Our Students

My name is Tess, I am 22, and I was born and raised in New York City.  I have gone to school in Quebec (Canada), Istanbul, and Upstate New York.  I just graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz with a degree in International Relations.  I have been long interested in the post-Soviet political space, Central Asia, and the history/culture of the region and I am so excited to visit Central Asia for the first time!  Getting this opportunity is truly a dream come true.  I have been a vegetarian for 9 years and I love cats and hamsters.  My hobbies include travel, shopping, cooking and baking, hanging out with friends, going out, eating ethnic food, and spending time with my family.  I have studied Spanish, Turkish, and learned a little French when I was living in Quebec, but I have never studied Russian so this will be a huge adventure for me!  I am looking forward to learning about Kazakhstan, traveling and exploring around the area, and making new memories with new friends.  See you in Astana!


My name is Stu (full name Stuart, prefer Stu). I’m a guy from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from an Italian-Irish family. All my life I’ve valued the power of language as something to understand people as they see the world, not just as one can understand it from the outside. I’m a senior at Pennsylvania State University, double majoring in Spanish and Russian with a minor in Arabic. I also teach myself a little Hindi and I hope to study Kazakh somewhat intensively in combination with Russian while I’m at Nazarbayev. I love helping people and tutoring where I can. Truth be told, I started studying Russian about a year ago, now I’m the TA for my Russian department at Penn State. Russian has consumed my life and it’s a wonderful language that has a lot of different cultures that encompass it. I want to spend my life being an interpreter for governments, dignitaries or teaching for the Peace Corps. I’m a movie buff, play ping pong, volleyball, and do military reenactments. I hate ketchup and I tend to be rather outspoken, but I prefer to listen. Hope that helps!


My name is Shen Yizhen, a fourth year student in Nankai University, Tianjin, China. My major is history and I am going to University College of London for the MA program on Chinese Humanity and Health in the academic year 2016-17. I plan to study left-wing thoughts (nationalism, cultural radicalism and religion, e.g.). And I am not a member of the rich Chinese Communist Party.

Shen Yizhen

My name is Nick Akst and I’m from Tivoli­, New York, which is about two hours nor­th of New York City. I’m currently a stu­dent at the University of Pennsylvania, ­so I spend most of my time in Philadelph­ia. I just finished my freshman year, an­d I’m majoring in Russian and architectu­re. As for hobbies, I like to read, I ri­de my bike a lot and I’m a big sports fa­n. Mainly baseball–I’m a Yankees fan–a­nd F1, but I’ll watch all kinds of sport­s. I’m excited to be in Astana, experien­cing Kazakh culture, exploring the city ­and studying. (Don’t be fooled by the pi­cture, I no longer have a mustache)



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