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Exchange student in Liechtenstein - Botakoz Tokanova from Kazakhstan

Botakoz, you are scholarship-holder of the International Credit Mobility programme and one of the first exchange students from Kazakhstan, Central Asia. It has been about 2 months since you arrived in Liechtenstein. How easy has it been to adapt or rather what’s the most challenging to adapt to?
I am absolutely happy to be one of the first exchange students from Kazakhstan in Liechtenstein and indeed I feel really lucky that I qualified for this Erasmus scholarship. The period of adaptation went smoothly. I guess, I arrived mentally prepared for this new challenge in my life. I have always looked for new opportunities away from my comfort zone. In addition, I get help of many local people and colleagues who share valuable information with me.

Your home university, KIMEP in Almaty, is an English-speaking private institution with about 580 graduate students and partnering with us since 2015. Have you noticed any differences in terms of teaching styles and practices?
The KIMEP University is one of the most popular English-speaking institutions in Kazakhstan. The educational system there is similar to the one in North-America. The module based programmes at the University of Liechtenstein seems very convenient to me. The practical orientation of the courses here is also a particularity in my view. In the Master Lab courses for example, students learn how to apply in practice the recently acquired knowledge and theories.

The KIMEP University maintains a network of nearly 160 Partner Universities around the globe. What exactly was it that led you to apply for the University of Liechtenstein?
First, I guess, it is due to personal preferences I have. Despite the fact that I am from Almaty, which is the city located in the mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan, I have been dreaming of living in the Alps for some time. I am that person who admires the beauty of nature and landscapes. Skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer, what else could I wish for? Of course, the high living standard and prosperity is definitely attractive. And, located pretty much at the heart of Europe, it provides plenty of travel opportunities.

Leaving behind the familiar surroundings including family and friends to live and study in a foreign country and culture poses a demanding challenge to many young people. Those who dare like you did, benefit very often by acquiring qualities like autonomy, initiative and cultural competence. What were your reasons to spend parts of your studies abroad ?
The past years of my life have been very intense due to the work at one of the Big 4 companies in Kazakhstan parallel to my studies for an MBA degree. The feeling that I am able to do these things was not enough for me. I wanted to challenge myself even more and get familiar with the latest knowledge taught in the field of finance while gaining some international exposure. Yes, it is challenging but it also comes along with many chances for personal development.

How do you perceive the cooperation with your fellow students in the lectures?
So far it has been very constructive! I have noticed that local students are very proactive, always seeking for new opportunities and room for improvement. The colleagues I study with are open, helpful and friendly. I really feel comfortable in this environment.

Since the beginning of your time in Liechtenstein, you are accommodated together with around 70 students from over 30 nations in the student dormitory. How is it like to live under one roof with people from around the world?
Oh, that is amazing! Especially when super nice people surround you. We all know each other since the introduction week. The girls living on my floor have a joint breakfast each Sunday and on Saturday night we usually prepare a nice dinner together. It feels great to live in such an exciting place and share the study abroad experiences with my fellow students.

What were your first impressions of Liechtenstein and its surroundings?
When I arrived by bus from Sargans, I was just sitting there overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery. The view was stunning and I still can not get enough of it.

Do you have a favourite spot on campus?
Sure, it is the library. This is the place where I can enjoy reading and find motivation to aim for personal improvement. I am always excited to be surrounded by silence while having this unique view on the mountains outside.

In Kazakhstan you have been working for some time as consultant in the KPMG office responsible for Central Asia. Here you are enrolled in the master programme in finance. What are your career plans after your graduation?
Yes, I was working as a Tax consultant in KPMG Tax and Advisory LLP for almost 3 years. I am pleased to be part of the KPMG Alumni network, where I am welcome to return anytime. Nevertheless, I am currently orienting myself towards another field. Until the graduation I still have time left to figure out what exactly I would like to go for.

Thank you for your time Botakoz. I wish you many more great experiences in Liechtenstein.

Thank you, Simon, it was my pleasure to share my impressions with you. I hope I will contribute to the strong bonds between our universities in future.