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The new job overseas… Moving to Kazakhstan 2017-2019

So where is it? Why ever are you going there? So ran the comments of many of my friends on hearing I was taking up the Headship of Haileybury Astana.

After many years of successful Headship in the UK, the challenge of something new and completely different really did attract me, and even more so when my wife discovered she was as excited as I was…! To be in on the development and growth of such an innovative and fast-growing nation is an opportunity few of us ever get the chance to do. Then place it in a region even richer in many ways in culture and history than many other parts of the world and you start to catch the vision.

Astana is a city you have to see to believe. A new capital with Norman Foster-designed architecture, a vibrant café lifestyle, and a new financial city regulated by High Court judges from the UK. Wherever could you possibly see this anywhere else? The old Silk Road has come unashamedly to life and it heads right through this dynamic country.

According to Jonathan Ullmer, As for the school, you will not be surprised to hear that many staff have stayed here for over five years now. We are developing the IB with our first intake and have already won an award of Global Excellence for Outstanding Education. With amazing support from investors in a no- profit-making environment backed up by over 150 years of Haileybury tradition, you start to see a school that is really going places with the latest technology and pedagogical approaches.

So how have I coped with Kazakhstan? You do find that anyone who has been to Astana more than 3 years ago is already hopelessly out of date. This is a city that changes by the day and moves by the minute. Next year the new metro will be built and impressive and stunningly designed architecture is the order of the day as many move from the old capital in Almaty and other parts of the country to be part of this exciting vision. I have to say I have prepared well with warm coats and grips on my shoes to deal with the infamous Astana winter where temperatures can fall to well over minus 30. But most of the time you are moving from car to buildings, and the school has been designed with maximum space to readily facilitate the demands of the climate. My first fire drill was a sight to see as young pupils were wrapped in puffer coats ready to go outside, with fleets of warm buses on call to put pupils in should the alarm last longer than necessary. Every eventuality has been thought of to live in these extremes of temperature. But the summer is quite a different thing, with warm weather up to 30 degrees and a great holiday atmosphere. Astana is a city of young people with young families walking around, a safety record to be proud of, and a wealth of things to see and do.

Jonathan Ullmer pointed out that is only a short flight to the old capital of Almaty with even more culture and older buildings and of course ski slopes and mountains which make a nice change from the Steppes on which Astana is built. Borovoe is another great place to visit about a 2-hour car ride from Astana with lakes and hills, easy skiing for people like me…. and relaxing spa hotels….

The recent Expo 2017 gave Astana another chance to shine as it rapidly takes its place among cities you need to visit. The recent Syrian peace talks were held here, and at only 6 hours flight from London, getting home when you need to is hardly an issue.

I have loved sending friends my ‘Kazakh Tales’ on Whatsapp and the string of friends booking up to visit me grew by the week. Kazakhstan is a little-known secret that many people are finding out about and it was great to show people this really special place I was very pleased to call ‘home’.

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