International Coffee Hour takes students on a journey through Kazakhstan


Beshbarmak, Burabay and Kurt are three words that most Kansas State students didn’t grow up hearing. However, they were very relevant in Saya Kakim’s life growing up in Atyrau, Kazakhstan.

On Friday, the International Student and Scholar Services office hosted the first International Coffee Hour of the semester. This month, the event featured a presentation over the diverse country of Kazakhstan.

Kakim, a graduate student at K-State, spoke about her native country through a Zoom call to students and visitors. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked nation on Earth and one of the top 10 largest countries by area.

“To give you some perspective, my country is four times the size of Texas and 13 times the size of Kansas,” Kakim said. “Even though the country is big, we have a smaller population of 19 million and over 130 ethnicities.”

Kakim talked about some of the beautiful national parks and tourist attractions around the country. She said Burabay National Park has some of the most photogenic lakes and Altyn-Emel National Park has sand dunes that sing in the wind. However, the land in Kakim’s hometown is flat, so the Kansas countryside reminds her of home.

After her descriptions of nature in Kazakhstan, she talked about traditional cuisine from her country. While Kazakhs eat mostly meat with each meal, the food varies based on their location in the large country.

“We have some very traditional meals that we serve in my household,” Kakim said. “Each family’s meals are different in Kazakhstan. In the west, pancakes were very common, and we made them a lot, but not in the east.”

Some examples of traditional Kazakh cuisine are Beshbarmak — boiled horseflesh on large noodles — Kurt, thick balls of sour cream and beluga fish on potatoes.

Kent and Jane McKinney both lived in Kazakhstan while in the peace corps and spoke of the warmth they felt from the native Kazakhs.

“We enjoyed the exposure to the Kazahk culture very much,” Kent McKinney said. “The people we met there were really friendly, and there was always enough food for ten times as many people who showed up.”

Paparwee Sungkatavat, a graduate assistant at ISSS, coordinated this culturally enriching experience.

“Coffee Hour is a great opportunity for students to learn about other nations,” Sungkatavat said. “It promotes awareness and discussion among those attending the presentation about the country that is being presented.”