Turkey is beautiful and Turks are some of the sweetest and warmest people I’ve met.
I live in Kirikkale, a very small and rural city located an hour and a half away from Ankara (Turkey’s capital). At Kirikkale University, I teach four English speaking classes to English-Turkish Translation students and a Speaking Elective class for Engineering majors. Additionally, I also lead four English speaking clubs open to all students.
In the beginning of the semester, I found it difficult to help my students improve. During the Fulbright teaching orientation, we were trained to teach very basic English, but my students’ English proficiency is very advanced. I had to adjust my entire teaching approach, and in the end it worked. I even taught a few classes about “awareness,” restorative justice, and social contract political theory.
My colleagues, new friends, and especially my students have been the highlight of my experience. Most of the teachers in my department are smart, sweet, young women. Five of them have been trying to learn Spanish for a while, and they enjoy having me around to practice. In return, they support my efforts in learning Turkish.
On top of my teaching responsibilities, I’m also taking an intensive Turkish course offered to Engineering students at my university. Most of them are Syrian refugees. They have to study Turkish for a year before they can start with their studies (B.S., M.A., Ph.D.). They meet 30 hours a week, but given my teaching schedule, I can only be there 8 hours. They are mostly male Arabic speakers. Some of them know a little English and try to help me understand the lessons. The other day, they were also teaching me the Arabic alphabet. It was hard!!! They are great people, and they have become my first group of friends.
My students have been so good to me. They call me “Marimiz” which means “our Mari.” One of them has become my unofficial Turkish tutor, another one took me to get my hair done, and a group of them prepared me a surprise homemade Turkish breakfast last Sunday. I am very sad that next semester I will have new students, but I am hopeful that they will be as nice. The relationships that I’ve built make me want to renew my grant to spend another year teaching in Turkey.
I included pictures from my experiences and travels in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus (a Turkish territory). I hope you enjoy them!
Wishing you Happy Holidays and a New Year filled with prosperity and success!