Aliya Suranova: “AUCA’s alumni network is the best network”

Aliya Suranova is an alumna of Department of Journalism at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). In this interview, she talks about her journalism career path, her projects, and the role of AUCA in her life.

Tell us a little about yourself and your journalism career path.

In my childhood, I dreamed of working in international diplomacy. But later I was inclined towards journalism. I was enchanted by the work of journalists, by their interesting, eventful, and active lives. Every day they meet new people, they report from hot spots, they take trips to the most unexpected places. I was deeply affected by the documentary “Promises” by B.Z.Goldberg, an Israeli-American journalist. Since then, I decided to be like him, to change people’s lives, to become a revolutionary of mental and social transformations. In the beginning, my parents were against my decision to become a journalist. My dad said, “Journalists are never happily married; they are always in the limelight.” But I’m thankful for them; they always allowed us (their children) to do what we like, and never held us back. This helped me become what I am. I was enrolled in the Department of Journalism at AUCA, I won a good scholarship, and I started my career in journalism with Azattyk, as a junior TV-producer.

What do you love most of all in your job?

I love my job because it is not monotonous. I can’t imagine myself sitting at the computer and writing reports all day, staying for years in the same cubicle. I like my job because it grants me the ability to use my imagination: I can choose various angles to cover the events, I can be in contact with interesting people, I can travel, and I can exchange experience with my colleagues. Above all else, I enjoy my job because a journalist explains important things to society, becomes a mouthpiece for social transformations, and speaks about that which others prefer to keep silenced. I have just started my career, but I hope, in the future, I will be exactly the kind of journalist who does that important work for the country.

In your publications, you often touch upon problems in the Kyrgyz Republic and in the mentality of our country. What would you like to change in your country?

It is difficult to say something specific. I love a lot in us Kyrgyzstanis. At the same time, many things worry me. I want a lot of the obsolete views and traditions fall into oblivion. There are too many to work on, starting with the treatment of women all the way to the low level of education in the country. We have collapses on all fronts, we experience all kinds of crises (including moral crises), and we have to work hard on all of it. I wish we, generally speaking, had the skill-set needed to think critically and analytically, to diversify our sources of information, to respect the rule of law, to not be lazy, to study and work hard instead of sitting and waiting for someone to come and solve all our problems for us. Our post-soviet and post-colonial complexes play a dirty trick on us: we are cheated on any provocations, we are ready to abase and beat up each other for the wrong ideals, you can feel a general hysteria everywhere. Of course, radical islamization also affects us. Our government can’t cope with several tasks required for providing our population with basic standards of living, so we survive as we can. On the whole, there is a bunch of work yet to be done.

What role has AUCA played in your career?

First of all, AUCA gave me a good circle of friends and acquaintances, it gave me faith in myself, and it taught me to work on myself and my mistakes, to not expect to freeload, and to study honestly. AUCA’s alumni network is the best network. Our graduates hold positions in every organization, and it is always easy to find common ground with them where you can connect. I can’t imagine whom I would have become, had I studied at  another Kyrgyz university. AUCA’s Professors taught me so many skills; they opened my eyes to a whole new world, broadening my horizons. I am very much obliged to them.

Tell about your short-term plans, projects.

At the moment, I am the producer of “Open Asia Online,” a website based in Kyrgyzstan. It is remarkable project out of Internews, in which we try to make stories popular, interesting, and informative. In the short-run I will work at Open Asia. After the project finishes up, I’ll probably try getting into an MA program. This is my “personal sort of Gestalt”, which is required to be closed. I’m very thirsty for new knowledge, for upgrading of my skills, and for my own professional development. I want to share this knowledge with young journalists in Kyrgyzstan. After completing the MA program, I want to teach my own classes at AUCA (if I get the job). I don’t know what will happen after all that. I am not a perfect organizer of my own life, so I don’t plan grandiose events years in advance.

Do you have your own motto?

I had a lot of notebooks and diaries when I was younger, I wrote quotes from my favorite books and from people I admired – I reread them all as I tried to live my life by those aphorisms. But, as I was growing up, I realized that principles and slogans are very temporary and always go through metamorphoses. If earlier they seemed to me to be beautiful butterflies, they’ve since regressed into fat worms. Today, I turn back to look at my younger self and I find myself wanting to pat my head and say, “fool, everything is not so easy in life!”. I try to be a model mother for my son, a good sister, a good daughter, a good friend to both family and friends, and a good citizen for my country. My main goals in my life are to not harm anyone, to not cause someone sorrow, to live honestly, to make my parents happy, to bring up my son as a good man, and to leave some useful heritage for future generations of Kyrgyzstan. I think, after five or ten years, I’ll turn back again, and say the same thing to my current myself, “Fool, what were you thinking?”.

What role do you think AUCA alumni should play in supporting the University?

I like very much that we have a whole team working exclusively with alumni. AUCA gave me a lot during my time there. Without its financial support, I wouldn’t have been able to study in it. So, I think, we must give back to our alma mater what it gave us in due time. My friend had the idea of creating a relief fund for students, a small scholarship for those who need financial support. We had the idea to club together one thousand som into a common pot to help out a few students. It seems to me that these kinds of initiatives should be supported by us. Not everyone can contribute large financial donations, but everyone wants to help. Even if a graduate is not a millionaire, they must support our university – we can do good acts, say good words, give small donations, and participate in key events.

What do you think of the new campus?

When I first stepped onto the new campus, I was very sorry that I was not a current student. The campus is chic. It has so much free and good space for the students’ studying and development. The surroundings are very nice. I was even happy to see the old security officers; I remember them from my freshmen year, and to this day they are always with a smile and a warm welcome every time I come back. The new campus is an example of how institutions of higher education must be in this country: oriented first and foremost to students’ convenience. I’m delighted with the new building, and I hope it fosters many gifted students in the decades to come.

What do you want to wish to current AUCA students?

A few years after my graduation, I regretted that I didn’t improve myself enough while I was student. At the time, there the conditions were ripe: I had internet, access to all sorts of world libraries, and opportunities to study abroad. I can’t say I was hanging out or being lazy all the time – I tried to study well – but it is not enough. There are so many opportunities in the world, but at the same time the competition is very stiff. You always have to be well informed, pursue self-perfection, and master various skills. AUCA gives you free foreign language classes – use this opportunity! Nowadays you will not surprise anyone with just your English. Always seek out chances to participate various conferences, trainings, meetings with professionals. You should study languages, read high quality publications, travel to other countries, do internships with various companies, do charity work, improve your professional and many-sided personality for yourself. It is impossible to be lazy in our time. There are so many gifted, smart and hard-working people around, it is required to be a cut above the rest to find success in your job. Parties will not give you a comfortable life. When you get to senior year, your CV must blow up with skills and experiences from your participation in various projects. It is not enough just being competitive, you have to be a strategist and a workaholic. Not everyone is given the opportunity to study at a university like AUCA, so you have to use this privilege to get the most out of your investment. Your four years of student life must be your springboard for success in the future.

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