Be Proud of Your Country!

by Jamal Janybek - Posts (3). Posted Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 2:34 pm

How many Americans have ever heard of my home country, Kyrgyzstan? It has been about two months since I arrived in the United States, and in that time I’ve gotten used to people being surprised when I tell them where I’m from.

Papan Reservoir in Kyrgyzstan (Photo by Flickr user RNLJC&M)

Papan Reservoir in Kyrgyzstan (Photo by Flickr user RNLJC&M)

Kyrgyzstan is a little, mountainous country that is located in Central Asia. It borders other Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and also with China in the east. The population of my country is only a little over five million people, and less than one million people live in the capital city Bishkek where I come from. My country is quite small and is not well-known in the world and among Americans, in particular.

In my college in the U.S., and in towns where I go, people ask where I come from. When I say that I am from Kyrgyzstan, many people laugh and think I made up such a country, or that the name is misspelled. I know it may sound funny, but this is true!

I really did not expect that Americans would react this way. Nor did I expect that so very few people here would have heard of my country.

I arrived in America very recently, and I sometimes feel that to a certain extent where I come from defines who I am in some peoples’ eyes. But, as I get better adjusted and used to America, I start interacting normally with people once we get past the part where I say where I’m from. Nevertheless, I do feel that my experience has been quite different – because I am from an unknown country – versus someone from France, Britain or somewhere else very well known.

Bishkek market (Photo by Flickr user AfriCommons)

Bishkek market (Photo by Flickr user AfriCommons)

One day, the president of my college, Mira Costa, came to meet us, a group of international students. He was asking everyone where they were from. And he also was surprised to hear about Kyrgyzstan. But as I had already got used to such a reaction, I simply talked to him and the other students about my country and its location. I found that people wanted to know about Kyrgyzstan’s geography and culture, and in particular, people were curious if Kyrgyz culture is similar to Europe’s, or to the Asian culture instead. So, from this meeting I learned that people are really interested in meeting other people from different parts of the world, especially from not well-known countries.

As I am living outside of my country for the first time, I never thought before that I would take such a role of a “cultural ambassador.” I feel now that I can be a useful and important bridge to other people who are interested to learn more about my country and my region. There are some people who would like to know more about that part of the world for various reasons – doing international business, tourism, cultural exchanges, etc.

Now that I am getting used to teaching people about Kyrgyzstan, my surprise comes from the other side when I meet someone who actually does know about my country.

Once, when I came to business class my classmate Jeffrey asked about my country. I was very much surprised when he said that knew my country and had some friends there. I was truly amazed to meet such a person in the U.S. who not only knows about Kyrgyzstan but actually has friends there!

It is so cool to represent my little country Kyrgyzstan in the United States. I try to do it in best way I can and let people know more about our culture and traditions, and perhaps make at the same time important connections for my future business relationships. And I am very proud of this.

22 Responses to “Be Proud of Your Country!”

  1. Jake says:

    Very interesting! This is a very good description of your experience. I am sure you are going to be successful with such an experience in the US and connecting people with your region. Good luck!

  2. Yet says:

    What a great post! Now I want to join this website because of you! Do you have your own blog?

    Read about when I studied abroad in Quebec, Canada on my blog :)

    –YET

    • quynh anh nguyen says:

      yeh. nice to meet every one. can I be your friend? can I add your nick yahoo ? I’m glad if I can talk to you directly.
      I’m looking foward your mail.

  3. quynhanhnguyen says:

    I really like the way you shared about your feeling. Congratulation. you have been being success when make your friends in America know about your country. you really became useful, important bridge that connect your cultural, tranditional country with international friends. I’m vietnamese.and now, I have known your country. and I’ll share with my friends about you and your country.

  4. Jason says:

    I am so glad that you actually met someone who knew about your home country. I am ashamed that some of the people you met did not know that Kyrgyzstan was a real country, but not surprised. We are a very insulated people over here between two vast oceans. And our educational model is so boring that most kids don’t pay attention in class. I hope we address this soon, because we are falling behind countries like China who educate their kids much more efficiently than we do.

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by VOA's Student Union, VOA's Student Union. VOA's Student Union said: What's it like to be the only person from your country? Try coming from Kyrgyzstan to a US community college http://ow.ly/32OeX [...]

  6. sajid ali says:

    very very nice post it’s so real that i can’t wait without comment on this. Dear u posted such a matter that most of the developing countries students faces. i m from pakistan and on spot i also appreciate the efforts of the VOA and the student union of america for providing us such a golden oppertunity to disscuss matters on the blog!!!@

  7. Hans Kempers says:

    Jamal,
    You represent your country very well.
    Hans

  8. Deb says:

    Very well written!

  9. dfish says:

    you are good

  10. trithong says:

    i think it not important where you come from the most important thing is what you waner be

  11. thanhhuyen says:

    There are so many countries in the world that you can hardly know all. Some are well-known, others are not. And your country is one of them. Its normal for someone to be suprised that they have not known the place you are from. It is not important,the more important thing is that how can you do to make people know you as Mis Kyrgyzstan!!!

  12. Kamilla says:

    Wow this is such a cool blog girl! My mom is kyrgyz and my father was tatar I was born in Moscow but moved to Kyrgyzstan when I was 7 so I did 1-9 grades there n basically lived there as a teen came to the us when I was 15 – but same story as u I feel like it’s much easier now to tell people about Kyrgyzstan then a few years ago now almost everyone that is familiar w central asia knows about the “-stan” countries :)

  13. Rachel says:

    Jamal,
    Me and my family lived in your country for 4 to 5 years and I have had to stop being surprised in how other Americans react to me having lived in a country that they’ve never really heard of. When I went to public high school there were some guys who thought it was funny to make fun of the “stan” countries to my face! Most people when they heard I lived in Kyrgyzstan want to end the conversation there since they think I’m so weird but then there’s other Americans who get really interested! So I totally understand how you feel. :) I stumbled onto this blog a few months ago and was SOOOOO excited to see that someone from your country was on it!! It makes my heart sing! Some of the best years of my life were spent in Bishkek and Osh and I love meeting Kyrgyz over here in America!
    Anyways I wanted to say “hi” and give you a little bit of encouragement. Us Americans have many other good things in our culture but since we are such a big country we sometimes forget to learn about other countries so far away! I hope your time in the US will not just bring you pain because of them not knowing your country, but that it will bring you joy and new knowledge about how people in different parts of the world are!!! :)
    до свидания!
    Рейчел

  14. Zhamal says:

    2 Rachel: thank you so much Rachel for such a touching comment! That’s so great that this kind of situation is not just about me, but Americans also. And thank you very much for not forgetting our country, that’s really GREAT :-) !!! You should come and visit our country some time :-)

    Wish you all the best :)
    До свидания,
    Жамал

  15. Venera says:

    Salam! mne nravitsya vash article about KYRGYZSTAN!!!! i am in a such situation too. When i tell about my country almost everybody asks me to write down its name on a paper and they will look at it on google. It is good that you wrote about our wonderful country on this page i really like it.

  16. ------- says:

    my country is my mother where i can sleep without any
    with love n afection
    i love my desh very much

  17. Jo says:

    This is a great post! Keep on, Jamal!

  18. [...] year back, these were typical questions that people in the U.S. would fire back at me when I introduced myself and my country to them. Whether it was a normal conversation or an email, such questions almost became inevitable. [...]

  19. Sreyneang says:

    Zhamal!!

    I’m a Cambodian, a small country in Asia like you either. Even I have no experienced on travelling to abroad and touch with this situation, I have heard about this feeling when my professor told me about his experience in Australia as he is from a small country, Cambodia. I first felt very depressed when I heard that, but after I have passed through my culture class, I relize that every country, no meter how small or big it is, we have our own valuable culture and tradition that other country seek to understand. Althogh we are small but it doesn’t mean that we have no value. Right?

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