Published July 6, 2018
On May 27, UB welcomed 38 undergraduate STEM students from Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan to campus. They made the 36-hour trip to take a variety of classes, from engineering to sociology, through UBThisSummer during the first six-week session of the program.
Nazarbayev University was founded in 2010 and includes undergraduate schools of engineering, medicine, humanities and social sciences, mining and geosciences, science and technology, and graduate schools of business, education and public policy. As a young institution, they are eager to offer their students the opportunities available at larger international schools to ensure they get the best education possible.
The UB-NU relationship began when Provost Charles Zukoski visited the institution in September 2017. Since then, potential research opportunities between the two universities and the idea of bringing students to UB for the summer have been discussed, and this past February, four NU engineering faculty, including the Dean of Engineering, Dr.Charles Surya, visited UB. Zukoski returned to NU in June to give a talk at the 2018 Eurasian Higher Education Leaders Forum and delivered an informal report on the students’ experience at UB thus far.
Heading up this summer program are John Wood, Senior Associate Vice Provost for International Education; Peter Biehl, Associate Dean for International Education and Enrollment, Anthropology; and Christine Human, Associate Dean for Accreditation and Student Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
As soon as the students arrived, they were involved in activities, both academic and extracurricular. For example, Human and Chelsea Montrois, Student Affairs Assistant for SEAS, gave the students an academic orientation and campus tour. Later in the week, the students met with Jim Bowmen from International Student Services; Chris Bragdon, Assistant Director for Residential Life; and engineering librarian Erin Rowley, who developed a library introduction workshop, so students could learn how to navigate UB’s immense collection.
Aida Iskaliyeva, a mechanical engineering student, explains that since their university is only eight years old, they currently have just one two-floor library. “But at UB,” she says, “We can find several libraries to study in, which are very silent and cozy.”
“It is a great university with numerous facilities for students, including libraries, gyms, and swimming pools. The interesting thing about UB is the separation of the North and South Campuses,” says Azat Amiralin, a mechanical engineering student. He enjoys taking classes at one campus and living at another [the students are housed at Goodyear Hall on South Campus], as “It’s easier to relax after a long day at university.”
The diversity the students have experienced at UB was noteworthy as well. Iskaliyeva and Amiralin are taking a course in STEM communications with five other students from Kazakhstan and another 18 students from the U.S. and other international locations, so there is a lot of cultural interaction involved in the class. “The students at UB are great, very smart and open minded,” says Iskaliyeva of her fellow class members. “We are all so different, with different clothes, different views of life. We have a lot to learn from each other.”
The learning experience at UB varies from that of NU as well. Viktoriya Tsoy, a civil engineering student, says: “Lectures are exciting and professors explain the topics in depth.” She also enjoys UB’s liberal atmosphere and how the university takes a student-friendly approach to academics. Gaukhar Dauzhan, a computer science student, adds, “I love the teaching styles. Professors make lectures interesting and interactive. The atmosphere in class is more relaxed and students do not hesitate to ask questions and comment on the material. I enjoy every single day of being here.”
While many of the students are taking courses through the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, they are also taking classes in management, chemistry, biology, math and other subjects, to ensure a well-rounded academic experience. For example, Magzhan Gabidolla, a computer science student, is taking a 300-level class in algorithms, as well as a course in psychology.
Others are engaging in research, such as electrical engineering students Nazerke Kulmukhanova and Amanat Kafizov. The two are doing an independent study on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), a modulation format used for Wi-Fi and 4G communications, with Josep Jornet, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.
But like all students at UB, there’s life outside the classroom as well. The students attended a Buffalo Bison baseball game, visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and embarked on an architectural heritage tour of downtown Buffalo led by Biehl himself. They also took a trip to Fort Niagara and Niagara Falls—a huge hit with all the students. “It was a tremendous experience to visit this famous place,” says Amiralin.
“[Visiting these attractions] is an aspect that really adds to their experience,” says Wood. “They’re not just enrolled in courses. They have something more that enriches their time at UB.”
Students also went off on their own to enjoy attractions like Canalside, downtown Buffalo, and of course, the shopping malls. But just getting around was an experience for Rustam Zhumagambetov, a computer science student: “We are used to excellent public transportation in Astana (bus lines connect almost all of the city); it is unusual that in Buffalo people rely on personal cars.” Gabidolla was also surprised by the range of car models available in the U.S. But Alen German, a computer science student, summed it up best when he said, “The suburbs are beautiful. No traffic jams, fresh air, squirrels and bunnies. Ahhh.”
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, and International Education hope the 38 visiting students will return to Kazakhstan and spread the word about their experience at UB to their peers, so more students will return next summer. And that perhaps, a few will enjoy their time in Buffalo so much that they apply to UB’s graduate school for the next stage of their academic journey.
“I love everything about UB,” says Iskaliyeva. “Everyone here is ready to help, which makes our stay here more comfortable. Every question has its answer; every request is taken care of rapidly. I know this is the first collaboration between NU and UB. I hope that this collaboration will continue further.”