Margaret Kurkoski ’12 from Turkey

Two weeks ago, I was on Istiklal Caddesi, the most famous street in Istanbul, surrounded by musicians, coffeeshops and crowds of busy shoppers. One week ago, I was wandering around ancient Termessos, nearly alone on an isolated mountain and surrounded by monuments predating the Byzantine Emperor Constantine. I’ve only been living in Turkey for three months now, and already a year doesn’t seem like enough time to see everything this country has to offer.

Teaching has granted me the chance to give back to Turkey as I’m learning from it. Currently, I am the only native English speaker in the foreign languages department of my university, and I focus on speaking and listening skills. Every day, I’m challenged and energized by my students, most of whom will one day be English teachers themselves. It has been a steep learning curve at times, particularly as a complete newcomer to the profession, but I am really excited by what each work day brings.

Marichuy Gomez ’14 from Turkey

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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I included pictures from my experiences and travels in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus (a Turkish territory). I hope you enjoy them!
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Wishing you Happy Holidays and a New Year filled with prosperity and success!

Pepper Neff ’14 from Turkey

Hello! This is Pepper writing from the end of my year in Turkey! My city is called Elaziğ (pronounced Ela-zuh), in the south-eastern part of the country. I have been teaching a mix of grammar and speaking classes to mostly engineering students in their first year of university. A foreigner is a kind of rarity in the city, which has been a sometimes humorous and sometimes difficult experience. But the incredible moments have made it entirely worth every difficulty. So I present, Elaziğ!:

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The view from my office.

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The nearby town Sivrice and lake Hazar.

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A stroll up to our local Seljuk castle (called the “milk castle” because they supposedly ran out of water for mortar during the construction and had to use milk).

I have been able both to travel within my region of Turkey, and in other regions. I went to Gaziantep a month or so ago, which is a large city relatively close to me (5-6 hours by bus). It’s a very cool city, and I almost heard as much Arabic spoken as Turkish. I visited an old Armenian church-turned-mosque, which for years was in ruins but is now being renovated.

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View of Antep from the roof.

I’ve also been able to see Istanbul a number of times. Last fall, I went to the Istanbul Marathon. Although I didn’t run in the marathon, the bridge over the Bosphorus was closed to traffic and open to pedestrians for one day – giving us the opportunity to walk from the Asian to the European continent.

Well, that’s a taste of my experience here. And if it isn’t enough of a taste, here’s a photo of Turkish breakfast I had together with another Fulbrighter – Sabeen Ahmed (who took the photo). It’s been a wonderful and challenging year. I’m so grateful to have been giving this opportunity. And my Turkish isn’t half bad 7 months later 😉 So görüşürüz for now!unnamed-8