It’s interesting how life takes us to different places. Throughout our journey, we meet people from many walks of life and build lasting connections. In this day and age, while it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances through social media, nothing is more rewarding than reconnecting with an old friend in an unexpected way. Such is the story of Ardak Kozhatayeva (2020 MPM) and Muhammad Ichsan Razali (2020 MPP) whose paths crossed years before attending KDI School.
Ardak is a senior expert at the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Civil Service Affairs, an authorized state body that is directly accountable to the president in the field of public service and monitoring compliance. Prior to joining the agency, she was affiliated with the Deloitte Corporation. With the goal of directly contributing to the development of her country, she joined three central executive offices – the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National Economy, and the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-corruption.
Ichsan started his career as an interpreter for a sister-city project between the Municipality of Istanbul and Aceh Province. After this short stint, he was scouted by the local government of Aceh, where he worked on a project aiming to eradicate poverty. He now works as a diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia.
Ardak and Ichsan both attended Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, where they obtained their bachelor’s degrees in economics in 2015. It is also worth noting that they were both chosen for the Erasmus program in 2013, leading Ardak and Ichsan to study for one semester in France and Germany, respectively.
Ichsan notes, “We were classmates in most of our classes. At that time, I was a student who liked to play a lot, and all of my friends were Turkish. I would usually sit in the back, whereas Ardak would mostly sit in front. To be honest, we were not that close at that time, we were more of acquaintances.”
In terms of how they found out that they were both in Korea to attend KDI School, Ardak recalls, “One of our mutual friends mentioned that Ichsan would be doing his Master’s degree in Korea and is currently in quarantine. I was so surprised. Apparently, we were being quarantined in the same building.”
Both students speak Turkish fluently. Ardak formally started learning Turkish 15 years ago, as it was part of her curriculum at the Kazakh-Turkish High School for Gifted Girls, while Ichsan learned the language by practicing with his Turkish friends. Coincidentally, Ichsan also began learning Korean while in Turkey. He chanced upon an event organized by the university’s Korean community and signed up for language classes.
When asked about the difference between studying in Turkey and Korea, both emphasized that the community in KDI School is more diverse.
“Back in Turkey, there were very few international students, and most of our classmates were Turkish. Also, I think we mostly learned pure knowledge and theories. Here, in KDI School, we learn more practical things. There are many group assignments, which make it easier to share our thoughts and experiences. I learn a lot of things outside the classroom as well. I think it is very important to understand other people’s ways of thinking in order to avoid conflict and live harmoniously. Another thing I like about KDI School is that even though I am studying in another country, I am afforded the same services as the ones in Turkey. I feel that I am not treated differently,” Ichsan remarks.
Ardak adds, “I totally agree. In Turkey, we were mostly given individual assignments. KDIS is a very professional school. You get to meet and work with people from different countries, most of whom are government officials. Even if when doing classes and brainstorming over Zoom, there are many opportunities to learn. We are very lucky to have professors who encourage us to believe in ourselves and dream big. I am very thankful.”
When asked about future prospects of working together, both said that it is highly possible.
For Ichsan, “Reuniting with Ardak feels like meeting an old friend. She is a very positive person. Because we both work for government agencies, there is a huge potential for collaboration.”
“I am interested in international development and diplomacy. I would like to work at the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Korea as an economist and pursue a PhD in Korea. Maybe Ichsan and I can meet in Korea again,” says Ardak.
These days, Ardak and Ichsan attend Taekwondo classes near KDI School.