From Canada to Kazakhstan: Bringing Expertise Home

Alibek Sergaliyev plans to return home to Kazakhstan after graduation, where he will use his economics degree to improve the country’s financial situation. (Justin Tang Photo)

It’s not the first time 26-year-old Alibek Sergaliyev has had to pinch himself to make sure he’s living in reality.

Hailing from the small village of Tsyganovo in Kazakhstan, his first dream came true after high school when he won a prestigious presidential scholarship that gave him the financial means to study economics halfway around the world at Carleton.

As he prepares to graduate this June, Sergaliyev is in disbelief once again. Having achieved his second dream – an honours BA in economics – he’s as ready as ever to use his expertise to tackle the economic challenges in his home country.

“The situation in Kazakhstan is not that great right now. One of the problems that I think we face is dependence on natural resources,” Sergaliyev says, adding that Kazakhstan’s strong economic ties with Russia mean the two countries share financial problems, such as plunging oil and export prices.

“I really want to apply the knowledge that I’ve gotten here (at Carleton) to solve the problems that we face now with global economic hardship.”

He’s always been interested in the stock market but the 2008 financial crisis sparked his interest in studying economics in university.

“That was a big ‘wow’ moment because it affected everybody,” he says. “At the time I was thinking, maybe I can come up with something. Maybe I can fix this.”

Now equipped with the skills to do so, he’s crossing his fingers for a career at the World Bank or in development economics, negotiating agreements for better conditions in Kazakhstan. Those dreams, sometimes feel far from reality – but then again, so did studying in Ottawa.

The prestigious presidential scholarship from Kazakhstan that financed his education abroad had the condition he maintain top grades and return home to work for five years after graduation.

“There were hard moments but I did it anyways, and that was my dream. I did what I wanted to do,” Sergaliyev says of completing his university degree. “And again this moment comes, like did I really do this? Did I really accomplish this?”

From school spirit to clubs and societies, to making new friends from all over the world, there’s a lot Sergaliyev will miss about his university experience in Canada – what he calls the “most exciting” time of his life.

“I would never have imagined I would do this, coming from a small village,” he says. “My parents say, ‘You did way more things than our entire family.’”

He’s eager to begin his career in Kazakhstan after graduation and help tackle the country’s economic challenges.

“With the knowledge I’ve gotten at Carleton, I think I can face those issues and come up with optimal solutions. In terms of economics education, it really prepared us to solve real-world issues,” he says.

“It’s a bit sad for me. But at the same time, I’m looking forward – to new horizons.”

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Kirsten Fenn

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