Learning From Each Other
“It’s a great opportunity for Truman School of Government and Public Affairs masters students to learn about international economic development and governance and the work of nongovernmental organizations with local partners, as well as U.S. and other international agencies, such as USAID,” says Stegmaier.
USAID, according to its website, “is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results.” Those on the study abroad program did meet with a USAID representative while there.
Stegmaier says the trip provides great networking opportunities because of the student/faculty/staff interactions with international agencies, such as a speaker from the U.S. Embassy who talked with them about foreign service careers and the type of work the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan is doing in the country.
They met with a former government minister from the first presidency of the country in the 1990s, the governor of the Jalal-Abad providence, and election officials.
In addition, they visited an American Corners center, a partnership between the U.S. Embassy Bishkek and local institutions. The American Corners Program, launched in 2003 in Kyrgyzstan, provides to the Kyrgyz people information about the U.S. with a goal of promoting mutual understanding, its website states. There are seven American Corners in Kyrgyzstan, each with public access computers, internet connection, audio/video equipment and more, the website states.
“One of the American Corners locations is at Jalal-Abad State University,” Stegmaier adds. Students were able to visit the Jalal-Abad American Corner, and meet with the director. The American Corner has library books that locals can check out and read and offer English-as-a-second-language materials.
They also met with a group of 50 middle school and high school students who were “extremely” excited to meet a group of Americans, Stegmaier adds.
“We met with representatives of the German Economic Development Fund, and learned about their projects that work with the local communities on developing tourism, economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, and sustainable agricultural practices,” Stegmaier adds. “They also promote women’s rights in the country, and work to address other challenges that developing countries, including Kyrgyzstan, face.”
She says in meeting with so many different speakers, presenters, representatives, etc., the students got a chance to learn about political and economic conditions and the challenges faced by the young country, such as government infrastructure, creation of a constitution, how the political system is to work, how to ensure different groups are represented, how markets are regulated, how to promote a free enterprise, how to implement anti-corruption policies, border conflicts, relations between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan, women’s rights and so much more.