Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Wondrous Shanghai World Expo 2010: A once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Heibao - mascot of Expo 2010
    In my opinion, one of the greatest things about my university in Beijing (BISU) was a tradition they had that rewarded hardworking students. All students who attended 100% of their courses and earned high grades received certificates of excellence and a prize trip to various Chinese cities. For my first trip, I went to Mount Pan (盘山), next time to Shanghai, and later to Xi’an. In 2010, the competition was very stiff – only the top 20 students would get the opportunity to go to Shanghai. 

Zhujiajiao Town
    I couldn’t believe my happiness when after finishing all exams, I was one of the lucky and hard-working students who was awarded the trip. Along with the Dean of the school, a few teachers, and my fellow classmates, I travelled to Shanghai via high-speed train and spent 3 days exploring the city. We spent one full day in the Shanghai Expo and the other days in Shanghai city and “Venice of China” – Zhujiajiao Town. 

    One of the most impressive aspects of that journey was the Shanghai Expo 2010, which I would like to discuss with you today. The Expo was held from May 1st – October 31st 2010 on both banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai. The theme of the exposition was "Better City – Better Life" and it demonstrated Shanghai's emerging status in the 21st century as the "next great world city". The event had the largest number of countries ever in attendance and it was the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs. The Shanghai World Expo was also the largest World's Fair site ever, measuring in at 5.28 square km, and hosted over 73 million visitors (a record attendance).     

French pavilion
    Before the trip I was dreaming to see the French pavilion within the Expo, as I had seen it on TV and was pretty impressed. Dubbed ‘The Sensual City’, the pavilion is a simple building with a large, French-style garden. I also visited the pavilions of Germany, Spain, and the UK among others. 

Azerbaijani Pavilion
    Outside each pavilion, there were extremely long lines of people, sometimes kilometres in length! In some instances, people waited in line for more than 3 hours to get in. Of course, I visited the Azerbaijani pavilion as well, with one of our teachers and some other students. It was smaller than others, but still well made and attracted many visitors. 

    This year, the World Expo is taking place in Milan. Below is an excerpt from the Expo website, detailing the events that will take place:
“Expo Milano 2015 is the Universal Exhibition that Milan, Italy, is hosting from May 1 to October 31, 2015. 140 participating countries show the best of their technology that offers a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium. A platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, stimulating each country’s creativity and promoting innovation for a sustainable future, Expo 2015 gives everyone the opportunity to find out about, and taste, the world’s best dishes, while discovering the best of the agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each of the exhibitor countries” (

    Overall, my trip to Shanghai, and particularly the World Expo, is one that I truly value. The city of Shanghai was enthralling and beautiful – I really enjoyed the urban landscape. Also, the World Expo is a once in a lifetime experience. I encourage all of you to attend at some stage if you get the chance! 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Games of a Lifetime: The First European Games in Baku

     Like many Azerbaijani people, I was overcome with excitement for the 1st European Games in Baku. I remember the city pull together for the Eurovision Song contest in 2012 and was pleasantly surprised with the city’s transformation and level of organization. Therefore, I had high expectations for the European Games. But after watching the opening ceremony I found that it exceeded all my expectations. I would go so far as to say it was as breath taking as the Beijing Olympic Games, demonstrating Azerbaijan’s dedication to the European Games. It was both visually and aurally impressive: the fireworks, dancers, and music showed so much of the history and culture of Azerbaijan. I felt so proud to be from Baku!

Opening Ceremony

    Unfortunately, I was not able to be in Baku for the opening ceremony, which started on 12 June in the Olympic Stadium. Luckily, the Azerbaijani Student Network (ASN) in Berlin organized a public viewing in Charlie's Beach, so I was still able to celebrate this event with other Azerbaijani people from Berlin and also with many other nationalities who were there at the public viewing.

    Right after work, my sister and I joined a virtual community of millions of Azerbaijani people watching the ceremony around the world. I was so proud from the first minutes of watching the ceremony. It was a very beautiful and colorful show, with great content showing the culture, history, traditions and specialties of our country. Azerbaijan is a country which is often misunderstood in the international community. The opening ceremony allowed for the international community to understand that Azerbaijan is a well-developed country with many fine traditions, bright young people, and a unique culture. One of the main cultural traditions showcased was rug weaving. An amazing choreographed dance displayed the most beautiful traditional patterns, using colour-changing skirts. It was stunning, and I’m proud that our people have such great taste. In my opinion, the show couldn’t have been better. We all felt that there was a lot of effort invested and they really did their best to benefit all of Europe.

    Some people complained that it was immoral to invest such a large amount of money into an event rather than into social services for the Azerbaijani people. However, I think that hosting these games was an important step for Azerbaijan.

    Firstly, it raised awareness about our country and dispelled the wrong impressions and stereotypes. Secondly, it created a positive view of Azerbaijan as a developed country that can stand on its own and do amazing things. Thirdly, for so many homesick Azerbaijani people living abroad, it was just amazing to watch this ceremony and be proud of how our city is getting more and more beautiful every day. It’s becoming an impressive modern city, tall and stunning.

    After 17 days of amazing games which were participated in by many European countries (I encourage you to watch them to see how great they are!), on the 29th of June I watched the closing ceremony at home on TV. It was as epic as the opening ceremony. Contributors and volunteers were acknowledged, athletes were celebrated. It was a perfect celebration for the first European games. At the end, there was another brilliant fireworks display even better than the one at the opening ceremony coupled with celebrities singing popular songs, dancing, and live-performance artwork. Azerbaijan’s history, traditions, and culture were all celebrated by the most talented performers in the country. It was a perfect way to mark the closing of the 1st European Games. You are welcome to watch both ceremonies under the following links:

    I encourage people to come and visit our beautiful country and see how it is visitor friendly, with its own traditions and culture, delicious food, nice weather and so much more. Come enjoy the beaches by Caspian Sea, the beautiful scenery, our colorful traditions, and many other things! The Azerbaijani people will be happy to show you around our country.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mastering one’s career path

    After finishing a bachelor’s programme, many people face a dilemma regarding what to do next. To work? To get a Master degree? If Master degree, then where and which subject?

    I also had this dilemma and was thinking about all pros and cons. I had a chance to stay in China for my masters but at the end I decided to leave and go to Germany.

    I had studied my bachelor with a focus on Chinese language and studies, so for my masters I was determined to broaden my skills to include business, economics, management and finance. I spent a year screening German universities until I found the Chinese European Economics and Business Studies (CEEBS) programme in Berlin School of Economics and Law and decided it was the best option for me, as it was a good school with a programme that offers modules that I need, and included a compulsory semester abroad in China. Perhaps the most attractive thing about the programme is that I will earn a double degree from both Berlin School of Economics and Law  and  Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE).

    My advice for people who are deliberating about their future after earning a bachelors degree is to take a break for a couple of years between bachelor and master studies, to work on internships, gain extra skills and try to understand what you really want to do and then go ahead and choose a program to study.

    From my experience in Germany, it’s really hard to get in master program with different subject from your bachelor subject. Luckily I found one, but it is much more difficult when you are changing programmes and you may be required to take additional course work prior to applying.

    If you are thinking of looking into furthering your education, I recommend checking out the following websites: and

    Here you can find a good list of university programs but the list does not contain all programmes available in Europe. Take the time to search on your own, based on your interests to find programmes that are best suited to you. There are literally hundreds of options for burgeoning professionals in a variety of fields. Enjoy the journey of discovery!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bizmklier 3.0 – An introduction to Azerbaijani Music and Traditions

    Couple of days ago I was amazed with a video I saw on YouTube and want to share my impressions with you. Today I would like to introduce a beautiful, yet often overlooked, musical project: Bizimkiler 3.0. This group has covered many world-famous songs relying upon Azerbaijani national instruments. Some artists they’ve covered include Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Muslim Magomayev, Chuck Berry, U2, among many others.

    The “Bizimkiler" projects’ first edition came out on TV and in the internet in 2012, right before the Eurovision 2012 song contest, and has since been developed in order to attract the attention of tourists and visitors. The author of the project is Seyfulla Mustafayev, Samira Safaraliyeva is the project editor and the producer is Aynur Huseynova. The project immediately became a Youtube phenomen. “Bizimkiler" is not a music band with fixed team, but a project with many different invited musicians and every time changing performers and singers.

    During "Bizimkiler" project, world famous pop and classic hit songs were performed in modern improvisation, with the help of Azerbaijani instruments and mugham performers (Mugham or mugam is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif, Ashugs). These musicians are true professionals and their talent is remarkable! Feel free to listen to some covers on the links below. You won’t be disappointed:

Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack!

t.A.T.u. - Not gonna get us

Michael Jackson - They don't care about us

Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell

U2 - With Or Without You

    So other than this music project, I would also like to introduce you Azerbaijani music instruments. Our music instruments are: the
tar (skin faced lute), the kamancha (skin faced spike fiddle), and the saz (long necked lute); the double-reed wind instrument balaban, the frame drum ghaval, the cylindrical double faced drum nagara (davul), and the goshe nagara (naqareh) (pair of small kettle drums). Azerbijanis also play the garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), and daf (frame drum).

    Azerbaijani music is the result of a long historical process, resulting from the formation and development of unique, deeply realistic traditions. Until the 20th century, these traditions were primarily oral in nature. However, over time, they developed into folk music and began acquiring the features of professional art, particularly in the works of ashugs and mugham.

    So go ahead and follow the links attached above and familiarize yourself with some traditional Azerbijiani musical instruments and styles!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Eurovision 2012: Introducing Azerbaijan to the World

    The Eurovision song contest is the longest running TV song competition show in the world. The competition has been held annually since 1956 and each country in Europe selects a musical act to go forward and represent their nation in the song contest. Each country is required to submit an original song to be performed on live television and then citizens vote to select the most popular show in the competition.

    During the 2012 competition, which took place in Baku, I was in Beijing. I was desperate to go back to Baku to celebrate this momentous event with all other Azeri people but unfortunately, I couldn't because I had exams. But later I watched the show in Internet and was amazed by the level of organization. Especially for this event the Crystal Hall was built and also many other constructions in the city. It was a big change of Baku city and it became even more beautiful and attractive. After Eurovision I came to Baku on my holidays and was amazed with the positive change of the city.

    You can watch the Grand Final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest on

    I remember in 2011, when Azerbaijan was performing in Eurovision in Germany, I was also in Beijing. Because of time difference and low Internet speed, it was impossible for me to watch it online and I went to sleep hoping and dreaming that my country would win. That year, the Azerbaijani song was fantastic - I liked it very much and really believed that Azerbaijan would perform well. In the morning, I had a message from my mother saying that Azerbaijan won and I was in shock from happiness! I was jumping up and down – I couldn’t believe it was true. Then I went online and confirmed the wonderful news. I was so proud for my country! Next day I was so excited and shared the good news with all my university friends.

    Here is the performance of Azerbaijan Eurovision 2011 - Ell and Nikki - Running Scared:

    Similar to The First European Games in Baku, I believe these kinds of events are very important for Azerbaijan’s economical development. Now living in Europe, I know that many people are more familiar with our country thanks to Eurovision 2012. Now that Azerbaijan is becoming more well-known around Europe and the world, I hope that more people will come to visit our beautiful country.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Wonderful Sport of Chess

    When I was 8, my parents put me in a chess school in the city centre for additional education. It was a state-owned school with free education.

    My teacher Pavel Zhozefovich was a great person and great chess teacher who had a great passion for chess. He was the first coach of Teimour Radjabov - an Azerbaijani chess Grandmaster and former chess prodigy.

    The teacher said that it is better to start around 5 or 6 years old if you want to be a professional chess player. But even though 8 years old was a little bit late to start, he took me after some examinations. In that chess school I learned everything from zero. The teacher showed me the figures and taught me what they were called. I was watching and listening with much interest. I started as a beginner and step-by-step was improving my skills. I even had chess homework and chess exercise books. I visited the school twice per week. Then we had in-school chess degree competitions. I got 4th degree on the first try. And later I got 3rd degree also on the first try but 3rd was already much more difficult to get. In Azerbaijan we use the Elo rating scale, where 4th is the lowest and 1st is the highest degree, and then you get to master and grandmaster.

    At home I played a lot with my dad or my sister, or with whoever was there and could play chess. It is important to train as much as possible. Chess teaches you to sit on one place and concentrate. I find it very useful for kids who are learning to concentrate. It helps with general development and even with studying other subjects at school. Chess teaches us to see things differently: don't touch before you are sure how to move, think many steps ahead, don’t make fatal mistakes, and be careful.

    Other than chess school competitions, there were also chess competitions at my middle school where 6 best chess players were selected to represent our school in inter-school-competitions. We were a chess team with 4 guys and 2 girls (my sister and me). For many years we competed and always got 1st place in the city. It was very interesting and an exciting time. I remember before each competition our team was meeting and playing against each other to train. I made many friends during that time.

    I remember once there was a competition held in another school. After all the games were over I was the last to play against a guy from another school. It was already too late and even our teacher who had to look after us, had to leave home. I didn't want to give up till the end. Everyone was telling me to come on, just leave it. But I fought till the end although it was late and after I did it I was screaming: I did it!!! I won!! So… never give up! :D

    Later, after my teacher knew that I’d been to China, every time I met him he asked if I knew how to play Chinese chess (it’s different than International chess) and unfortunately I had no idea. But he was so interested that kept asking all the time and couldn’t stop talking about Chinese chess :D Maybe I should go back to China to learn it!

    I find chess very interesting and it's a pity that I quit professional training some years ago. It takes a lot of time and practice to continue to play well at chess! But I still like playing sometimes even today, though I’m a little out of practice. It is a good hobby and I’m happy I had a chance to learn this interesting game, which counts as a sport, by the way. In fact, in Azerbaijan, chess is one of the most popular sports. It became popular when the Soviets started chess schools in the 1920s, and has only gotten more popular since then. Garry Kasparov - a chess Grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, was born in Baku also. He was one of my inspirations for learning to play chess.

    Let's play a game of chess? E2 - E4 :D

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Don’t Give Away Your Talents

    Other than chess, my biggest hobby in school was drawing. I loved drawing the Caspian Sea, landscapes, animals, fruits, and flowers. I attended school drawing classes and took part in a drawing contest. Also my mom took me to extra drawing classes where I improved my skills.

    I remember one school contest where I drew 3 pictures and 2 of them were presented to the mayor of Moscow who was visiting our school. Now I feel sad that I didn't keep them for myself as a memory.

    Our drawing teacher Firuza Shadybekovna is a very nice person and till today I remember that time improving my drawing skills and enjoying the process.

    I think art is also very important for general development. To learn to see beauty, to look at the world a different way, and to understand other artists and their intentions are all great reasons for learning art. I feel nowadays people are getting more and more materialistic and have no time for hobbies or for enjoying beauty. I hope soon I will start drawing again and am for sure going to share the results here with you. Maybe I’ll illustrate a blog post for you!

    Now I like to go to galleries like the Gallery Berlin-Baku in Berlin and enjoy art from painters from all over the world. What makes the art at the Gallery Berlin-Baku special to me, though, is that it focuses on the relationship between Azerbaijan and Germany. It helps young people focus on their artwork and learning too, since there are exchange programs between Berlin and Baku’s art schools.

    Art is a great way to showcase creativity and appreciate beauty. Try it sometime, and see what you think. And at the end don't give away your drawings! :) Or at least make a photocopy as a memory.