With internet access blocked and the Almaty airport closed due to the nationwide state of emergency, first-year Artificial Intelligence student Mansur Nurmukhambetov (18) doesn’t know whether he will be able to return to Groningen before his exams.
Leaving Groningen to celebrate New Year’s Eve with his family in the city of Almaty, Mansur couldn’t have imagined that flights to Almaty would be suspended amid Kazakhstan unrest.
‘I live not far from where the riots were taking place, so I could hear gunshots and stun grenades. Even though I stayed home and didn’t really see anything, I felt that something bad was happening.’ The only time he went outside was to buy some groceries, but most of the shops were either empty or vandalised. ‘All I managed to buy was cookies and rice.’
Even though the situation was scary, he says, he was more worried about not being able to show up for his exams next Friday. ‘My initial plan was to come back to Groningen on January 10, but because the airport is closed and there was no internet, my flight was cancelled and nobody knew what to do.’
The Internet outage also affected his exam preparation, he says. ‘My books and notes were stored online, so I had no access to them.’ Nevertheless, he managed to continue working on his study projects offline. ‘And I made decent progress’, he adds.
Now that the internet service has resumed after a five-day outage, Mansur has contacted his study advisor and even follows his lectures online. He also rebooked his ticket to the Netherlands today. ‘I’m hoping that I’ll make it right before the exams.’
Mansur is not the only student who was affected by the internet blockout. Kamila Azhigulova (19), a first-year student of psychology, is currently staying in the country’s capital Nur-Sultan. ‘I could not prepare for exams or submit my assignments and attend online classes.’
Even though her flight next week wasn’t cancelled, the uncertain situation made her anxious about the safety of her family and the escalation of violence. ‘I was worried whether the unrest in Almaty was going to spread to other cities and affect more people. Nobody knew what was going to happen.’