Dan Szetela ’19 recently traveled around Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan while working for American Councils for International Education. He rode a horse for the first time in Jeti Oguz, where he also watched horseback riders play Ulak, the Kyrgyz version of a traditional Central Asian polo-like sport.

Landed is an ongoing series where we ask recent graduates how things are going post-graduation. Here, Dan Szetela ’19 shares his path since graduation. Reporting by Dennis Krolevich ’26

Dan Szetela ’19
Political Science, Russian Studies

Acton, Mass.
Currently working at the American Councils for International Education in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Last three things you did before your current role:

  • Single-staffer legislative aid for Massachusetts statehouse 
  • Fulbright in Petrozavodsk, Russia
  • Internship for Keith Ellison campaign for attorney general (MN)

What did you learn?
All this work has made me realize that I want to build community, whether it’s on an international level of citizen diplomacy or on a local level, to make sure that people have access to services, housing, transportation, etc. It was very interesting to work with my own state representative as well as intern at the Minnesota State Senate while at Macalester. Both of these experiences made me appreciate and realize the power of state government to serve people. In addition, my experience in Petrozavodsk and here in Kazakhstan have helped me live independently in a foreign country, where I know the language but am not necessarily fluent in it nor aware of all the customs. It’s really about being able to adapt to a life that is different from what I am used to and requires operating in a different language.

Dan met an expert eagle hunter, who demonstrated his craft in Bokonbayevo.

I never thought when I was a first year that…
I’d travel and see new places and make friends all over the world. 

My first-year course was Contemporary Mongolia. We really got into Mongol culture and learned about one of the main drinks in Mongolia, kumis (fermented mare’s milk). If you had told me that five to six years from that point I would be drinking real kumis in Kazakhstan, I would not have believed you.

What has surprised you since graduation?
I like being in the workforce. I like being on a nine-to-five schedule. Something that surprised me was how helpful it’s been to have free time. I wrote and released an album last year because I had free time outside of work to actually focus on things like music. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel.

Advice for current students
Try to get more comfortable with reaching out to connections because people are happy to talk to you, especially if you aren’t demanding something from them and you’re just interested in what they’re doing. It might seem scary, but it does work. Secondly, pursue your interests as much as possible because it will help you in weird and interesting ways.

February 14 2023

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