Thomas Jefferson once said, "Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you". This statement holds especially true for me as for years, action, commitment and passion for what I do have prepared me for graduate study abroad. In this single important part of my application I have a chance to share my accomplishments, achievements and obstacles, and describe motivations which influenced my decision to apply for the Master's in Development Studies at the University of Uppsala under the MARCO XXI scholarship program.
My interest in development studies with the research focus on migration issues grew with knowledge and with research and work experiences obtained during and after completing my degree in anthropology at the American University of Central Asia. I have learned that anthropology represents fundamental knowledge of human beings, their integrity and diversity in time and space, requires reading fascinating literature and involves participant observation as its main method of collecting data. Over the past four years through the study of anthropology I have acquired not only knowledge about various cultures and social groups but also broadened my horizons and my worldview which allowed me to look at issues and challenges in a society from a variety of perspectives. During four years studying anthropology I acquired both theoretical and practical knowledge by attending the courses and participating in various research projects. Through participation in various research projects I learned to adapt to changing conditions, deal well with stressful situations and negotiate with different people and circumstances. For me it was always interesting to develop new skills and gain new experiences. I learnt to be adaptive in the face of changing conditions and work both by myself and in groups. This blend of anthropological knowledge, experiences and practical skills provided me with very unique understanding of life and a worthwhile goal to aim for. I believe these skills and experiences are valuable, as they will certainly help me to accomplish various tasks in my graduate study and future profession in the field of development studies.
As it can be seen from my CV I am very persistent with the goals I set. Throughout my undergraduate study, treating myself not just as a student but also as a professional helped me to achieve many of my goals. For instance, to achieve my long-term aim of expanding my experience in anthropological research I have been an active student not only at the anthropology department but also at the Social Research Center at the American University of Central Asia. I participated in the organization of anthropological conferences as well as became an active member of the AUCA Anthropology Club. Being an anthropologist by my major I also obtained some academic knowledge in development studies. In the course titled Culture and Development, I understood that development studies is not only about economic growth but that it also addresses issues such as protection of human rights, gender equality, migration, poverty reduction, and corruption. I learned how global cultures of the so-called developing world are all very unique and that they all require distinctly diverse approaches to development, which makes development practitioners take into account the variety of local perspectives and this is where anthropology becomes very important..
Since there are many links between migration and development studies I became interested in migration issues, which is the prominent issue in Kyrgyzstan. Here many international, governmental and non-governmental organizations are doing various projects mainly visioning migration as a development engine for Kyrgyzstan. Ideal future of migration process management from Kyrgyzstan to Russia and Kazakhstan imagined and proposed in the Philippine model by government authorities, which successfully contributed to Philippines's economic flourishing. However the reality is more complicated and the model that is applicable in Philippines could not work for Kyrgyzstan because of internal policies of recipient countries, demographic differences between Kyrgyzstan and Philippines, cultural discrepancies of these two different communities and other reasons. Realization that migration is an important problem in my country defined my interest in this research topic. Because of my interest I took the Anthropology of Migration course where I gained a better understanding of how people migrated around the world since ancient times and how migration in the contemporary world affects livelihoods, social structure, politics and culture of people who move and people who stay. Questions of development and migration were addressed in a number of other anthropology courses I took at the AUCA. These questions attracted my attention and planted a seed of interest especially in relation to the current problems of Kyrgyzstan. Another experience that contributed to the curiosity in development studies was internship research fieldwork that I participated in at the end of my junior year. This project was funded by the Help Age International and it had a focus on shadow economy among internal migrants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
I became even more concerned about migration while I was conducting interviews for a research project by René Provis on Culture and Economic Development of Kyrgyzstan. In this project I had one important finding: Kyrgyz culture of celebrating and feasting related to various life-cycle events encourages people to become and remain labor migrants because of large expenses and social expectations associated with such celebrations. Many Kyrgyz people work overseas as manual workers for years in order to invest money, which they earn into this Kyrgyz tradition. In the context of economic decline in Kyrgyzstan, this problem is growing and has become one of the hottest issues discussed in the Kyrgyz Parliament. For the utter investigation of this issue I need to get knowledge of fundamental structures for describing the level of development of Kyrgyz society. This issue has not been addressed and researched yet. Most of the development projects are targeted on protecting the migrants' rights, while there is very little investigation on remittances when it comes to investment. Politicians occasionally raise this question in the parliamentary sessions, but in order to make more grounded policies on this issue the profound research is needed. Therefore I really desire to address this issue in my thesis for pursuing Master's Degree at the University of Uppsala. In order to build a bridge between the state and society I am expecting to get deeper knowledge of the main theories in development studies focusing on building a bridge between state and society. I also hope to develop the ability to self-reliantly deal with social science questions in order to be prepared for a professional career both in national and international sectors as well as in private and public organizations.
I am sure that my MA study will be as practical as my summer school at the University of Oslo in 2010. This opportunity gave me a chance to increase my international awareness and acquire new ideas through sharing cultural experiences with students from many countries around the world. It also allowed me to discover myself by discovering others through the process of learning new languages and exploring foreign cultures. I had an opportunity to obtain real life perspectives and important cultural skills.
I was lucky to have wonderful years of working with both foreign and local scholars during my academic life at the American University in Central Asia. While studying at AUCA I had a chance to work with Dr. Emil Nasritdinov, professor at the Anthropology department, who had a profound influence on my perception of the scientific world. I took several of his classes, worked as his research assistant and wrote my senior thesis under his supervision. This experience showed me that profession should bring happiness to me first so that I can bring significant changes into society. After graduation I also worked for Emil as a Teaching Assistant in the course called Introduction to Development Anthropology where I conducted seminar discussions and graded class assignments. This work experience strengthened my interest in research on labor migration and its connection to development.
My academic background includes several other research projects. The most important of which was my senior thesis titled "Scripts and Improvisations in the Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law Relationship in Kyrgyz Culture". Working on this project significantly strengthened my analytical and writing skills, which will be crucial for me in writing my Masters thesis, publishing academic articles and bringing more public attention to variety of migration and development issues.
Currently I am working as a research assistant for the Special Research Project on Mobility and Migration, run by ????. The overall goal of this project is better understanding of regional gendered mobility patterns and perceived priorities regarding mobility in migration policy making. In this project I monitor the local debates on migration issues in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover making interviews with key informants both from government and non-governmental organizations as well as international organizations including scholars from the Universities in Kyrgyzstan will help me to be prepared for my Masters thesis in your program.This project is another unique opportunity for gaining knowledge related to my main research interest.
My Bachelor degree in anthropology and Masters degree in Development Studies with the research focus on migration could help me become one of the few well-trained specialists with proper theoretical foundations. Kyrgyzstan has been experiencing different dimension of migration for more than nearly twenty years. As J.K. Galbraith expressed 'migration [is] the oldest action against poverty' and if we look at the current economic prospects of the country it is not going to stop in the nearest future. Moreover being a young country, we have experienced two interethnic conflicts and two revolutions, which pushed the country's development for years behind and forced many citizens of our country to leave it as labor migrants. Having academic background in development studies, migration and anthropology I will be able to address many important development issues from the local perspective and to make contributions to the formulation of migration and development policies.
Additionally I have developed various skills that help me to easily communicate with international scholars and participate in different projects. Master's in Development Studies can take me more to the next level. This Master's program will certainly be very important for my career endeavors. While I have been concentrated on the topic of my future studying – influence of the feast culture on migration process – I need the support of MARCO XXI Erasmus Mundus scholarship to be able to complete this course.
Pursuing Masters will equip me with necessary knowledge and experience which will allow me to study more complex and deeper social, cultural, political and other issues in Kyrgyzstan as well as bring these issues into international discourse. I believe that this Master's program will crucially contribute to my professional development and I am committed to excel and fulfill the expectations. I will meet with experienced people in this field, do intensive course work and devote myself to my research. Since the education in this program is applied on scientific basis and is anchored in research I will be able to conduct my own research, which will contribute to the development of research skills. Moreover this program gives a chance to get internship opportunities to develop the skills in the practical sphere where I will gain work experience as a development practitioner. I expect my Masters to be as exciting, encouraging and helpful as was my undergraduate years that I spent at the American University in Central Asia.