PAS invited a popular Influencer from Turkmenistan's Instagram community to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program. The blogger introduced the program to her followers and shared the Embassy’s contact information in her Stories. Shortly after the popular blogger's coverage of the Fulbright Program, ORIENT, a semi-official publication aimed at young people in Turkmenistan, also set out to inform its readers about the scholarship programs available to them abroad. In addition to Fulbright, ORIENT listed Muskie and UGRAD. This is one of the first attempts by PAS to collaborate with the newly emerging Influencer community in the country.
On December 3, from 18:30 to 20:30, Embassy Ashgabat held an event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program. The event, which featured short speeches about Fulbright experiences and expectations from, had a total attendance of eight alumni, five current participants, two local social media influencers and five Embassy staff. Due to local limitations on social gatherings, the event was held at the Public Affairs Section’s Multi-Purpose Hall, with a maximum of twenty attendees.
The Fulbright Scholar Program has been active in Turkmenistan since 1993, and the Student program launched in 2008. It has gained 80 alumni since then, with 43 scholars and 37 students counting themselves part of the Fulbright universe. Many of the alumni are still living and working in Turkmenistan, proving once again that to a majority of the participants, Fulbright is an opportunity to give back to their community.
The evening started with networking and introductions, since a lot of the alumni had not met each other previously. U.S. Ambassador Matthew Klimow highlighted the importance of the program in Turkmenistan, as well as a couple of exceptional achievements by Fulbright alumnae in Turkmenistan.
After the Ambassador’s speech, the audience had an opportunity to hear about their Fulbright experience from several alumni and one current Fulbrighter hoping to depart in January and start her program in Film Studies at SCAD. Gozel Hallyyeva (student, 2017), Sofiya Yuvshanova (student, 2016), Gaplan Esenamanov (scholar, 2004, 2012, 2021), Mekan Karayev (student, 2020) and Durnabat Atagarryyeva (student, 2021) all shared brief messages about themselves, their Fulbright memories and current work, and, in the case of Durnabat, what she hopes to gain from the program.
After congratulatory messages from Branch Chief for Fulbright Programs in South and Central Asia Julia Findlay and Secretary Blinken, alumni and participants once again had some time to mingle and exchange contact information. Because there is no alumni association in Turkmenistan (bureaucratic obstacles are preventing this), events like this are a prime opportunity for Fulbrighters to share ideas and information, as well as to provide support to each other and especially to departing Fulbrighters, who are understandably nervous about starting their programs in the United States.
A local influencer with over 20K followers on Instagram remarked that she was astonished to find out about the program and all that it offers to participants, shared the information with her followers, and is now considering applying for the program herself, once her English language skills are stronger. She took the opportunity to learn about the Embassy’s American Center, its activities and programs, and shared that with her following too.
In general, this event was very successful, and there are plans to hold a larger event, including as many alumni as possible, in the near future. Some photographs follow.
Note that while this event took place on December 3, Turkmenistan's Fulbright Day was December 17.