Number of recipients
In addition to being a prestigious academic exchange program, the Fulbright Program is designed to expand and strengthen relationships between the people of the United States and citizens of other nations and to promote international understanding and cooperation. To support this mission, Fulbright Scholars may be asked to give public talks, mentor students, and otherwise engage with the host community, in addition to their primary activities.
Scholars will teach two to three classes per semester at the undergraduate level. The university may request other activities, such as public presentations for teachers or students on the scholar’s subject, and there may be opportunities for guest lectures at other universities, including universities located in other cities in Turkmenistan, depending on health and safety conditions. In general, the Embassy will ensure the scholar is assigned students who are juniors and seniors, and therefore more likely to have stronger English language skills and be active participants in the classroom. Classroom sizes in Turkmenistan range from 10-30 students; this is something that the Embassy may be able to negotiate with the host institution.
Scholars are asked to have flexibility when it comes to the academic environment in Turkmenistan and to be ready and willing to hit the ground running. Because of local regulations and Turkmenistan's highly centralized government, obtaining class schedules and curricula before the grant starts is not always possible. It is likely that the teaching assignment will be arranged after arrival, and that teaching materials and additional activities outside the original proposal will require official approval. However, past Fulbright specialists and scholars have not found this to be a hindrance to their work.
Scholars will find the local environment to be challenging, but ultimately rewarding, as the academic community is very receptive to American experts and eager to expand its knowledge.
The scholar will be placed in one of the universities in Ashgabat (capital city) where English is the medium of instruction.
Grants should begin in September 2023, with arrival in August. Arrival dates are flexible and will be discussed with the scholar to accommodate his/her schedule. Although the academic year starts on September 1, there is flexibility, since the host institution is mostly preoccupied with administrative duties the first two weeks of September.
Proposals in the following specializations have a higher priority: international public law, international private law, international economy, international trade, international finance, insurance, international management, information and communications technology, computer technology, and computer programming. Humanities are also in demand, as well as fields related to the oil and gas sphere.
Housing and Other Assistance
The Embassy's Public Affairs staff will be available throughout the scholar's stay in Turkmenistan to provide support on any sort of matter - from help with food shopping to obtaining domestic flight tickets to navigating social events held by the local international community. Embassy staff will assist in finding housing - generally, this is done by selecting a few apartments from which the scholar can choose after arriving in-country. The scholar will also receive assistance in getting a local sim card, orienting to Ashgabat, and navigating local transportation, along with any other type of help that will enable the scholar to adapt to life in Turkmenistan.
South and Central Asia Fulbright Regional Travel Grant
During their grant period, Fulbright Scholars in the South and Central Asia (SCA) region may apply for a regional travel grant to engage in a variety of activities at academic institutions or non-profit organizations in eligible SCA countries (India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Republic of the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). Activities that U.S Scholars may engage in include: faculty and student lectures, graduate or faculty seminars, conferences, curriculum development, public lectures, panel presentations, needs assessment, or some combination thereof. Scholars in the arts may be invited to give master classes or recitals, participate in exhibitions or workshops, or consult with cultural institutions. Activities may not include research. This grant will cover travel to and from the destination and lodging may be offered by the hosting institution. Scholars may only apply for this grant once in country on their Fulbright grant. As funds are limited, Scholars are limited to one such travel grant.
Before traveling to another country on a Regional Travel Grant, it is important to confirm trip details with the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section or Fulbright Commission in that country.
Please note: The 2023-24 Fulbright Regional Travel Program will be dependent on global travel conditions. More information will be provided prior to grant departure.
South and Central Asia Fulbright Midyear Conference
With funding provided by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S.-India Educational Foundation (the Fulbright Commission in India) invites eligible Fulbright Scholars in the South and Central Asia region to attend the annual South and Central Asia Fulbright Midyear Conference in India (usually held in February or March). The conference is an opportunity for current Fulbright U.S. Scholars who are on their Fulbright grants in the SCA region at the time of the conference to gather to discuss each other’s work and educational exchange issues and to invite suggestions for the future development and enhancement of the Fulbright Program. Financial assistance to attend the conference is provided as an additional Fulbright grant benefit.
Please note: The 2023-24 South and Central Asia Fulbright Midyear Conference will be dependent on global travel conditions. More information will be provided prior to grant departure.
The applicant should not seek contact with the educational institution; because of local restrictions, educational institutions cannot discuss possible affiliation with scholars, send letters of invitation, or request the government to place the scholar at their institution. All affiliations are proposed by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy according to specialization, and approved by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan. The Public Affairs Section will apply for a letter of invitation on behalf of the scholar.
Knowledge of Russian, Turkmen, Turkish, or another Turkic language would be helpful for the scholar to adjust to life in Turkmenistan. Although the Embassy provides assistance in identifying interpreters in the country, this is likely to be cost-prohibitive, and would not be convenient in a daily setting. The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy (Post) will seek placement with the International University for the Humanities and Development, the International Oil and Gas University, or Oguzhan University of Engineering Technologies (depending on the scholar's area of specialization) where the medium of instruction is English, and knowledge of the local languages would not be required. However, in everyday life, knowledge of any Turkic language or some Russian would be advantageous and useful. Completion of the language proficiency evaluation(s) is optional.
A minimum of 10 years of teaching experience is preferred (or Ph.D. level with five years of teaching experience). However, early-career academics and retired faculty are welcome to apply. Prior experience in the country is not required.
Following peer review, IIE/CIES forwards candidates recommended for further consideration. Post will then contact candidates for an interview. Pending selection, Post seeks approval from the Government of Turkmenistan for the host institution affiliation. Pending government approval, Post works with the host institution and scholar to finalize the affiliation.
Due to local regulations, Post will not be able to secure housing for the scholar prior to arrival. Apartments will be lined up for the scholar to see. Please note that apartments within walking distance from campus may not be possible if the university in question is in one of the central areas of the city. However, the Embassy will do everything possible to provide different options for the scholar to choose from. All apartments will be screened by the Embassy's security office for safety and security and will have all the necessary amenities, such as a washing machine (dryers are not readily available in Turkmenistan), uninterrupted hot/cold water, air conditioning and heat, Internet, etc.
Stipends are calculated within this range based on a number of factors including a participant’s grant activity, location in the host country, number of dependents, and home institution position.
Round-trip, Fly America Act compliant international travel for the grantee will be arranged by an agency designated by IIE.
Additional Travel and Relocation Allowances: $2,500.00.
$1,500 book and educational materials allowance. All materials purchased with the allowance are expected to be donated to the host institution (or other in-country entity) upon grantee's departure.
Additional living and housing allowance is provided for grantees with one accompanying dependent or two or more accompanying dependents. These amounts range from $200/month to $400/month.
In addition, travel allowances are provided for up to two dependents.
Up to $6,000 per child (up to two) or $12,000 per family for accompanying dependent children in grades K-12 is reimbursed for one semester, upon submission of receipts. Up to $12,000 per child (up to two) or $24,000 per family for accompanying dependent children in grades K-12 is reimbursed for two semesters, upon submission of receipts. Amount may be adjusted for shorter grant periods. Reimbursement is based on actual cost of tuition and fees only or homeschooling materials.
Dependents must accompany the grantee for at least 80% of the period abroad and a minimum of one semester in order to qualify for additional dependent benefits. Dependent benefits are not provided to Flex grantees.
South and Central Asia Fulbright Regional Travel Grant
South and Central Asia Fulbright Midyear Conference
See "Special Features" section on the Award Details tab for more information.
Please refer to the figures above for an estimate of total monthly Fulbright award benefits. Benefits may include a monthly base stipend, living and housing allowances, and additional one-time allowances. Benefits may vary based on a scholar's current academic rank (or professional equivalent), the city of placement, the type of award (teaching, teaching/research, or research), and the number of and duration of stay of accompanying dependents. Research-only or Professional Project grantees receive a standard stipend that is not adjusted for academic rank. In most cases, dependent benefits will not be provided to Flex grantees, or to grantees pursuing grants less than four months (or a semester) in length.
Final grant amounts will be determined prior to the start of the academic year and are subject to the availability of funds. The United States Department of State reserves the right to alter, without notice, participating countries, number of awards and allowances.
Country and climate
Turkmenistan is a country of roughly 5 million inhabitants (official statistic), with a desert climate. It borders Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the Caspian Sea. In the summer, temperatures can reach 52-55C (125-130F), but winters are generally mild, with temperatures rarely going below freezing. Precipitation is minimal. The capital city, Ashgabat, has a population of roughly a million. Turkmenistan is a very safe country, and Ashgabat has a low crime rate, most of that being petty crime such as pick-pocketing.
Turkmenistan is a special environment with very strict rules. Scholars should be prepared to have a lot of flexibility when it comes to living and working in Turkmenistan, starting with the moment their nomination is submitted to the Government of Turkmenistan for approval, and ending with the last day of their stay in Turkmenistan.
In general, centralized state control remains the rule in Turkmenistan. The president controls the parliament and the judicial branch, while the civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces. Although the constitution provides for freedom of the press, there is virtually no freedom of the press or of association. The government has taken some steps forward in human rights reform, but its overall human rights record remains poor.
Turkmenistan is culturally and predominantly Muslim, but it is not overtly religious. There are no restrictions when it comes to dress, although like in any other professional setting, women are advised against wearing revealing clothing at the university, and men are expected to dress more on the formal side at work as well (sport coat or jacket, no jeans or shorts, dress shoes or not-obviously-sports shoes preferable). During off hours, local people wear whatever they like. Personal beliefs should be kept private, and discussion of this nature is best avoided. As mentioned above, Turkmenistan is predominantly Muslim; Christianity and Judaism are legal, but some religious groups (Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists, etc. are not).
Alcohol is not prohibited, although drinking in parks or squares or elsewhere outside is. There is absolutely no smoking outside, but smoking is allowed in some restaurants and most bars. Prospective scholars should be aware that homosexual relationships are illegal in Turkmenistan.
Any and all discussion of Turkmenistan’s internal politics and its government should be avoided.
Getting around the city can be done by bus, at a rate of about 10c per trip, or by taxi, with fixed rates of $1 - $3 per trip for most locations around the city. The Embassy can also help scholars obtain a monthly bus pass or locate private drivers who would be willing to set up a monthly or “by-the-trip” rate. Traveling around the country is easiest by plane, which is inexpensive and safe. There are train routes as well, but the Embassy recommends against them, for personal safety and comfort reasons. Some areas will require additional border permits, which the Embassy will apply for on the scholar's behalf (at an additional cost).
Due to local bureaucratic processes, scholars should be prepared to stay in a hotel (booked by the Embassy) for 2-3 weeks after arrival, while viewing apartments, which Public Affairs will help locate. After an apartment is selected and cleared by the Embassy security office, Embassy staff will work with the landlord to register the housing agreement with local authorities. Scholars should be aware that it may not be possible to secure housing within walking distance of the university, and should be prepared to take public transportation to their place of work. Housing in Turkmenistan comes fully furnished and supplied with all the living necessities such as linen, towels, kitchen utensils, etc. Most apartments come with Wi-Fi, but if it’s not available, it can be installed quickly.
Scholars should not expect Internet connectivity at their host institution, and if there are audio/visual materials they want to use in class, as much as possible should be pre-downloaded on to a flash drive prior to arrival. The American Center’s library will allow for additional smaller downloads, but it should be the back-up plan rather than the primary means of obtaining audio-visual material.
Most host institutions will have in-class tech (smart board, projector) available for the scholar’s use, and a laptop can be located if necessary.
All educational institutions in Turkmenistan are governed by the Ministry of Education. Education is universal and mandatory through the secondary level for a total duration of 11 years (a 12-year school system was introduced between 2013 and 2016, but there were no textbooks or clear curricula developed for the added years, and teachers struggled to find materials to fit the "assigned" topics). Though the Government is interested in promoting the study of English, and it is now taught as a mandatory foreign language in schools and universities along with Russian, the level of English language skills in the country remains very low.
The academic year starts on September 1 and concludes with 3 weeks of final exams around June 15. There is one break between the fall and spring semesters that starts at the end of January and ends around February 10, and another week-long break in the second half of March.
University-level education (this includes institutes) is still structured following the Soviet model, with 5-year “specialist” diplomas being the equivalent of a western 4-year bachelor’s degree. Fifth year students generally spend half their time in classrooms, and half – doing their practicum outside the university, usually placed in a secondary school as teachers, in government offices, or the private sector. Some universities, such as the International University for the Humanities and Development, are trying to move away from the Soviet model and towards the Western credit-based system, but this is a slow process and may not be completed for many years.
All course syllabi are approved ahead of time by the Ministry of Education, and although scholars will be able to use outside materials and sources of information, they will need to check with their department head if they need to use a lot of materials outside the official textbooks. Embassy staff will assist in liaising with University representatives.
Scholars will need to check the appropriateness of any additional projects or activities with the Embassy and their host institution before starting them.
Scholars need to keep in mind that research of any kind is discouraged in Turkmenistan; prospective scholars are asked to discuss any research they wish to undertake in Turkmenistan with the Embassy as early on as possible.
Medical Services and Schooling for Dependents
Medical services are poor. Cold and flu meds, antibiotics and pain killers can be obtained locally, but Post strongly recommends bringing a supply of any other specific medication. Medication cannot be shipped through the mail. Scholars should bring a backup pair of glasses or contact lenses. Individuals with gluten sensitivity will need to be careful when selecting products, as labels may not necessarily include gluten indicators; individuals with vegetarian or vegan dietary needs may find it difficult to plan their diet in Turkmenistan due to a lack of choices, although it is possible.
Scholars choosing to bring school-age dependents with them will have only one option when it comes to schools – the Ashgabat International School (https://ashgabat.qsi.org/).
Cost of Living
Turkmenistan has a very high rate of inflation, at around 30%. The official exchange rate has remained unchanged for a number of years, at $1=TMT3.5; however, as of the current catalog update (December 2021), the unofficial exchange rate is around $1=TMT23. Most items available for purchase are priced according to the unofficial exchange rate, making Ashgabat one of the world’s most expensive cities for an ex-pat. Some things, like apartment rent, can be paid in USD, and a good apartment can be located for around $500/month. Embassy staff will update prospective scholars on actual costs of living at the time of the selection interview, and provide some estimates on current prices for goods and services.
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