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Postcard from Kazakhstan

The Hertie School's Benjamin Steffen and Robert Czech send greetings from Astana, the second-largest city and capital of Kazakhstan.

Dear Hertie School Community,

Greetings from Astana, the second-largest city and capital of Kazakhstan since 1997. This modern city, built from the ground up by world-class contemporary architects like Sir Norman Foster, lies in the country’s northern steppe.

What were we doing there?

This year, Astana hosted the World Expo 2017, and the Hertie School was on hand to meet up with officials in local higher education and represent the school at the Expo’s German Day. Situated between China, Russia and the Middle East, Central Asia is especially interesting for the Hertie School. In fact, this was my second trip to Kazakhstan in a month. Together with Robert Czech, Senior Manager Executive Education, I attended admissions fairs in Astana and Almaty earlier in June.

Currently, there are eight alumni from Central Asia and the number is growing every year. To date, there are none from Kazakhstan itself, but we are sure we will be welcoming some from there in the near future. We met so many young people interested in fostering good governance and who are deeply committed to advancing their country's democratic future.

Similarly, many Germans are interested in the region and there were hundreds of German business people, politicians and ministry representatives at the event. Among the distinguished guests was German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (who was there to open the German pavilion) and there were some familiar Hertie School faces as well.

In the line for the buffet, while sampling Kazakh specialties such as sausage stuffed with liver, dumplings and dried horse meat, I found 2009 Hertie School MPP alumna Yvonne Lindenlaub. She was in town representing the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, where she helps foster relations with countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa.

It was a great event and I took a few snapshots to share with you. 

Hundreds of prospective students visited the fair in Astana.
I ran into MPP alumna Yvonne Lindenlaub - the Hertie School Alumni Network is nothing if not global :)
Kazakhstan’s contemporary capital Astana.
The Sphere, Kazakhstan’s national pavilion at Expo 2017
Dinner overlooking Almaty with colleagues and Robert Czech at the market in Almaty.
At the International University Fair in Astana with Robert Czech.
Astana’s city centre.
Modern architecture typical for Astana, including the famous concert hall.

Kazakhstan is an extremely diverse country with people of many religious and ethnic backgrounds. It was surprising and fascinating to have a view into life in the contemporary city of Astana.

At the admissions fair earlier in June, I also got to visit the ancient city of Almaty, which is nestled in a valley amid spectacular mountainous scenery. The area is beautiful, though plagued by earthquakes and climatic extremes. Robert Czech and I met many colleagues from public policy schools around the world and enjoyed the lively exchange of ideas and information. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with welcoming Kazakh hospitality.

#hertielove from Kazakhstan,

Benjamin Steffen, Director Recruitment and Admission

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