'I like the local pace of life': how an American moved to Kyrgyzstan and opened a college there - ForumDaily
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'I like the local pace of life': how an American moved to Kyrgyzstan and opened a college there

Andrew Wachtel is a seasoned educator, writer and translator. In 2010 he moved to Kyrgyzstan. He was the president of one of the best universities in the country, and then founded his own college, reports WE.

Photo: Shutterstock

Wachtel was born and raised in New Jersey. After high school, he studied in Boston and then at the University of California, Berkeley. His specialty is Slavic studies, Russian and Eastern European literature and culture.

Vakhtel's grandmother was born in Russia. In 1913 she moved to Zurich to study at the medical faculty. It was thanks to her that Andrew became interested in the Russian language. In addition, he was always interested in literature.

“I combined these areas and devoted my research to how literature creates reality. Wrote several works on this topic. Became a member of the American Academy of Sciences,” he says.

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For several years he taught at Stanford University. For a long time he worked at Northwestern University. He started as an administrator of academic projects, was the head of the Department of Slavic Studies, the director of the research center, and the dean of postgraduate programs. He has managed more than 165 master's and PhD educational programs for all specialties with an annual budget of $100 million.

Wachtel could become president of the university, but decided to find something new for himself.

“The fact is that in the United States the president is only looking for funds. This has little to do with educational processes. Therefore, when the Soros Foundation contacted me and offered me the position of president of the American University of Central Asia, I agreed. I knew that I would have more work and opportunities here,” he says.

About moving

Wakhtel visited Central Asia for the first time in 1987. Then he worked as an interpreter for an American photographer. They shot a photo album about the era of perestroika in Samarkand and Tashkent.

He came to Kyrgyzstan in 2010 as a candidate for the post of AUCA President. “I remember my first impression: a vibrant university and demanding students,” he says. — At that time, Bishkek was a one-story provincial city. I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the nature is here.”

About activity

Wachtel was AUCA President for eight years.

“We have achieved a lot over the years. We improved academic programs, raised the level of teachers, and expanded international programs. A new campus was built. It was one of the biggest and most interesting projects of my life,” he says.

By 2018, Wachtel realized that he needed to move on. Then he was invited to Kazakhstan, where for some time he worked as the rector of Narxoz University. After the start of the pandemic, he returned to Kyrgyzstan.

Here he and his friends founded a new educational institution - Compass College. “We provide a good and clear education to students who want to study and work in Kyrgyzstan or abroad,” says Andrew Wachtel.

His responsibilities include finding and hiring teachers, their training, work on the preparation of academic programs. He is also responsible for organizing student admissions, marketing and sales, and partly finance.

Plans for further development of the college, developing partnerships with foreign universities. “I don't like doing the same thing. Here I have the opportunity to do something new every day,” says Wachtel.

About Kyrgyzstan

“It’s easy to live in Kyrgyzstan. I like the local pace of life. It's more relaxed than other places. People have time for themselves,” he says. — Foreign teachers also like the country. Recently, one American admitted that the year spent in Kyrgyzstan was the best of his life.”

“It’s great that there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables here from May to October. The quality of the products is excellent. One friend said that he couldn’t find strawberries as tasty as here anywhere,” says Wachtel.

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He was in almost every corner of Kyrgyzstan. Wachtel says nature is beautiful everywhere. He likes Lake Sonkel. “We will go there soon with our daughter and wife,” says Wachtel. — In winter, I like to go to the Karakol ski resort.

About people and traditions

Wachtel says local people are open and easy-going. “The Kyrgyz are an enterprising people. They are willing to take reasonable risks,” he says. — Residents of Kyrgyzstan are close to nature. And that's great."

About plans

Wachtel plans to continue work on Compass College. Next year they are going to open a college in Tashkent, they are thinking about expanding to Almaty. It will take three to five years, according to Wachtel.

“Further plans depend on the development of the project. Perhaps we will stay in Kyrgyzstan or go to the USA. At the same time, there is always a chance that I will be offered something interesting here or in another country,” he says.

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