Summer school in Kyrgyzstan- high level learning!

Two students sitting together with the local ladies.
Cultural meeting in Karakol, Vebjørn Renna from USN and Julia Kyrigyan get their picture taken with a group of Kyrgyz women in traditional customs.

When the classroom is located in a nomadic yurt at an altitude of 2200 meter above sea level, the learning outcomes necessarily have to be high.

Text and photo: Anne Gry Stubrød

From the period of 19th-25th of June, a group of 30 students and lectures, among them several from USN, participated at a summer school in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia.

The summer school was carried out as part of the joint educational project “Sustainable Tourism: rural entrepreneurship and heritage”. The project is financed by Center for Internationalization of Education in Norway (SIU) and is a joint cooperation between partner universities in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Norway.

The summer school is one of several activities carried out throughout the project period, which started in 2016 and will last until end of 2019. The project goals are to increase student and staff mobility between all three countries and to enhance student's and staff's in-depth knowledge on topics related to sustainable tourism, rural entrepreneurship and heritage.

Interdisciplinary approach

The summer school brought together students and lectures from 7 universities; Bishkek Academy of Finance and Economics, Issyk Kul State University and Kyrgyz Economic University from Kyrgyzstan, Batumi State University, Batumi State Maritime Academy and Akaki Tsereteli State University from Georgia, as well as University College of Southeast Norway.

During the one week summer school, the students participated in various lectures presented by academic staff from all 7 universities. One of the aims of the project is to ensure an interdisciplinary approach to tourism. The topics of the presentations were therefore varied, with focus on both environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism.

The students had also been asked to prepare their own presentations, where the task was to present a potential tourism resource from their home region. All students had done great work and put a lot of effort into their projects We heard about the traditional Kyrgyz game of “chuko”, hidden castles in Georgia as well as farming in Telemark.  A role play was also successfully carried out, were the students were asked to oppose on each others ideas, while representing different stakeholders. During the role play the ideas were critically evaluated by “representatives” from the local population, the government, an environmental NGO and business investors.

 On the final day, the students had to present their ideas once more, now improved by feed back from fellow students and lectures. The group from Akaki Tsereteli State University from Georgia was awarded the best idea, presenting a concept based around Kinscha Waterfalls and Okatse Canyon in the Imereti region.

Students gathering in the bus

Around Issyk Kul

The summer school was organized as a roundtrip around the second largest mountain lake in the world, the Issyk Kul Lake. After the first day in Bishkek, with welcoming words and lectures, and a visit to a rural tourism entrepreneur in Ashy, the group arrived Issyk Kul Lake for a two days stay at a previous youth camp at the north shore, close to the touristic town of Cholpon Ata. From there the group travelled on to Karakol, a small but busy town, especially popular among European tourist, interested in hiking and nature based tourism. In Karakol the group participated at a cultural festival, had lectures and visited the eco farm Reina Kench before travelling on to Jety Øgus at the south shore of Issyk Kul. Here the group got the chance to stay overnight in nomadic yurts and got a real taste of nomadic life style. At the last day of the summer school, the participants got to visit a yurt work shop before returning to Bishkek.


An experience for life

Both participating students and lecturers expressed satisfaction and gratefulness for having the opportunity to participate in the summer school. –It has been one of the best weeks of my life, Ana Shainidze, second year student of tourism from Batumi State University said. – I feel gifted for having the chance to take part in the project and to meet so many great people!

-The summer school gave me the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, experience Kyrgyzstan and learn about the sustainable development in the country. The whole summer school was well organized and also challenging for students. I strongly recommend other students to participate next year, says Vebjørn Renna, third year student of International Marketing at USN.

Gudrun Helgadottir, professor of tourism also participating from USN, concluded that “The summer school was very successful, well organized and a great learning experience both for students and staff. Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country with much potential and many challenges in rural tourism. I am confident that the students have been inspired to seek sustainable solutions for tourism development. It was joy working with them and our good colleagues from Georgia and last but not least our Kyrgyz colleagues who were wonderful hosts.”

And for those who did not get the chance to participate at this year’s summer school, the good news is that there will be a new opportunity to participate at a summer school in 2018, then hosted by our Georgian partners. We have already started to get excited!