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Creating Community in Kazakhstan: SLU Student Experiences International Relations through Internship


For Izabel Trizlova, the international community she experienced as a student at Saint Louis University's Madrid campus has prepared her to work with people from across the globe. This summer, Trizlova, a senior majoring in Political Science: International Relations, had a chance to put her SLU education to work in "the Land of the Great Steppe" Kazakhstan as a student ambassador with the United States pavilion at the international Expo 2017.

Izabel Trizlova

Senior Izabel Trizlova, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria and resident of New Port Richey, Florida, is one of 40 student ambassadors representing the United States at Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. Submitted photo

Interviewed by the Astana Times, Trizlova said that while she hadn't known what to expect on arriving in the central Asian nation, "true Kazakh hospitality" had made her feel welcome and helped her dive into her mission to "discover the true meaning behind the Kazakh culture." Her interest in the former Soviet republic, she wrote in an interview with SLU's Newslink, stemmed from her undergraduate studies. 

Izabel Trizlova
Trizlova has been drawn to the hospitality of Kazakhstan's residents - including its four-legged citizens - during her internship. Submitted photo

Newslink: What specifically interested you in Kazakhstan?

Trizlova: As I myself was born in a post-Soviet state – a satellite state to the USSR – coming to a country like Kazahkstan provoked a general interest. Also, as I had never been in this part of the world, I thought that coming here would allow me to learn more about the central Asian culture and practice my Russian.

Newslink: How did you end up with this internship and what drew you to pursue it?

Trizlova: A friend of mine sent me a link about Expo 2017 and the US was looking for student ambassadors, so I decided to apply. The major requirements were speaking Russian and being a US citizen/ permanent resident. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to learn about Kazakhstan, experience a different culture and work in an international environment.

Newslink: What kinds of jobs or work are you doing on the internship?

Trizlova: There are 40 student ambassadors working for the U.S. pavilion. Our main task is to be the face of the pavilion and represent the U.S. We interact with visitors, greet them, run the shows and explain the theme of our pavilion, 'The infinite source of energy.' All 40 of us are divided into three groups. We each work four days a week and rest two. We also rotate positions every hour.

Newslink: Can you share some of your favorite experiences from this opportunity?

Trizlova: One of my favorite aspects of this program is the fact that I get to meet people from all over the world and be in a diverse and international community. Also, I am able to travel around Kazakhstan and learn more about the history, the culture and traditions of this beautiful country.

I recently went to Almaty, the old capital, where I was able to go hiking in the mountains, visit the Big Almaty Lake and Bear waterfall. I really enjoyed changing the scenery from Astana, as Astana is a modern, developing city full of flashy skyscrapers and interesting designs. 

On the other hand, Almaty is a city with mountains and parks, it's a historical city. So overall, being able to go in the mountains and enjoy the breathtaking views was definitely one of my favorite experiences.

Newslink: How has your SLU education benefited you or come into play with your internship?

Trizlova: Many of my classes, especially those related to political science and international relations have helped with my understanding of this region and the political situation in post- soviet countries in general. Also, SLU-Madrid being such a diverse campus has prepared me in regards to living in an international community and working with people from all over the world.

Newslink: What's the most unexpected thing you've experienced in Kazakhstan?

Trizlova: It’s very hard to talk about just one situation, since every day is a unique experience. Nevertheless, I think that my trip to Karaganda recently was one that I will remember for a while. The trip was full of unexpected encounters, long train rides and a visit to a Gulag labor camp.

The most interesting part of this trip and certainly the most unexpected thing I have experienced so far is that I was able to witness the Soyuz MS-50 spacecraft launch in Baikonur. It was an incredible sight to see and definitely unexpected.

Newslink: How will this internship impact your senior year here at SLU and your possible plans beyond college?

Trizlova: Overall, I’m very interested in the topic of sustainable development and international relations. This internship gives me the opportunity to learn more about the future of energy, green energy and the international aspect of turning ideas into reality.

This internship has allowed me to network and talk to people in the State Department. Every once in a while, the U.S. embassy here has brownbag discussions where speakers come to our VIP lounge and sit down with us, tell us about what they do and answer our questions.  It has been really insightful and useful. Some of the brownbag speakers we have had so far include the ambassador himself, George Krol,  Patrick Horne, the economic chief at the embassy here, and Mary Warlick, acting special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. These talks allow me to get a clearer idea of what I would like to do or the field I would like to go in after SLU.

Newslink:  How do you see this internship as part of impacting the world for better or as in line with SLU's Jesuit values?

Trizlova: The whole theme of Expo 2017 is the “Future of energy,” so the overall message is for us as an international community to work for a better and cleaner future. This internship is specifically impacting the world for better by teaching all of us to work together and come together in battling larger problems and issues that impact all of our lives on a global level.

Earlier coverage of Trizlova's internship was published by SLU-Madrid earlier this summer and the story is available here. Q&A by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.