World view: Conversations with our international students

Credit: CIA World Factbook,

World view: Conversations with our international students

By Kalsey Larson '08
News intern

Last fall, the University of St. Thomas enrolled 258 graduate students and 63 undergraduates from countries outside the United States. To help you get to know some of them, Bulletin Today presents a periodic column, "World view." Today's column profiles Kazakhstan – yes, it's real.

You may be familiar with this large country situated northwest of China in Eastern Europe. Perhaps you heard of it in your high school geography class, or you’ve heard of the fictional Kazakhstani journalist who goes by the name of "Borat."  Although the movie may incite a few laughs among college buddies, the people of Kazakhstan aren’t laughing at its inaccurate portrayal of their people and homeland.

Here are a few facts about Kazakhstan to set the record straight:

  • Total area: 2,717,300 sq. km., about four times the size of Texas
  • Capital: Astana
  • Currency: Tenge
  • National language: Kazakh, but Russian is the official language used in every day business.
  • Population: 15,284,929 (July 2006)
  • Government type: Republic; authoritarian presidential rule
  • Literacy rate: 98.4 percent
  • Religion: Muslim 47 percent, Russian Orthodox 44 percent, Protestant two percent and other seven percent.

You might not know:

  • Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world by area, and 62nd-largest country by population.
  • Kazakhstan is home to “ Medeu,” the largest outdoor skating rink in the world.
  • Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991 and has one of the fastest-growing economies of newly independent states due its developing gas and oil industry.

St. Thomas has two students from Kazakhstan enrolled in graduate and undergraduate programs. Graduate student Arina Negoda first heard about St. Thomas six years ago while attending the College of St. Catherine as a recipient of the Freedom Support Act scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

“I fell in love with the Twin Cities and knew that St. Thomas was well known for its high standard of education,” Negoda said. When it came time to chose a gradate school she felt St. Thomas was her best choice. She will graduate next year with a Master of Business Communication degree.

Negoda has family living in the United States and she tells them everything about her experiences here.  “I always talk about the level of professionalism among the UST staff and faculty,” she said. “They make it easy to be a part of the St. Thomas community.”  Adjusting to St. Thomas came more easily to Negoda since it was her second time in the United States. The biggest challenge she faced was getting used to driving in Minnesota.

“A maximum speed limit in Kazakhstan is about 40 or 50 miles per hour, even on the interstate,” Negoda said. “It took some time to figure out the highway system and high speeds.” And, while finding a good meal may not be as challenging as navigating the highways here, Negoda misses the food of Kazakhstan.

Before she came to the United States,  she said, “I had never tried nonorganic food. Believe me, it’s a big difference.” Nevertheless, she enjoys many things about being in the Twin Cities.

“I consider myself lucky to be living in one of the cultural centers in the United States,” she said. “I enjoy going to the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and it can be difficult to choose one event among such a variety.”