We carried out an interview with Aitolkyn Abdigali. She is a student of the degree programme in Management and Marketing taught in English at the Faculty of Management and Economics.
Your name is so lovely but difficult to pronounce for Czech people, am I right?
(laughs) Yes, you’re right. My friends call me Tosha, it’s a short version of my name and it’s much easier to pronounce.
Well, Tosha, tell me your story. How did it happen that a young Kazakh girl “discovered” Zlín?
I found out about TBU in Zlín while I was searching for the university in Czechia to do my exchange studies. There was a website studyin.cz with information about all universities in the Czech Republic. TBU presentation impressed me. I liked the degree programmes offered at TBU, the success rate of TBU and I decided to apply.
Just like that? So TBU was your first choice?
Yes. I am the kind of person who listens to the inner voice and trust the feelings.
No other reasons, serious contemplating, pros and cons…
Well, I decided to choose TBU because of several reasons. Firstly, I really wanted the university to be located in central Europe and at the same time to have a safe and quiet atmosphere to be able to concentrate on my studies fully. Zlín is a perfect town where I always feel like home because Moravian people are so welcoming, friendly and the general mood in the town is relaxed and safe. Secondly, I was attracted to the fact that the whole town itself is a representation of the successful business story of Tomas Bata and the qualifications of the teaching staff at TBU are of high quality. Finally, while checking out the University buildings on the website, I was impressed by the modern interior design, which is an indicator of a high standard for me.
What did you find interesting about the degree course in Management and Marketing?
As I have mentioned before, the success story of Tomas Bata, who built a vast community and was able to support his employees in the context of the whole town impressed me a lot. Moreover, I was inspired by the fact that most of the academic staff at our Faculty, besides teaching at the University, also have time for business consulting for different corporations and governments. During our classes, we carry out various types of business projects and market research, and that gives us a clear vision of our future job.
You are a friendly and communicative person, but new starts could be hard for everyone. Did you worry about something?
Before arriving in Zlín, I was afraid that most of my time I would feel lonely and no-one would be there to help me and support me if I had some problems. But after several days I was able to meet a lot of friends from all over the world and now they have become my family. When I faced different kinds of problems, there always was someone from the staff – the International Office, my teachers or the Buddy System Zlín, who was happy to support me and helped me find a way of dealing with any issue. I have just realized that the Bata-inspired philosophy and open-minded people I met at TBU made me continue my long term study in Zlín!
Can you please describe your ordinary day in Zlín?
My classes usually start around 8-9 am and end at 7 pm. I have several breaks between the classes. I wake up, make myself breakfast and walk to my Faculty residing in building U2. It usually takes 10 minutes to get there. Before entering the classroom, I buy my favourite “Irish Cream Cappuccino” from the coffee machine. During my two-hour lunch break, my friends and I head to our favourite Refectory and enjoy freshly cooked meals. After that, we spend some time in the Library and discuss our group projects or do our home tasks before going back to the Faculty. In the evenings I prefer to do grocery shopping in the supermarket to prepare myself a nice dinner. But sometimes, I end up hanging out with my friends at University events featuring music, games and free food. We all enjoy such occasions and continue our small parties in local pubs or nightclubs. Obviously, during the examination period, most of us are stuck up in the Library in the evening, yet we manage to enjoy that process together (LOL).
Besides your studies, do you participate in other activities organized by TBU?
Besides studies, there are a lot of activities in Zlín for everyone. Buddy System Zlín organizes the best events and parties every week so that we can always have enjoyable evenings and amazing weekends! Expect that each Faculty organizes different kinds of competitions, fairs and exhibitions for its students. Everyone can find something close to their heart, contemporary art exhibitions, fashion weeks, cultural presentations and crazy parties. LOL
In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying at TBU for your future professional career?
My favourite thing I would like to point out is the excellent relationships with the Faculty staff. They are always open to conversation and happy to offer their professional advice. Most importantly, we have course units which provide essential insights about modern business tools and up-to-date knowledge about the business environment on the market.
Are there any exciting memories connected with the University?
Oh, there are so many things that come to my mind! As an international student, I would say that the opportunity to talk about yourself and your home country is so important! That’s why participating in Country Presentations organized by the Buddy System Zlín and being a representative of your home is so amazing. I remember how me and my friends from Kazakhstan first took part in the battle against Bulgaria in 2016. We were so excited and felt so much responsibility! We spent several days preparing the meals, and I asked my parents to send some traditional ingredients by post! We were in the room full of international students listening to our songs, to our stories and learning about our homeland. It was wonderful.
After three years, I was honoured to represent Tomas Bata University at the Educational Exhibition in my country. That was a tremendous experience for me, as I was a representative of TBU in my hometown. There I met Jana, TBU International Marketing officer, and we became very close friends. That situation and meeting Jana affected my further life, and now I have come back to Zlín and am pursuing my Master’s degree in the field of Marketing.
You must miss your family. How do you deal with homesickness? Do you have any tips?
Apparently, there are moments when you miss your family and friends back home, local food, nature and even traffic (LOL). I love those periods of “nostalgia” because it’s a normal thing and it means that you have another place on earth which loves you. When I become homesick I call my friends and family, tell them how much I love them and miss them, then I turn on some Kazakh music and start cooking our traditional meals. This always helps. In the worst cases, I just prepare myself a Kazakh tea with milk, call my mom via Skype and have a long philosophical conversation with her.
What do Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic have in common?
People and their sense of humour, definitely! Czech people are straightforward and friendly. Even if they don’t speak English, they are always polite and willing to help. They have a good sense of humour, and it’s fun to share a glass of beer during a lovely conversation.
What could prospective students expect when they decide to join TBU family?
I would say – if you’re eager to learn and you’re open to new experiences, then you’re welcome in our TBU family! So many people are ready to help you, to support you and waiting for you to come. That is my experience.