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"It's amazing," said Kosimov, who is a Fulbright Scholar from Tajikistan being hosted by the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. "It's crazy and energetic, and I can see the big screen (the JumboTron) from my apartment."
Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, is just a little more than 13,000 square miles larger than Tennessee, and Kosimov is awed at the fact that UT has the second-largest football stadium in the United States.
But what impresses him even more is Hodges Library.
"You have a very brilliant library," Kosimov said, apologizing for any mix up in adjectives. "I have found so much information in the library. There are so many books — I just wish I could take all of them home."
Kosimov is a professor at a Tajik university in the capital city of Dushanbe, where he teaches classes on topics ranging from media and minorities to new media formats in the digital age.
He is the first Fulbright Scholar the School of Journalism and Electronic Media has hosted in recent years. His primary area of research lies in mass communication, and he plans to write a textbook in his native language of Tajik when he returns to his country in June.
Fulbright grants allow U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries to study and teach a variety of topics abroad. Scholars are chosen for their leadership potential, and nearly 275,000 scholars — 45,000 of them foreign — have been given the opportunity to study abroad since the program's inception in 1946.
Tajikistan is a relatively young country, having declared its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The country's development was stunted by a civil war that lasted from 1992 to 1997, and Kosimov said it is just beginning to reap the benefits of a newly established government and a growing economy.
"As a former Soviet Republic, Tajikistan is simply ignorant in the field of mass communication, especially journalism," he said. "That is the reason we are not more developed as a country, and I must learn the field of mass communication in the U.S. and how it developed here so that I can teach that in my country."
When Tajikistan first declared its independence, Kosimov said the media were initially quite active in the region, only to have the civil war deliver a severe financial blow to the industry. Since the strife ended, Kosimov said, media have been struggling to gain strength.
Kosimov said the country must learn how to manage an industry that has not always been independent of the government.
"The civil war had such a negative effect on many of our educational systems and other systems because of the economic problems it created," he said. "Our media have now begun political writing, but this is a hard period for us because our media are very poor financially. We still need to learn more about independent media, which is something that is very important to society."
What interests Kosimov most is the recent rise in digital media, especially the Internet. The staggering amount of information afforded by the Internet has yet to be realized by countries like Tajikistan.
"There is so much information here that I can learn to take back to my country, so many textbooks that I can study in order that we can change the way we teach our media subjects in the universities. We can decide what is best for us," Kosimov said. "I look on the Internet and get 2,000 dissertations to read. Now I'm just trying to figure out how I can take all these back home with me."