ASTANA – Kanat Auyesbay is the first Kazakh journalist trained through the Bolashak programme. His book, “Looking West. A Kazakh’s view of Great Britain,” was published recently by Cambridge International Press (United Kingdom) in the Kazakh and English languages. It was presented at Cambridge University Dec. 15 and the Kazakh National Academic Library organised the online broadcast. The event, dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the nation’s independence, was attended by university faculty and students, members of the Bolashak Association, representatives of the Kazakh Embassy in the U.K. and members of the Kazakh student community at Cambridge University. Kazakhstan’s presentation of the book was held at the Library of the First President of Kazakhstan – the Leader of the Nation. The Astana Times asked the journalist to talk about his book and views on the contribution of the Bolashak programme to the country’s development.
Kanat Auyesbay is a journalist, Bolashak International Scholarship holder ( University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.) and member of the Association of Bolashak International Scholarship holders and Eurasian Creative Guild (U.K., London). A host of the Kazakhstan national TV channel “,”he has written and produced many TV shows. He is also a lecturer at Eurasian National University named after L.Gumilyev, and winner of the Serper Award for youth, Kazakh journalist’s Union Award and Nur Sunkar republican contest among mass media.
First of all, we would like to congratulate you on the successful presentation of the book in the U.K. This is a very significant event for our country, because it is the first time a Bolashak scholarship holder has published and presented a book abroad. What is the book about?
Thank you for the recognition. I compare life abroad and in Kazakhstan during my education in Great Britain. This book is not a blind cheer of life abroad. I avoid the “tourist syndrome” of praising the other country in contrast to reviling one’s own motherland. The book describes the peculiarities of everyday life, life values, the importance of English language in globalisation, education system and mass media, young people’s problems, etc. I provide examples of typical English novelties which were implemented in Kazakhstan. There is an idiom in Kazakh language: “The one who saw Moscow.” In the Soviet Union, it was considered prestigious among Kazakh intellectuals to study in the capital of the USSR. It was a kind of trend of that time. Today, the U.S. and British colleges are trending. Hence the book is entitled “Batys korgen,” which is literally translated as “The one who saw the West” or “Looking West.”
For whom is this book written?
Once I was looking for books by Kazakh authors in the library of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, but I could not find any. So I asked myself, “If there are none, why not write one?” I think this first work is a result of that question. So first, I have the intention of distributing books to U.K. universities where young Kazakh people are studying. Secondly, I have set my heart on sending my small book to school libraries in rural areas of Kazakhstan. When a student from a rural area reads these notes, he or she can see that studying at the leading universities of Cambridge or Oxford is not simply an idle dream, but an attainable one. This is my desire. As the great Abai said, it only needs “eagerness, a clear mind and a warm heart.” I want to say that if you have a goal and work hard, your dream does not have to be a pipe dream.
When was the presentation of the book? Who participated in it?
I planned to present the book as a gift for the 25th anniversary of independence; that’s why I made up my mind to carry out the presentation on the eve of Independence Day. Concerning the presentation, everything was on the highest level. First, I think that it is the sign of respect for our country from Cambridge University. At the presentation, those who took part were the representatives of the Kazakh Embassy in the U.K., scientists, professors of the university, also the students of Kazakhstan who study there. I would like to express gratitude to the Deputy Director of the Department of Higher and Postgraduate Education and International Cooperation in the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan Akerke Abylaikhan and Deputy Chairperson of Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools Nazipa Ayubayeva for the support and assistance her side lent in the organisation for the occasion.
To write the book is one thing and to find one’s own readers – another. Did your book attract interest among readers and where is it possible to find it?
Yes, there are cases when the book does not find its reader and I can say that I had my luck here. Because there are those who wish to order the book on the British site Amazon.co.uk. From that resource, the book can be delivered to 52 countries of the world. Readers can order the book through that site.
You are the first journalist who studied through the Bolashak programme. What role has Bolashak played in your life? What, in your opinion, are the benefits of studying abroad?
Bolashak fellows not only get a modern education, but also the opportunity of foreign experience. The Western education system has long been considered the best, which is demonstrated by the evaluation ratings of its world-leading universities. Our country has produced, over the past twenty years, a galaxy of highly educated people with an understanding of domestic social and political processes. Bolashak fellows successfully work in various areas for the benefit of the country. In addition, these fellows are ambassadors for Kazakhstan abroad, who not only learn well but also actively participate in various social events. They are ambitious, talented people. In this way, the Western community forms a generally positive view of Kazakhstan. I believe that this ambitious initiative of the head of state has fully justified all the hopes placed on it. Studying abroad has changed my worldview.
Certainly staying abroad is a good opportunity to compare your own country to another country. Comparisons are needed to understand how your country has developed, or whether it falls short of global development. Sometimes, it even concerns the relationships between people. When I arrived for the first time, I noticed that people are calm and staid. There are no people who run around in a hurry, as though they are late somewhere. It also applies to the traffic. There are no drivers who would not give way to others, make a scene or drive at high speeds. Every day we take our children to school by bus. Due to the fact that there is good behaviour on the street, traffic jams rarely happen. Tranquillity can be seen even in line at the store. Compliance with the famous European “personal space” is very strict. For example, when you stand in line, no one breathes on your back. You should keep a distance between each other. Of course, you might think that all these are all little things, but street culture is built from such little things, as one should not forget.
Why did you choose the U.K. for studying? How do you assess the British education system?
“London is the capital of Great Britain.” This old sentence from my blurry childhood may be familiar to anyone who was among the very first of those who were taught to read and write in English in the Soviet era. If the first famous phrase remaining from these times is “learn, learn and learn,” then the second phrase, you might say, is the commonplace phrase meaning that London is the British capital. Because of this, during a period of six years of continuously learning English starting from the fifth grade, students, even if they have not become more literate in English, without doubt remember that London is the capital of Great Britain. It was a peculiar country PR of the U.K. So when it came time to choose the country of study, I had no doubt – I will go to Britain. That’s the reason.
The famous British educator and philosopher John Locke once outlined the three basic conditions of the formation of the personality of every Englishman, which are sport, education and moral education. This is inculcated in every Englishman from early childhood. When I came here, I did not see any young people who would be idle. But the most important advantage of British education, I believe, is the English language, which is of course learned all over the world. This is a resource which is comparable to financial wealth. Enormous numbers of textbooks with literature fitting every taste are being produced in English. Students who come from all over the world to study here spend millions of dollars in the U.K. According to recent data, there are more than half a million foreign students in that country. And where there is a large profit, there is competition which enormously increases the demand for higher education.
The Bolashak programme is almost the same age as Kazakhstan’s independence. How do you think the programme influenced the formation of our young state? What is its contribution made to its development?
Since the creation of the Bolashak programme, thousands of professionals in the field of economy, production, health and humanities, as well as a new generation of creative professionals are being discovered. Due to this scholarship, our country has owned world-famous opera singers, musicians and filmmakers whose works are awarded international prizes and whose talent gains recognition and success in a global public. Studying abroad, fellows are mostly becoming immersed in a completely new cultural reality that stretches the limits of their world views and makes them rethink established views on some ordinary things, attitudes towards other cultures and our own one. Today, scholars create communication lines between representatives of different nations of our country and contribute to the formation of a positive image of the Kazakh citizen.