Kazakh student greets Rotary club

Published 8:06 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Bainbridge Rotary Club members joked that Tuesday’s club meeting was like a “miniature United Nations.”

Yekaterina “Katya” Solomkina, a student from Almaty, Kazakhstan, was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting. She is the local club’s Georgia Rotary Student Program (GRSP) student for this year, and Joe and Joni Truhett are her local host family.

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The GRSP is a program where clubs offer scholarships to international students, allowing those students to study for one year at a Georgia college or university.

Solomkina was joined by three other GRSP students, who are being hosted by nearby clubs. They were Maren Skott-Myhre of Norway, Susanne Alsaker of Norway and Can Canbolat of Turkey.

Solomkina didn’t take long to display her pride in both her homeland, and her new Southern U.S. experience. Dressed in a traditional Kazakh dress, complete with ornately decorated hat, the student’s first words to the club were “Hey, y’all,” causing many laughs to break out among the club members.

“Everyone has been very friendly and hospitable and sociable,” she said. “I have really enjoyed my time here.”

Solomkina educated the Rotary Club members about her nation, which is the second largest of the republics that broke away from the former Soviet Union — only Russia is larger. It covers a land area of 1.05 million square miles, making it the ninth-largest country in the world.

Solomkina said that her country has many beautiful mountains and ski resorts, joking that “they’re much cheaper than the Alps.” She also noted that the Kazakh population is comprised of a variety of different ethnic groups, including Russians, Tatars and Ukrainians.

“It’s a melting pot of different cultures,” she said.

When asked about her dress, Solomkina explained that it is a traditional outfit worn in Kazakhstan. She smiles and said that the hat she was wearing symbolizes that she is single, and that a married woman would wear a different hat.

“The white and red are very traditional Kazakh colors,” she said.

Solomkina said her mother works in the British consulate and her father is in business.