American University of Central Asia - AUCA - The Ala-Archa Eco-Leadership project

The Ala-Archa Eco-Leadership project

November 16, 2015

Thirteen AUCA students along with Kyrgyz and US-based professional instructors will be challenging themselves to a two-week hike through the Ala-Archa National Park next summer. Bringing together concepts of ecology, sustainability, leadership and outdoor adventure together, this program offers a unique opportunity for Kyrgyz students. AUCA’s prospective Environmental Management and Sustainable Development (EMSD) program will be supporting the project.


The project was started by Nathan Fry, a master’s student at the University of Vermont studying Environment and Natural Resources. While travelling through the Manas airport, Fry was struck by his glimpses of the Kyrgyz mountains decided he would come back and initiate a project around hiking. Fortunately, AUCA expressed its interest in Fry’s project and the project has gained traction. Fry, a professional alpine guide in the US, is an experienced ice climber and rock climber, who was heavily involved in mountaineering for university students. Fry has already spent a week in Ala-Archa and will be leveraging his experience to turn it into a site for field research next year. Fry has demonstrated his commitment to sharing his academic and alpinist experience with students--now EMSD students at AUCA.

Nurzhan Chunueva, a sophomore in Environmentalism, a student leader of the project, shares her thoughts:

“The Ala-Archa Eco-Leadership project (ELP) is going to be challenging, but nonetheless it’ll be great opportunity for all of its participants. First, I truly believe in the effectiveness of field research. We will definitely grow in our proficiency and become leaner in our consumption of natural resources. That being said, it will be challenging to be without our usual accommodations and electricity. Living in apartments, we get used to convenience. Our hiking group is going to spend 14 days in nature, living in tents. It is an opportunity to try something different and even learn more about yourself. Clearly, we have also gotten addicted to smartphones. I see several students gazing at their cellphones at AUCA (and that’s only when I look away from my own device). So, we will keep our eyes open and enjoy the beauty there. Hiking through the highlands is much different than just driving to foothills. There is an inexpressible feeling of freedom and serenity. It is indeed spiritual. It trains one to live in harmony with nature, and it is worth experiencing. I spent three days in mountains with no electricity and accommodation two years ago; I was experiencing the stunning beauty of the Ala-Kul Lake, located over 3700 meters above the sea level. I think ELP is going to be another unforgettable adventure.”

American University of Central Asia
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