The world today is ever changing, and we find ourselves in unprecedented new times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like millions of people, Alina Rozmamedova from Turkmenistan also faced new barriers and learned to overcome them. 

Alina is a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate at the Department of International Relations, and a research and teaching assistant at Eastern Mediterranean University in North Cyprus. She is also a successful trainer, sharing her academic experience with young people, helping them find their academic and career paths, gain personal growth, and empowering them to cope with obstacles. During her childhood one of her teachers told Alina that should probably be a housewife when she was older. These words were a trigger that made Alina even more determined to prove to herself and others that she could achieve more.

Alina’s path to becoming a certified trainer was shorter than expected. She had been dreaming about learning as much as possible abroad and bringing what she learned back home. This happened far sooner when the pandemic started, blocking her return to University from vacation. “I was completely occupied by my academic life in Cyprus, preparing for my Ph.D. qualifying exams, tutoring classes, and writing my dissertation. I thought I knew what to expect. But when I was forced to remain home in Turkmenistan because of the lockdown, everything changed. I couldn’t see my friends, colleagues, or academic supervisors, and worst of all there was no academic environment I could feel at home in.”

At the beginning of 2020, like so many, Alina went through a period of depression. Being locked away from her familiar environment, she started to feel lost and thought that her skills were inapplicable in her home country. “Initially, I was so happy to spend quality time with my family, but later I started to feel unfulfilled, professionally. To me, the feeling of progress and contribution to society is one of the main ingredients of happiness—I wanted to find my place, my people, my goal here in Turkmenistan, but I didn’t know how.”

Luckily, Alina got involved in an initiative dedicated to the promotion of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions through the Women TechMakers Group in Ashgabat. From them, she learned about the “Skills for Success” youth program, conducted by the USAID Enriching Youth for Tomorrow activity in partnership with the Union of Economists of Turkmenistan. Alina underwent a series of trainings-of-trainers starting from the basics of teaching and continuing with subject specific trainings related to personal growth, professional self-determination, and career success skills.

“I was especially amazed by one of the training programs, “I Can!”, which was aimed at empowering people with disabilities. The content of trainings varies, but they all share the same goal—to help young people progress and succeed. The Enriching Youth for Tomorrow trainings taught me training methods and tools that help me to share knowledge and motivate my students.”

As part of the USAID Enriching Youth for Tomorrow activity, she started developing “Academic Success Skills” – an online program aimed at improving academic competencies and skills of university students, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and young specialists engaged in scientific and practical activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Alina trained 47 young people on soft, academic, and digital skills, and provided post-training support and mentoring, contributing to their subsequent successful employment and admission to universities. “I can share my expertise to help many talented youth from Turkmenistan pave their paths to success,” says Alina. She conducts online trainings and webinars for youth and will hold a special webinar “Women and STEM Professions” in honor of International Women’s Day, this month.

“I’m very close to becoming a certified trainer, I was offered a gender specialist position at the Asian Development Bank, and I have a circle of talented, kindhearted, and motivated young people around me. I don’t know if I’m successful or not, but I know I’m a happy person who knows what to expect tomorrow.”

The Enriching Youth for Tomorrow activity empowers Turkmenistani youth to be educated, healthy, socially responsible, and employed, through its inclusive activities. Considering the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, young people have difficulties accessing additional education and employment opportunities. Programs such as “Skills for Success” and “I Can!” developed by the Enriching Youth for Tomorrow activity enable the country’s youth to be more competitive in the labor market.