Flying Sara

Alyna is one of the undergraduates who have brought life to the new Naryn campus of the University of Central Asia. (Eventually, the university will span three countries with campuses in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.) Like her peers, she got there through a competitive, merit-based, and needs-blind admissions process.

All qualified students are accepted; none are denied admission for financial reasons. The students come from cities and communities across the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria. Of the first 71 students, nearly 40% are women. Ultimately, the campus at Naryn, when at capacity, will accommodate 1,200 students

Alyna is a second-year student from Pakistan, and leads the campus tour for prospective students. She shows visitors the elements of student life from her own perspective, and the spectacular setting that surrounds the campus: the snow-capped mountains rising up outside every window.


“This lab provided me an opportunity to think critically rather than follow what I was being told.”

The science lab is one of her favorites. She explains how “this lab provided me an opportunity to think critically rather than follow what I was being told.” She shares one of her own recent experiments.

“We had to make a hot-air balloon, which works on the principle that you need to get the temperature of the air inside the balloon hot enough so that the balloon will rise.” The experiments are not always easy. “We all failed doing that,” she adds with a laugh. With other exercises, the teacher provides no specifications. You choose the materials, test your assumptions, and learn.

Along with science, art and music are topics that students are encouraged to explore. Looking at an artwork of a large felt egg in a nest of found wood, Alyna explains the piece evokes an eagle’s nest. In Pamir stories, the eagle is an exemplary parent, nurturing its young to prepare them to take to their wings as soon as they can.

The students are young eagles finding their wings. When they take flight, they will take the values of inquiry and inclusion with them.