University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Stories and

An International Student Leader

"I would take any excuse to talk about politics. I like thinking about the perspectives of different countries and their roles in the world arena."– Azhar Akesh, Kazakhstan, College of Liberal Arts

Azhar Akesh acts as a kind of ambassador for international students at the University of Minnesota, connecting with prospective students, welcoming new students to campus, and also meeting with professors to discuss how they can help international students succeed.

For all of her work with programs like Culture Corps, Global Gopher Events, and the International Student Advisory Board, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) has awarded Azhar the Twin Cities International Student Scholarship.

Azhar credits other student leaders as her inspiration. She explained how when she arrived as a freshman, other students showed her how to be a true leader, by being compassionate, empathetic, friendly, and understanding, while also knowing what they wanted to accomplish.

“I think whenever I would look up to them, I also wished that I could be like them,” Azhar said. “I think that I have succeeded in doing that.”

Staff members at ISSS agree.

“Azhar’s work has defined what we hope all our students achieve, which is to shift perspectives in an ever-polarized world,” said Nasreen Mohamed, the director of student engagement at ISSS.

Azhar will be graduating in May with a political science degree. Her senior thesis examined democracy and constitutional laws in her home country of Kazakhstan and the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

“I would take any excuse to talk about politics,” Azhar said. “I like thinking about the perspectives of different countries and their roles in the world arena.”

Azhar plans to get some real-world experience before heading to law school. Eventually, she wants to move back to Kazakhstan and get involved in the political system there.

“There’s a lot of corruption in my country,” Azhar said. “By going into law, I can help to reduce it.”

Date Published: April 2019