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Ed Fitzgerald, 62, from Wagga Wagga, Australia, international deputy director at Semey NIS


I was sent to Semey in 2014 to join NIS Semey as an international deputy director.

Semey is a nice city. I like to walk around the city, in the park near the city embankment which is beautiful. All seasons are noticeably different. Winters are too long.

City residents are friendly. Many like to communicate with English speakers. I deal with local universities, colleges and schools so many welcome me when I walk down the street.

I like fine museums and a few restaurants in Semey. I like the Nevzorov Fine Arts Museum.

I’m leaving Semey this year which is sad. I’m going to visit one more country before I retire, so I cannot stay in Kazakhstan.

Stefan Safari, 45, from Cape Town, South Africa, a biology teacher at Semey NIS


I came in Semey in September last year. I’ve been here for 7-8 months. I came because I got an employment at Nazarbayev International School. I teach biology.

I’m from South Africa. I finished my studies in South Africa, I studied teaching in public schools. My last job was teaching in international school in Cape Town, where I worked for 6 years. Then I applied to teaching abroad and I got job here.

Before I came to Kazakhstan I didn’t know much about Kazakhstan, because Kazakhstan was quite a new country for me. When they offered me the job in Kazakhstan, I searched the net and found that Semey is a small city with small population. It was good for me as for a beginner, because I didn’t want to work in a big city. Acclimatizing and other factors peculiar to a big city were new for a comer. For me it was better to go to a small city. To get used to people, language, because I knew that the job was academic, so it was quite wise decision to choose a small city.

I go to work from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. When I come back home I prepare my lessons. On weekend I have time to go to restaurants, meet new people.

Semey is small, but there’re some interesting places. I went to Abai theatre twice. I like the riverside. I walk there, go through the bridge towards the monument of nuclear memories. It’s quite interesting place to live, I don’t even use transport. I can walk to supermarkets.

In Semey there’s a small community of international teachers working in NIS. When I go out, we meet Kazakh people, we make friends, talk, dance and exchange phone numbers. I meet Kazakhs and Russians here.

It was my first time to live under such a harsh weather, because in Africa the weather is hot. When I came in September the weather was good, but then it got extremely cold. I’d never experienced such weather in my life. The temperature reached -40 degrees. I could sustain it, but I hated it. In the house it’s warm, we’re used to stay indoors, but whenever we go outside it’s a big challenge to live in such weather.

We work on contract and it depends on how long the contract will be renewed. If they need me I’ll stay, if the contract ends I’m planning to go to back, because working abroad is not easy, we leave families behind we have small children, they need us, they’re growing. If I spend 3 years in Kazakhstan my next destination is to go home and live with my family.

Susan Parks, 64, from Christchurch, New Zealand, teacher at NIS Semey

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My name is Susan Parkes. I’m a grandmother, I’m 64. I come from Christchurch in New Zealand. I worked 30 years of my life as a teacher. I have travelled to about 50 countries. I came to Kazakhstan 4 years ago. I was teaching in China and looking for a new job. My friend who was working in Astana said that I’d like to apply. So applied and came to Kazakhstan. Initially I was sent to other city, the school and the climate was not very appropriate to international teachers, there were very few international teachers. I heard of the job in Semey, applied and was accepted.

I work quite hard at my job which I enjoy. It’s difficult to go to other places from Semey – it’s 20 hours by train to Almaty, 15 hours by train to Astana, 3 hours to Oskemen. Semey for visitor is difficult because it’s difficult to find out information about what to do. I’d love to visit the polygon but it’s very difficult. I’d love to explore Abai’s village, but I can’t find the information how to get there. Abai museum is amazing, I was blown away, the information, the artifices, paintings are great. Abai theatre needs to be promoted. The art museum has an amazing collection of paintings that needs to be promoted. I’ve been to the theatre several times. The production was in Kazakh or Russian, but if you google the story you can follow the story without words. I enjoyed the costumes, I went to the ballet recently. That was amazing. I’d like to go there more often.

In Semey international community is small. There’re 4 people in Shakarim University, one in economics school, some in NIS. I’m aware there’re some sport players working as a coach. I’m amazed by the amount of people speaking English. Yesterday I’ve been to koumiss festival, I was observing the women serving koumiss. There was a couple talking to me, they offered me their help to get koumiss, we took pics, we communicated. This kind of friendliness is really common. I appreciate that in this city.

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I’m not sure what my plans are at this stage. Probably I’ll stay here for 3 years. If I have a chance I’ll make a trip to my country New Zealand, but I’m not sure. My family is global. I have a son and his wife sort of commuting between London and Montreux, I have a son and his wife living with grandchildren in New York, I have sons living in New Zealand. I’m very dependent on my laptop, social media for my communication with my family and friends around the word. We skype, what’s app, use Instagram, Facebook. If it wasn’t for that that would be incredibly lonely to live here.

Living abroad you learn to be very self-contained and you learn that not knowing the language doesn’t stop you from going to bazaar, shopping. I’ve been given opportunities to make projects that have been stimulating, exciting.

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