Voices of UCA: ‘The campus facilities meet all my needs as a student.’ – Zarrina Gafurova
Zarrina Gafurova grew up in Sumchak, a small village outside the city of Khujand, Tajikistan. She is passionate about public speaking and writing. She writes poems and likes to learn from others and the world around her. Zarrina is studying Communications and Media at the University of Central Asia. She aspires to work in this field, either on TV or writing articles and, hopefully, her own book.
This interview is part of a series featuring UCA undergraduate students’ reflections after completing their first year at the university.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Central Asia?
When the time came to apply to universities, I did not know much about UCA. However, I chose UCA because I believed it was the right choice for me. UCA is an international university offering an international diploma. It is a new university – I was part of the inaugural undergraduate class, and I will be part of history. Lastly, as UCA is located in a smaller town, I thought there would be few distractions, and I could focus my attention on studying.
What do you like the most about the student life on campus?
Student life at UCA is very diverse, colorful, fun, and exciting. We have student life advisors who do their best to make the life at campus fun and engaging. There is always something going around on campus. Outside of class, there are parties, festivals, celebrations, games, tournaments, and more. Our university counsellor organised a Health Club, where the members sometimes gather to cook and have dinner. This event gives me an opportunity to cook and also enjoy a pleasant dinner with my friends. I love it.
What is your favourite place on campus?
The campus facilities meet all my needs as a student. We have everything, from a student lounge with a view of the mountains to a gym. There are many spots where students can hang out or do homework. Out of all the places, I like the student lounge the most.
Please tell us about your experience in the Journalism Club at UCA.
I started the UCA Journalism Club with a passionate group of writers. The main project we completed over the past year was a yearbook: a scrapbook of memories, stories, articles, and photos to commemorate the first year at UCA and was a gift to students, faculty and staff. Our goal was that, many years from now, we would be able to flip through the pages and recall the memories of our very first year at UCA. This upcoming year, our club will do more projects like this.
How have you found living in a residential and immersive English-speaking environment?
I believe that one of the things that makes UCA great is the residential life. This kind of living condition eases the tension of studying and makes the atmosphere comfortable and homey. The students become one big family and live together under one roof. The campus truly has an English-speaking environment, and I believe that was the main reason for my improvement in English.
Before moving on to a four-year undergraduate degree program, incoming students are enrolled in an intensive, one-year preparatory program. Developed in partnership with Seneca College in Toronto, this program is designed to help incoming students attain the necessary English and critical thinking skills to succeed at the university level.
Do you feel like you have grown personally or academically after completing the preparatory programme?
At first, I thought my English skills were good enough since I had completed an exchange year in the United States. However, I know now that the preparatory year taught me so many things. It was engaging and effective. I now have a better understanding of how to write in English, how to do mathematics, and how to approach the current problems of the environment. Without this preparatory year, I think it would have been hard for me to start my undergraduate studies.
I also grew personally. I have gained new skills in time management, punctuality (not being late to classes), teamwork, mutual respect and understanding, respect of different cultures, and many more. This year not only prepared me for my undergraduate studies, it prepared me for my adult life as well. It taught me responsibility and hard work.
What was the biggest academic or personal challenge you faced this year? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that I faced during my first year was mathematics. During my first semester at UCA, I participated in tutorials and did extra exercises on weekends to improve my maths skills. Finally, to my great happiness, I passed mathematics in both semesters because I did not back down in the face of difficulty.
How did you find the Connecting to Your Discipline (CYD): Communications and Media Week?
I really enjoyed the CYD week. It was very productive and full of activities. During the Communications and Media week, Rosemary Quipp, a Public Affairs Manager at Aga Khan Foundation Canada, taught us the fundamentals of storytelling and journalism. The week went by quickly and, in the end, I was very satisfied with my choice of major.
Do you have a favorite memory from your first year to share?
My friends and I shared so many unforgettable moments this year. The one memory that stands out among the rest, is about the Winter Carnival held on campus. My best friend Anisa and I were responsible for decorations. The Carnival turned out to be successful: so many people attended. We played games and had great time dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. Even though I was exhausted at the end of the day, it was one of those days when, despite all the chaos, I fell asleep with a smile on my face.
What do you aspire to become in the future?
I know for sure I want to do two things in my life. I want to travel and help people. I believe graduating from UCA and receiving an international diploma will open many doors that will help me fulfill my dreams.
Communicating is what I do best, and I like to dig into the truth, analyse things, and investigate. I want to change the world, and I believe the best way to do so is by reaching people though my words. I hope to travel across the Central Asia region, investigate local issues, and write stories to educate people on the other side of the world – and hopefully contribute to solving those local problems.
What are you looking forward to most going into your second year at UCA?
I am excited about the liberal arts, as we are going to study political science, history and statistics this year. Moreover, I am looking forward to working on new projects for the UCA Journalism Club. I am ready for new challenges and to learn new skills.
If you could share advice to incoming students, what would you tell them?
There will be times when you are tired of homework and deadlines. At times, you will feel like you will not be able to complete your assignments, or that things are too difficult. In these moments, just remember you already made it to UCA, which means you are special. UCA chose you because they saw something in you. You can do it, UCA believes in you!
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan and the Presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. In addition to providing an international standard of higher education, UCA aims to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia and help the peoples of the region to preserve and draw upon their rich cultural traditions as assets for the future.