Nisagul Imin

Silk Road Instructor

B.A., Mathematics, Xinjiang University

Born and raised near Urumqi, the largest city in Xinjiang, Nisagul Imin grew up hearing stories about the outside world from her father, who often traveled to the far reaches of the province for work. Whenever he returned home he would excitedly share tales of the places he had visited and seen, the people he had met and spoken with, and the new foods he had eaten. At that time Nisagul, had no idea that one day she too would become so engaged and enchanted by travel, herself. Her sole aspiration at the time was to become a teacher.

Although Nisagul expected to become a math teacher upon graduation, during her time as a student a chance encounter altered her life direction. Two foreign students from Japan also happened to be enrolled at Xinjiang University. They were studying Nisagul’s native language, Uyghur. One day they asked if she would accompany them to the ancient city of Turfan, two hours away from Urumqi. Nisagul had never been that far from home.

Playing an impromptu guide for the first time, she arranged a stay with family friends, escorted the students around town, and explained Uyghur culture–speaking in a mix of Uyghur, Mandarin and Japanese. Nisagul became excited about the potential for this role.

Upon returning to Xinjiang University she encountered more foreign students, many of whom spoke English. At that time, the language seemed unusual and exotic-sounding to her. Somehow the new sounds felt comfortable, and Nisagul spent the next few years studying and perfecting her English-language proficiency.

Since graduation Nisagul has spent several years working as a travel guide. She has led groups, speaking both English and Mandarin, throughout her native region of Xinjiang and far beyond. Her work excites her, both in how it has taken her to see far-flung cities she never imagined visiting and how it has allowed her to share elements of her Uyghur culture. Nisagul sums it all up in one sentence:

“Talking to people about Uyghur culture: our life, our food, our music, then seeing people become interested in our traditions is what gives me the most joy.”