Tajikistan is often overlooked as a destination for international students. But with its unique culture, beautiful landscapes and welcoming people, Tajikistan has a lot to offer students from all over the world. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider studying in Tajikistan:
1. Immerse yourself in a new culture
Tajik culture is rich with a long and tangled history. It has been inhabited for millennia, and the region was once a crossroads of the Silk Road. Tajikistan’s present borders were drawn up during the Soviet era, and the country became an independent nation in 1991. Despite its relatively small size, Tajikistan is home to a diverse range of peoples and cultures. The Tajiks, who make up the majority of the population, are closely related to the Persian-speaking peoples of Iran and Afghanistan. Other groups include the Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, and Pamiris.
From the stunning architecture of its mosques and madrassas to the intricate designs of its traditional carpets, Tajikistan is a land steeped in history and tradition. The people of Tajikistan are warm and hospitable, quick to offer a cup of tea or a seat at the table. There is a strong sense of community in Tajikistan, and families are close-knit. Neighbors often drop in unannounced, and strangers are always welcome.
What about the food?
If you’re studying in Takjikistan for any length of time you’ll get to experience Tajik fare, which is typically hearty and filling, often featuring rice, vegetables, and meat dishes. The national dish, plov, is a tasty rice pilaf that is usually served with boiled eggs. Azaar (a bustling open-air market) is the best place to find fresh produce, spices, and other staples.
Music and dance are an important part of Tajik culture. Folk music often features the lyrical dutar (a two-stringed instrument) and the rubab (a three-stringed instrument). Traditional dances such as the doira (a spinning dance) are still popular today.
Over the past decade, the Tajikistan economy has been steadily improving. Although the economy suffered a setback during the Covid 19 outbreak, it made a fast recovery in 2021. Poverty rates have also improved with the poverty line falling from including 83% of the population to a much lower 26.5% between 2000 and 2021.
Showing Respect in Tajik Culture
Tajik people have some unique cultural practises that are worth learning about so you can show respect and make a good impression on the local community.
It’s important to respect elderly people and give them the place of honour. It’s also worth noting that locals consider it inappropriate for a man and woman who aren’t married to be left alone together and you’ll find that men and women are usually separated at events.
Showing respect in Tajikistan starts with dressing appropriately. Even if you are in a casual setting, it is important to dress modestly without showing too much skin. When shaking hands in greeting, you place your left hand over your heart and bow slightly. Try learning a few phrases in the local language, such as ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ so you can converse politely.
A few extra cultural norms to remember are to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home and avoid public displays of affection. Finally, practice patience; polite conversations take longer than usual as each phrase is spoken with sincerity and compassion. Following these simple tips will make your time in Tajikistan more enjoyable.
Unique Tajik Customs
You’ll probably notice that people in Tajik cities are generally wealthier than those living in villages (who tend to live more simply and still dress in traditional clothes).
Roles in Tajik society are usually divided into men and women’s tasks, for example women raise children and look after the home, whereas men are seen as the breadwinners and protectors of the home.
Arranged marriages are also common, as are large families, although family size has been declining in recent years.
You’ll find that Tajik people celebrate many ceremonies, one of the first is when a baby turn 40 days old and it’s often accompanied by a coming-of-age celebration for the mother of the child, who is not considered a woman until she has a baby.
Children learn about religion by participating in cultural events, as Islam is the main religion and is very much part of the cultural heritage. Other common ceremonies include funerals, fasting and weekly visits to the mosque.
Tajik is the official language of Tajikistan, but Russian is also widely spoken. As an international student in Tajikistan, you’ll have the opportunity to learn both languages. Not only will this make it easier for you to communicate with locals, but you may find it a valuable skill for your future career.
2. Experience stunning landscapes
Tajikistan is home to some of the most stunning scenery in Central Asia, with more than nine tenths of its territory classified as mountainous.
Tajikistan also has some of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Terrifying (7,495 m) and Mount Wonderful (7,134 m). From the snow-capped peaks of the Pamir Mountains to the turquoise waters of Lake Iskanderkul, there’s a diverse landscape to explore, making it an ideal place for outdoor activities like hiking, camping and birdwatching.
3. Get an affordable education
Tuition fees in Tajikistan are much lower than in many other countries. And with a range of scholarships and financial aid options available, studying in Tajikistan is within reach for many international students.
Tajikistan is home to several high-quality universities which offer a wide range of subjects, from traditional Tajik cuisine to mountaineering. Here are 2 of the top universities in Tajikistan:
Tajik National University
Tajik National University is located in the capital city of Dushanbe, a city of 1 million in a country of 10 million. TNU is rated as the top university in Tajikistan and is dedicated to training specialists for the different spheres of the national economy of the country. It was founded in 1947 and has 19 faculties. It also has student groups and sports clubs you can join and social events with concerts, dance and poem recitation on offer.
Khujand State University
Khujand State University is located in Khujand, 5 hours from the capital of Dushanbe, near outstanding historical sites such as the towering minarets in the old town of Istaravshan. The university has 17 faculties and is equipped with modern technology, resources and amenities.
4. Low cost of living
Tajikistan is an affordable location to live, compared to many countries around the world. The cost of living can vary greatly depending on location but it is usually more affordable than other Central Asian countries due to its low wages and lack of economic development. The average monthly salary after tax is only $159 USD.
Goods and services in larger cities tend to be more expensive than in smaller towns and rural areas, with rent often being the largest expense for residents. A one-bedroom apartment in a city centre is roughly $360 per month. The monthly cost for a single person without rent is roughly $370 USD.
Food prices are fairly low with local produce widely available at markets, making it easy to find affordable groceries. All-in-all, Tajikistan can provide potential students with an affordable place to study.
Do I need a visa?
Only people from the following countries can enter Tajikistan visa-free for a certain amount of time:
- Belarus (Unlimited)
- Georgia (Unlimited)
- Kazakhstan (Unlimited)
- Kyrgyzstan (Unlimited)
- Moldova (Unlimited)
- Russia (Unlimited)
- Armenia (Up to 90 days)
- Azerbaijan (Up to 90 days)
- Ukraine (Up to 90 days)
- Uzbekistan (Up to 30 days)
Applying for a student visa
If you want to study in Tajikistan you will need to apply for the Tajikistan Study/Academic Visa. It is issued to foreigners who have been accepted into an educational institution in Tajikistan, post-graduate students, doctorate students, as well as the family members coming with you.
You’ll need to have documents ready including a valid passport, an admission letter from an approved educational institution in Tajikistan, proof of financial stability for the duration of stay, copies of any other previous visas for Tajikistan, proof of health insurance and a completed application form. The visa application fee is separate from any additional fees which may be charged by the Tajik embassy or consulate. Generally speaking, it can take between three to six weeks for the application to be processed. Finally, immigration officers will require travellers to demonstrate that they possess sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay in Tajikistan.
You can apply for a student visa at an Embassy or Consulate (e-visas are only available for tourist visas).
To apply for your visa at your local Tajik embassy or consulate, you’ll need to:
- Register for the Tajikistan visa their website
- Select which embassy you will receive your visa in (if there is not embassy for Tajikistan then you can apply on arrival)
- Fill out the visa form
- Upload required documents
- Pay the visa fee
- Wait for your visa confirmation by email, it usually takes 5 working days
- Take the printed visa conformation email to your nearest Tajikistan embassy or take it with you to apply for a visa when you arrive in the country, depending on your selection.
You can get a Tajik visa upon arrival if you get your electronic authorisation beforehand.
What do I need for my travel visa application?
- Photocopies of your passport that are valid for at least 6 months
- Filled-in visa application form
- 2 passport sized photos
- Letter of acceptance from a university
- Receipt from the university acknowledging payment
- Copies of high school, college and university certificates
- Guarantee letter signed by the sponsor and student, saying the sponsor will cover all expenses for the student and that the student will never apply to a financial institution for funds or support
- Officially approved bank statement for the last 3 months
- Flight reservation
- Sponsor’s ID (can be passport, driver’s license or National ID card)
- Vaccination Card for proof of vaccinations for typhoid and yellow fever
How do I extend my travel visa?
To extend your student visa you will need to apply for an extension by visiting the Migration Service Office located in Dushanbe. Be prepared to provide proof of health insurance coverage as well as evidence verifying your enrolment in school.
Although Tajikistan has experienced several challenges throughout its history, it has now emerged as a growing and vibrant hub of activity. Home to dynamic landscapes, quaint yak herders, and vibrant cities like Dushanbe, if you’re looking a place to study off the beaten track, then you should certainly consider studying in Tajikistan.
I’m an educator and writer living abroad. I love languages, experiencing different cultures and going on adventures with my family.