam, since it’s small but very urban. You see so many nationalities here, so many people with different stories. Kyrgyzstan is a multicultural nation too. Not only other Central Asian nationalities live there, but also Russians, Germans and Koreans, for instance. A lot of Europeans assume we’re like the Chinese, since we’re crossing borders with China. However, the Kyrgyz have a completely different culture and history. Our ancestors are originally from the Siberian part of modern Russia. They hid in the mountains of Central Asia after they were defeated by some tribes, ages ago. Then the Osman Empire came and introduced Islam, which is why it is the major religion in Kyrgyzstan. And then we became a part of the Soviet Union, shortly after the Russian Empire. This way, next to Kyrgyz, Russian remains to be the official language. So, my homeland is right there in the center of Eurasia, and we’re a mix of everything. That’s why it is hard to identify myself: am I Asian? Turkic? Russian? Nature wise, Kyrgyzstan is beautiful. Ninety percent of it is mountains. Lately, I noticed that Kyrgyz started traveling more, which means the life is getting better, I guess. My social media feeds are bursting with pictures of friends and acquaintances in Paris, London or New York. Big cities. I enjoy the smaller ones instead, like Amsterdam, or my hometown. I do miss my home, but I hope to stay in Europe, where I have more opportunities for self-development. Sometimes, I complain about life, weather, or tourists here in Amsterdam, but now that I’m telling this story, I realize how far I’ve made it. It’s crazy and scary at the same time.”