Three FLEX alumnae remark on pursuing Master’s degrees at St. Andrews University while on Soros Foundation fellowships.

Elnura Sulaimanova ’06
Naryn, Kyrgyzstan/West Milford, WV

Diana Durusbek kyzy ’08
Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan/Oak Park, IL

Aizat Jakybalieva ’07
Naryn, kyrgyzstan/Seguin, TX

There are so many positive things and changes that FLEX program has brought to its alumni. For many alumni FLEX program opened opportunities to bring a brighter future to our countries and the world through education, sense of volunteerism, patriotism and many more positive actions alumni are involved with.

FLEX alumni are very much dedicated to education and obtaining of new knowledge and experience. These are stories of alumni who have opened new doors for more knowledge. Each year the Open Society Foundation provides scholarship opportunities in the social sciences and humanities to outstanding individuals from Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Haiti and Africa for study in rigorous, competitive academic programs outside of their home countries.  This year the Open Society Foundation in partnership with the University of St. Andrews University provided opportunities for independent postgraduate study in the United Kingdom for students leaders from Kyrgyzstan chosen for this postgraduate scholarship program are all FLEX program alumni.

Below are highlights of the three FLEX alumnae Soros Fellowship winners for 2012-2013

Elnura Sulaimanova ’06 (West Milford, WV) Peace and Conflict Studies

Elnura Sulaimanova ’06 (West Milford, WV) Peace and Conflict Studies
Your FLEX Experience:

My FLEX year was a turning point in my life, critical juncture which gave a new outlook of life, inspired to become an active citizen always searching for solutions to the most pressing social challenges faced by Kyrgyzstani society. I graduated from International and Comparative Politics Department (ICP) of American University of Central Asia with Magna Cum Laude in 2010 and was awarded Thomas Wood and Best Senior Thesis awards upon completion of studies.

While studying at AUCA I got a unique opportunity to undergo an internship at the International Organizations and Security Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of KR. This endeavor served as a strong impetus to further my interest in the field of Conflict and Security studies. Thus, this interest led me to the work at local NGOs, specializing in Rural Development/Conflict Mitigation in Southern Kyrgyzstan, and youth policy in the positions of Research/Project assistant, Project Coordinator and Conflict Management Specialist.

After coming back from the US, I did my best to be actively engaged in community service initiatives and other social activities, ranging from regular visits of orphanages, participation in fundraising activities such as brownie nights and calendar sales. With the generous support of FLEX Alumni Grant Program, I, together with other FLEX alumni organized a summer school on Tolerance and Leadership “Believe in yourself and others will believe in you” for high school students of remote Naryn region, which was a great success. Today, I can confidently state that FLEX experience and the tremendous role played by my American host family in my consequent new inspirations and strong commitment to serving the community was a milestone for all my future actions – becoming a member of SIFE, debating club of AUCA, AUCA Alumni Centre, participation in various international conferences and summer schools, such as AIPES Program by TFAS/Georgetown University, Student Leadership Conferences in Middle East, Central Asian Youth Network and many others.

Plans for future: 

Make a world a better place to live in! 🙂

Diana Durusbek kyzy ’08 (Oak Park, IL) Middle East and Central Asian Studies


Diana Durusbek kyzy ’08 (Oak Park, IL) Middle East and Central Asian Studies

Your FLEX Experience:

Diana won the opportunity to receive an internship through Experience exchange Internship Program and worked at the Parliament of Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  An active and accomplished debater, Diana has won many awards in debating along with academic achievement awards.  As an alumna, she was a FLEX Alumni Grant program winner, organizing the Leadership and Civic Education Youth Workshop, Osh, Kyrgyzstan (October, 2011) and worked alongside other alumni as an independent observer during Parliamentarian Elections 2010 and Presidential Elections 2011.

St Andrews:

The program’s commitment to its high-qualified academic curriculum will have an important contribution for accomplishing my objectives broadening my global perspectives and cultivating my capacity for social responsibility. Especially, studying based on comparative approach Middle East and Central Asian securities will certainly enhance my active learning contributing to successful completion of my study at MA level

Future Plans:

Stay inspired and inspire for a better and creative world


Aizat Jakybalieva ’07 (Seguin, TX ) Peace and Conflict

Aizat Jakybalieva ’07 (Seguin, TX) Peace and Conflict Studies
Your FLEX Experience:

Never tired of saying that FLEX is such a unique program that gives opportunities to many young people in getting great knowledgege and experience, which is not only for the good of the individual but for the good of the communities they live in and the world. Many FLEX alumni have achieved a great success in their careers and others are in the beginning of their career path. Along with this, FLEX alumni are bringing tremendous changes in their countries and different parts of the world working, studying, volunteering in different spheres. This is to be proved with all the success stories and achievement of our FLEX alumni within 20 years of existence of FLEX program. I would like to take this opportunity to thank US Department of State and Eurasia FLEX Alumni office for just being there.

After returning from FLEX, I was enrolled to American University of Central Asia, Department of International and Comparative Politics. I was involved in university life and active as an alumna.  One of my best experiences was being FLEX Alumni Coordinator in 2008-2009.   After graduation I had a next step in my mind in completing my Master’s degree in the area of international relations. And such an opportunity came with becoming one of the recipient Open Society Foundation/University of St Andrews scholarship program for postgraduate studies, which is one of the was highly competitive scholarship programs in Kyrgyzstan. The program I study at the University of St Andrews is MLitt in Peace and Conflict Studies. I have chosen this program for particular reason. Since my childhood I had a great desire in bringing peace to the world.  With such an intention I applied for FLEX program years ago, then to AUCA and now here at the University of St Andrews. Especially it became one of my priorities after conflicts and revolutions that we have experienced in Kyrgyzstan.

First impressions:

St Andrews is such a beautiful place with its centuries of history. St Andrews greeted us not only with a nice weather but with very friendly and kind community. Rich historical traditions in European style red and black gowns, Chapel services, historical buildings as in Harry Potter, Scottish culture, the University maces, academic families, torchlight pier walks, the May Dip and more.

The university faculty is remarkable, professors coming from interesting, different at the same time valuable backgrounds, who are very keen in sharing the knowledge with students and treating with respect.  Also, we have lectures given by different professors and scholars with amazing backgrounds and working in well-known institutions. One thing to note about UK education is that it is more individual oriented, gives more space for individual work and development.  What I like about the university is that not only professors but students come from all over the world, which gives an opportunity to find friends, share experiences and knowledge.

Future plans:

Certainly, I have long term and short term plans. In the long term I would like to pursue my career in the area of international relations and implement big projects I have in mind for the good of my country and making a better world for everyone!  🙂