'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, according to WE. .jpg” alt=”'I like the local pace of life': how an American moved to Kyrgyzstan and opened a college there” />

    Photo: Shutterstock

    < p>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 connected these directions and devoted my research to how literature creates reality. Wrote several papers on this subject. Became a member of the American Academy of Sciences”, – he says.

    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. Under his management, there were more than 165 master's and PhD educational programs for all specialties with an annual budget of $100 million.

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

    < p>“The matter is that in the USA the president is engaged only in search of means. It has little to do with educational processes. Therefore, when I was contacted by the Soros Foundation and offered the position of President of the American University of Central Asia, I accepted. 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 nature is here.”

    About activities

    Wachtel was AUCA President for eight years.

    “Over the years we have achieved a lot. We improved academic programs, raised the level of teachers, expanded international programs. We built a new campus. It was one of the biggest and most interesting projects in 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 give a good and understandable education to students who want to study and work in Kyrgyzstan or abroad”, – says Andrew Wachtel.

    He is responsible for finding and hiring teachers, training them, working on development of academic programs. He is also responsible for organizing the admission of students, is engaged in marketing and sales, and partly in finance.

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

    About Kyrgyzstan

    “It is easy to live in Kyrgyzstan. I like the local pace of life. It is more peaceful than other places. People have time for themselves, – he says. – Foreign teachers also like the country. Recently, an American admitted that the year spent in Kyrgyzstan was the best year 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. A friend of mine said that he couldn't find the same delicious strawberries anywhere else as here”, – says Wakhtel.

    He was in almost every corner of Kyrgyzstan. Wachtel says that nature is beautiful everywhere. He likes Lake Sonkel. “Soon we will go there with my daughter and wife, – Wachtel says. – In winter, I like to visit the Karakol ski resort.

    About people and traditions

    Vakhtel says that local people are open, easy-going. “The Kyrgyz are an enterprising people. They are willing to take justified risks, – he says. – Residents of Kyrgyzstan are close to nature. And it's great.”

    About plans

    Vakhtel plans to continue working 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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