Discover Daniil’s journey to IE University: from “seashell dream” to reality

@Alejandra Acedo

IE University will influence Daniil Kim’s journey in the years to come. But he will also influence IE University with his dynamism and determination, forging forward to experience the best life has to offer.

19-year-old Daniil Kim set a goal for himself from a young age. He had dreams of seeing, and later studying in, what seemed at first like a far-off land. But he anchored his dreams in a practical mindset and strong work ethic, and after overcoming many obstacles, persevering, and always keeping the dream as his focal point, he got where he wanted to go. Now he is studying at IE University with an IB Scholarship. Since he’s reached his goal to get here, he’s now seeing where the opportunity will take him.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Daniil Kim. I am 19 years old, and I come from a small central Asian country that the majority of people don’t even know exists called the Kyrgyz Republic, or just Kyrgyzstan. I was born and raised in Bishkek, the country’s capital, where you can see the ice caps of the Tian Shan mountains just 50 kilometers away every morning when you wake up and look out the window. I studied at local Russian schools until the age of 14, and after receiving a scholarship, I went to the very young Bishkek International School. There, I got the chance to learn English properly and later, to become one of the pioneers of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme in our country.

When did you hear about the scholarship? What was the process like to get it? Which academic benefits did it offer you?

I heard about the opportunity to receive scholarships, including the IB scholarship that I received, during a presentation by an IE University representative at our school. After being admitted, my main goal was to receive a scholarship, because if I didn’t get one, it would have been difficult for my family to afford my education here. My parents were not very happy that I was sacrificing my health, not to mention personal life, to get good grades in the IB. They often tried to reassure me, telling me it was fine if I didn’t get the scholarship, and that I would just go to some other university instead. But I had a goal in mind, and I didn’t want to go to “some other university.” There was a principle I stuck to: “If you have a goal, run to it. If you can’t run, walk to it. If you can’t walk, crawl towards it. And if you can’t even crawl, at least lie down and look in its direction.” The fact that I always tried to look in the direction of this goal finally brought me here.

Why did you choose IE University? What did you like about Spain?

That’s a different story that I call my “seashells dream.” When I was 12 years old, my aunt brought me two nice seashells from Greece. After a while, I had a dream in which I was at the beach with lots of seashells around me. It seemed so real and beautiful that I wanted to see it in real life. The next day I told my dad I wanted to go to the sea. He laughed at my capriciousness, but I started asking people where I should go anyway. One of my classmates told me that she had lived in Venezuela before, and she said that I had to go there. My dad found out how to get there, just to fulfill my curiosity, but it was so complicated and expensive that I ended up spending my summer holidays in Kyrgyzstan. However, just as a matter of interest I asked the classmate to write a couple of phrases in the language people speak in Venezuela, which she ostensibly spoke well. Even though all the phrases she gave me were from a Spanish song, they kindled a new interest in me: to learn Spanish.

I went to my parents again with another dream. They were surprised and said no, because Spanish was not a useful language for a Kyrgyz citizen to speak. I didn’t listen to that either. I found a teacher, scheduled weekly classes, and then told my parents about it. I spent five years learning Spanish. Finally, after going to Spain for holidays, I decided to study here in the future, and coincidentally, during my first year in the IB, an IE University representative came to our school to tell us about the university. I was eventually choosing between a university in Barcelona and IE University, but liked IE University more, and now, here I am.

So dreams can actually be life-changing, because all of that started with a dream about a beach full of seashells.

What kind of skills have you developed during this first year at IE University?

The main benefits I have taken away from my first year are not so much skills as opportunities and connections. Presentations given by influential people, studying with instructors who have astonishing portfolios, regular meetings with an experienced senior director of corporate finance in a consulting firm as part of the Corporate Mentorship program—I think all of this will be valuable in the future.

What about your life in Madrid?

The main thing that I like about Madrid is that it’s warm here, like my home city. I am a thermophilic plant, I like warmth, so I would not want to live in Germany, for example, and definitely not in Siberia. I also appreciate the feeling of safety in Madrid at night, at least where I live, which I didn’t really have in Bishkek. Anything could happen there, even in the center of the city.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?

When I have free time I often read in different languages, so that I don’t forget my first language and can improve the ones I’ve been learning. I am also an amateur lepidopterologist, which means that I study and collect butterflies, trying to preserve their beauty and allowing other people to see it. But my main passion is music. I started playing the piano, which a friend gave us as a present in 2009. But my interest faded in about a month. The piano became just a useless piece of furniture until 2014 when I finally started playing it regularly for some reason… I don’t remember now what it was.

Have you been playing these instruments while here in Madrid?

With the guitar, it was pretty simple—I just bought one. I play it whenever I want to and have time. The situation with the piano was more complicated—I prefer real instruments to electric ones, and getting an apartment in the center of Madrid where I could fit a grand piano was not an affordable option, so I went to a grand piano shop and asked them for music school contacts in Madrid. I went to one of the schools, bought a subscription to be able to play there, and since then, I’ve been going once or twice a week to play.

Are there any other activities that you like to do here in Madrid or when you’re back in Kyrgyzstan?

I have tried several kinds of sports, such as tennis, volleyball, swimming, and martial arts, but what I like most is figure skating. I am attracted more to its technical side than the artistic element. I like the challenges of mastering new jumps and spins, and also the feeling of freedom that high speed on ice gives me. I had to stop skating for several reasons, but hope to be able to continue here in Madrid soon.

IE University will influence Daniil Kim’s journey in the years to come. But he will also influence IE University with his dynamism and determination, forging forward to experience the best life has to offer.