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Delivering News From The Source

The Turkmen Eleven

By Adam Tan

As the fall semester commences, Waldorf University welcomes new faces on campus, some of which hail from a familiar country, Turkmenistan. With the additions of Murad Hazhibayev, Jennet Gurdova and Eziz Rejepov, the population of the Turkmen international students has increased to 11 — The Turkmen Eleven.

Turkmenistan, located in Central Asia, is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Caspian Sea. The country is one of the most scarcely populated countries in Asia, with a population of 5.6 million.

It is home to Madina and Guzel Tuhbatulina, Jennet Hojanazarova, Gulnaza Saburhojayeva, Dildara Farhatova, Nazik Toyliyeva, Aynur Shirmamedova, Aynabat Durdiyeva and the three new faces who came after them. 

You may or may not know them personally, but you are sure to see them wandering the halls of Waldorf University. Nevertheless, now is the time to get to know them and their stories.

The students from Turkmenistan were given the opportunity to study in the United States through the Pillars Scholarship award, which they had learned from the American Councils for International Education in Turkmenistan. Though some of them had the privilege of opting for different schools, Waldorf became their top choice because of the straightforward admissions process. 

For students from big cities, moving into a small town and a tight-knit community like Forest City might be a big change. However, the students from Turkmenistan didn’t mind it that much.

“I think it’s nice,” Tuhbatulina said, an alumna from Waldorf University and currently an intern in the Communications department, “even if you’re not taking a class with the professors, they still know you.”

“Waldorf is good at recruiting students from all over the world. Even in a small town in Iowa, you still get to meet people from different countries,” Hojanazarova added.

Though they are a long way from home, studying abroad gave them the opportunity to discover new perspectives through people. They feel more comfortable to express their opinions freely without worry of being judged. 

Hazhibayev, a freshman in Psychology, said, “people here are open to revelations and any kind of view.”

“I was very shy to ask for anybody’s help here,” Rejepov said, a freshman in Communications, “but I’m learning day by day that if you need something, you can ask.”

“It’s the pool of opportunities here,” Hojanazarova said, “ even if you’re an international student, there are still a lot of opportunities here if you look for it and work for it.”

Even so, being away from home does make them a little homesick. Many of them miss the food, open markets and their traditions back home, such as drinking tea with friends and relatives, but their family are the ones they miss the most.

“I miss my mom,” Shirmamedova said, a Biology major. “She’s the only person left in my family in Turkmenistan. My friends and other people are all spread out.”

For Durdiyeva, a Psychology and Communications major, the weddings back home are one of things she misses most.

“I miss going to weddings and dressing up in traditional clothes,” Durdiyeva said, “and dance a lot.”

The Turkmen Eleven hopes that their fellow students, whether local or international, will take the time to get to learn about their country, culture and traditions. 

“Turkmenistan is an independent and neutral country,” Tuhbatulina said. “It has a history. Yes, it was part of the Soviet Union and has shaped a lot around it. Our knowledge of Russian and other languages are a mixture of the population of the country.”

Nonetheless, with the opportunity they have, the Turkmen Eleven have high hopes for their future. Some wish continue their studies, and go to graduate school, while others wish to pursue their passion and their career. 

“Waldorf has given me the opportunity to prove my family that I can manage my own life,” Toyliyeva said, “that I can be responsible for my own life.”