Tongtong Tina Zhao, an AUCA graduate from China, BA, Cum Laude, Business Administration 2002, is also the coordinator of the AUCA Beijing Chapter. Tina kindly agreed to give an interview to AUCA magazine.
As an AUCA graduate, please share how you discovered AUCA and your reasons for choosing it?
I was attending the preparatory course at Bishkek Humanitarian University, and Vladimir Liu, the AUK Chinese teacher and Professor at the Humanitarian University, recommended this bi-lingual university to me. After a conversation with AUK’s President John Clark, I decided to choose AUCA as my undergraduate university, which proved to be a very good decision.
As an international student, what did you find most unusual? Were there any cultural shocks?
Kyrgyzstan is a religious country. I tried to learn more about Islam and Christianity during my first few years, but after a couple years it just became normal. AUCA is a diverse university. I studied Japanese as a second language with a Japanese professor, Fukuchi Yoichiro, took a legal training course with an Australian lecturer, Daniel O’Connell, visited the Israeli and Dutch embassies in Almaty with an
American professor, and had Korean, Chinese, and African-American classmates. I have fond memories of Kyrgyzstan. Since my graduation I have visited Kyrgyzstan several times and will do so again in the future.
What is your professional experience?
I joined Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s Beĳing office in 2008, and before that I worked for O'Melveny &Myers LLP. I also earned a Juris Master’s degree from the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). I like logical thinking, and the business professional life suits me.
What was most difficult for you in academic life?
The language barrier was the most difficult part for me, especially during my freshman year when I had difficulties with courses taught in Russian, such as Kyrgyz history. I bought a tape recorder in “ZUM”, and used it to record the lectures, which I would then go over after class. However, I am very thankful for the excellent presentation skills and the solid English and Russian language skills I gained during my study at AUCA.
What makes AUCA a special place?
AUCA is the keeper of my fondest memories and very special moments. Thank you to all those people who helped make my 5 years of living in Kyrgyzstan some of the most wonderful years of my life. I enjoyed my student life at AUCA, it was unique. I remember the Initiation party, the Halloween room we planned, Thanksgiving dinners, “angels” on Valentine’s Day, our visits to orphan homes… it’s impossible to list everything.
How do you see the role of alumni in supporting and promoting AUCA?
There are many outstanding AUCA alumni dispersed throughout the world every year. They make this magic place well-known, and I believe some of our alumni will lead Kyrgyzstan to success in the near future.