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Oxford professor on why he moved to Kyrgyzstan and considers Bishkek the best place to live

Christopher Gerry

49 years old, city — Bishkek, dean of the Graduate School of Development at the University of Central Asia, linkedin

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Oxford professor on why he moved to Kyrgyzstan and considers Bishkek the best place to live

Christopher Gerry taught at University College London and the University of Oxford — the best educational institutions in the world. Now he has moved to Kyrgyzstan to develop local capacity. We learned about the first impressions of a foreigner and his activities.

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About myself

I was born and raised in the middle of England — the city of Nottingham.
It is best known for his ballads about Robin Hood and Nottingham Forest Football Club. I lived here until the age of 20, after which I went to the University of East Anglia, where I received a bachelor's degree in economics.

Around this time, the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred, and then the collapse of the USSR. These events brought about great changes in the economy of the entire region. I was interested in studying them. Over time, I realized that economic shifts affect the health of the population. Since then, my main scientific interest has been health economics.

I have worked at University College London for over 12 years. I was engaged in teaching and conducting research on the economy of the countries of the former USSR and Eastern Europe. For work, I often made business trips to Russia, Georgia, Ukraine. It has always been interesting for me to live in the region on a permanent basis, to understand how public institutions work from the inside. Therefore, when there was a chance to work in St. Petersburg, I agreed. From 2014 to 2017, I worked as a professor at the HSE University in St. Petersburg, where I created a research laboratory on health economics and policy.

For the last five years I have worked at the University of Oxford. I was the head of the School of Global and Regional Studies, a professor of health economics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and dean of St. Anthony's College.

I was happy to work in one of the best educational institutions, but I missed life in this part of the world. Therefore, after a year of negotiations, I joined the University of Central Asia.

About moving and first impressions

I first visited Central Asia over 20 years ago.
I have always enjoyed traveling in the mountains. While exploring hiking spots without a lot of tourists, I found the Tien Shan and realized that I wanted to go there. In 1998, I went to Almaty, from where I made a trip to the mountains, and a few years later I visited Bishkek, exploring the Tien Shan from the other side.

Seeing Bishkek many years later, I hardly recognized it. The city has changed. But I immediately felt comfortable here. I don’t know what the reason is: perhaps the familiar Russian language or architecture played a role.

The first few days I explored the city. The ability to see the mountains in the distance makes Bishkek the best place to live and work.

About activity

I am the Dean of the Graduate School of Development at the University of Central Asia.
It is a research institution that consists of five units:

— Institute of Public Administration and Policy

— Institute for the Study of Mountain Societies

— Department of Cultural Heritage and Humanities

— Civil society initiatives

— The Aga Khan Humanities Project.

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Our scientists work on research projects that help change society, the economy, and the environment for the better. Most of our activities are related to climate change and its effects. We also publish research in international journals. This increases the rating of the university, more researchers learn about it.

I am also a member of the senior leadership team of the university. My responsibilities include the development of various initiatives within the university. I am working on the creation of a new master's program in sustainable development. This is a big challenge for the countries of Central Asia and the whole world.

One of the things that fascinates me is the development of human potential

One of the things that fascinates me is the development of human potential.
I had the opportunity to get a good education and work in the best universities. It is more difficult to access such resources from Central Asia. So I think we should support local talent with our expertise and network. While working at the university, I develop young professionals who, in turn, will help others. All this affects the economic development of Kyrgyzstan and the entire region. I hope that at the end of my work in the country I will be able to say that I have positively influenced the lives of the Kyrgyz people.

About Kyrgyzstan

I visited Naryn, Ala-Too.
One of the most memorable places is Issyk-Kul, where I spent about a week. Every time I leave Bishkek, I am amazed at how beautiful the nature of Kyrgyzstan is. Probably, the locals are already accustomed to these views, but as a person from another country, travel never ceases to amaze me. At the same time, I understand how fragile nature can be. Therefore, protecting the environment is one of the things that motivate me.

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Within the Department of Cultural Heritage and Humanities there is a great interest in the music of the peoples of Central Asia. During the first week of my stay in Bishkek, an amazing festival of traditional and modern music took place. The view of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Kazakh, Mongolian cultures is one of the highlights of my life in Kyrgyzstan. I am proud that inside the university we promote the traditions of the region and tell the whole world stories about it.

I am a vegetarian. Therefore, I could not try most of the national dishes. But I like local fruits and vegetables. Unlike the UK, where you can find the same products in supermarkets all year round, here they are seasonal. It's great to enjoy real vegetables that are available at certain times of the year.

People in Kyrgyzstan are friendly and welcoming. I can say this not only about colleagues. The Kyrgyz are also proud of their country and its nature.

About plans

The Higher School of Development is a new institution. My task is to develop it by supporting local talents.

I also want to create research and educational projects that will develop after I leave and will have a positive impact on the entire region. You can't do it in a month or a year. When I discussed the working details, I agreed to spend five years here. This is the minimum period for which I will have time to contribute to the development of Kyrgyzstan.

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