I am Rustem A. from Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan.
As a man who started working at the age of ten to financially support my family, early in life, I realized the hardship of everyday life in Turkmenistan. The desire to become a worthy man of my family has been constantly pushing me forward to achieve things that would seem impossible in my society. Since my mom neither had money nor connections, I knew the only possible way for me to get a good life was through proper education. I recall the times when I was learning English or preparing for the entry exams to the university, people would say, “Why do you study? Why are you trying? It is useless anyway unless you have money.”
My desire to study and to get a high- quality education was so strong, that I was ready to experience any type of difficulties in life. My plan simply consisted of two parts: learning English and getting accepted to a university abroad.
When I started learning English at the age of fourteen at the special languages center (which lasts for four semesters), I realized that I might not be able to afford it after the first semester. My wish to learn English was so immense and strong, that I managed to reduce the course payments by 50% every time-as I was a top student in all four semesters, and still paid other half myself by working overtime at my grandparents shop every day after school time.
When I got accepted to American University in Bulgaria, it was one of the happiest days of my life. Yet, it was under a big question whether I could allow myself such a high-quality and pricy education or not. The only way of making my dream possible was through multiple student loans and long sleepless summer working days in the Unites States. During those four summers in the US, I had to work around 100 hours a week and sleep barely 3 hours a night. Additionally, during university years, I used to be part of “financial pyramids” game with my peers and friends. In other words, I and my friends would contribute a certain amount of money to so called “bank” and each month one of the participants will get the whole amount of mutually collected funds. This method worked for me in some way or other.
Regardless of all these efforts, I still encountered the times of financial difficulties due to high cost of AUBG education and high fees of Work & Travel Program. I was on the brink of leaving the university. During those moments, Arzuw Foundation was the only organization that tremendously helped me with such programs as Education Bridge Fund, CIEE Work & Travel Scholarship and Work & Travel Loan program. I was granted Work & Travel award in 2014, which allowed me to go to the United States for one last summer. As a result, I managed to reach my set goals that I am highly proud of, such as closing all my three student loans and sending my brother to study to Russia.
Currently, I am working at Global Operations Finance Center at General Electrics in Budapest, Hungary. Within a short period of four months, I created a strong image of a hardworking man with outstanding process-improvement skills. Since the first day I joined the company, I tried to go above and beyond by simplifying multiple financial and non-financial processes in my team as well as in other teams. As a result, I was recognized with two Simplification awards. But I am still working to get more and bigger company-wide recognitions.
Regarding my future plans, I am planning to relocate to GE Capital in UK by the end of 2015 for the better career perspectives. Afterwards, I might switch to investment banking as it has always attracted me. I have a dream of doing Masters at Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania (One of Top Business Schools in Finance worldwide). I believe in my heart that I will reach my goal within the next five years.
My advice for Turkmen students studying abroad would be to appreciate their privileged situation as there are many others who can only dream about such things. “Appreciating what one currently has is what very persistent people do.” Not less importantly, one has to make sure to gain as much relevant experience as possible while at school as it will allow one to stand out from the crowd upon graduation.
To sum it up, I am very grateful to Arzuw Foundation for believing in my potential and for assisting me to become who I am right now. My accomplishments would not be achieved if not Arzuw’s programs which support young Turkmen students in their pursuit of education.
Thank you so much, Spasibo Bolshoye, Tanry Yalkasyn!