Tag Archives: Turkey

Abroad Blog of the Week: Turkish Musings

I started following Hayley from Turkish Musings almost four months ago when she was just in the process of preparing for her semester in Ankara. As a study abroad advisor, I can say from experience that Hayley put a lot more time into preparing than most. She debated whether she would wear a headscarf, started learning Turkish on her own, and even got a pen pal. Hayley is now in her fourth week in Ankara and though she’s had her ups and downs, her research and preparation have definitely paid off. Her posts are now filled with her stories in which Hayley has a way of making you feel like you’re traveling with her. For the next four months, she has officially given up Lake Michigan and figure skating (she’s an official for USFS) for the Mediterranean and exploring the history and culture of Turkey. I was able to catch up with Hayley this week to learn more about Turkish Musings and her first few weeks in Ankara.

Your very first post was actually not written by you. How did Turkish Musings get started?

Oh, I forgot about that one! Yes, my friend started my blog for me and she wrote the first post as a type of “friendship love letter.” I keep it because it reminds me of the primary audience I write this blog for: my friends and family back home. After I found out that I was accepted to study abroad at Middle East Technical University, I told everyone that I was going to create a blog to keep in touch with them. But for me, the study abroad process started several months before I arrived in Ankara; I began researching about Turkish and Muslim history and culture and bounced my thoughts, ideas, fears, and goals off my friends. They suggested that I start a blog as soon as possible to share my ideas but I was wary because, really, who wants to read a study abroad blog when the person isn’t even abroad yet? Finally Elizabeth, who I think was sick of my silly excuses, started Turkish Musings and wrote the first post. It jump-started by blogging; I edited some drafts I had been working on, posted a couple posts, received positive feedback from friends and strangers….and here I am right now!

 Now that you’ve been in Turkey for a few weeks, what have you found the most surprising?

This is going to sound silly, but everyone back home told me to look out for Turkish boys because they love blonde girls. But actually, no guy seems to be interested in me–which is awesome because it was never my goal to “find love” or anything like that while I’m here. From what I’ve observed, 1) Most of the people on campus are already in a relationship, and Turkish men are loyal to their women; and 2) If a Turkish guy is looking for a foreign girl, he is first-and-foremost looking for a Russian or Ukrainian. Don’t know why, but that’s what I’ve noticed so far here. I would say guys seem more interested in me in the more touristy parts of Turkey (such as Alanya), but at least I’m safe in the capital!

A second surprising thing is that despite being in a Muslim country, I have yet to see anyone pray during the day. I have noticed several mosques in the city and I hear the call to prayer on campus (in fact the sundown one is going on as I type this), but Turkey is truly secular in that the work day continues and you can’t deter from it!

 At this point, how would you spend a free day in Ankara?

First-and-foremost I would visit a mosque because I have yet to get to one. The largest mosque in Ankara is the Kocatepe Mosque and I’ve heard that it’s worth seeing. I would grab some lunch at a little restaurant (none in particular, there are so many and they’re all good!) and accompany the food with çay (Turkish tea). From there I would go to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations for a few hours–by myself–and take my time going through the exhibits. Even though I went there with the orientation group, we only had 45 minutes and that is not near enough time for a place like that! Shopping would be next; I’d probably start to buy little gifts as Christmas presents for my friends back home (because it’s never too early to shop for Christmas). Finally, I would venture to Kızılay, Ankara’s downtown, with friends and finish off the evening in a cafe with İskander (a meat, bread, and tomato sauce dish that is to die for), live music, good company, and nargile (Turkish water pipe).  🙂

 How are you feeling being away from ice skating?

Being away from skating is somewhat like a double-edged sword. On the one hand it pains me to be gone from my skating family (i.e., other USFS officials) because they have been a formidable part of my life since I was fourteen. Yet I know that in leaving them, if only for a few months, I will come back with my own travel stories and evolving perspective on life which will make me a better-rounded official of U.S. Figure Skating. And actually, a few of my peers will be on a Mediterranean cruise this fall and will be in Izmir in early November for a day. I’m currently researching the possibility of me meeting them there–hopefully I can make it work!

 What did you do that helped you best prepare for your semester in Ankara?

One of the things I did extensively over the summer was listen to Turkish music and watch Turkish movies. I played music constantly during my commutes in the car–probably much to the chagrin of my friends and family. Basically, I found find several songs and artists that sounded cool, found the lyrics to them (and if possible, the English translation) and listened to them….over and over and over. This helped me learn how to pronounce the letters of the Turkish alphabet, learn the inflections and emphasis of longer words, and it helped familiarize my brain with Turkish in general. Even though I didn’t know the meaning of the words, by the end of the summer I could sing along with many of the songs. And now that I’m attempting to learn Turkish here, I can concentrate more on vocabulary and phrases than on my pronunciation.

Hayley, thanks for the great interview!  

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Where Are You From?

In the past, if I heard anyone speak with an accent, I would always wonder where they were from but would never ask. I thought it might be rude or make them feel uncomfortable. Well, I’ve thrown that notion out the window. For someone who is trying to be global from home, that just won’t work. Over the past several weeks, I came in contact with three individuals who were clearly not born in the U.S. based on their accents. Rather than just smiling politely and going my own way, I took the risk of asking where they were from.

The first was a Mexican man who was working at a restaurant here in OKC. I noticed he was a little shy telling me where he was from, but when I immediately responded that I had recently been to Mexico and really enjoyed exploring it, his mood visibly changed. He began to tell me about his hometown, how long he had been in the States, and then asked me my opinion on safety in Mexico. He said he had not visited home in years, but based on the news, he questioned how safe it would be to return to Mexico with his family.

My second experience was with a man who had recently come to the United States from Iraq. He told me about having to leave his wife and baby daughter in Baghdad but has hopes that he will be able to bring them over soon. He told me he wants to get his master’s degree in engineering and how his father went to college in the U.S. at the University of Georgia. We ended up spending several minutes talking about taking the TEFL and the quality of the Georgia football team this year.

The third person I met owns a furniture store in Atlanta and moved to the U.S. from Turkey 18 years ago. But before coming across the pond, she also lived in France and the UK. She talked about having her mother still in Turkey and the challenges of going back home to see her three or four times a year. She told me how she speaks four languages and her brother speaks five. We talked about technology and how something that is suppose to help connect us, often disconnects us from the person sitting beside us.

What I’ve been discovering is that behind the accent there is a story. Leaving your home country and moving is never easy – there are language challenges, family left behind, and new customs to learn. And while I certainly hope that I’m not offending the people I meet, I am so curious to hear about their stories. I am entranced as they tell about what they’ve overcome to be where they are, and I’m eager to hear why they left the familiarity of home to come here. In the end, each time I ask the question “Where are you from?” I believe I am taught something new about the world that I never would have learned if I had to decided to be just be polite and mind my own business.

 

Abroad Blog(s) of the Week: Ones to Watch

This week I thought I would do something a bit different and highlight a few blogs that I’ve been following. What each of these bloggers have in common is that they are preparing to study abroad. They come from various places and each is headed some place different, but all of them are taking a great deal of time and effort to prepare for their journey, which I hope leads to a great abroad blog. Here are some new ones to add to your reader:

Mary in Haifa

Like me, Mary is a study abroad professional. She travels the country helping students study abroad affordably in really interesting locations. Mary is taking a year leave from work to study abroad again (jealous), but this time, she’s doing her Master’s degree in Haifa, Israel in Holocaust Studies. Mary’s blog has so much depth already because she knows what she is getting herself into. She is prepared and has even reached out to the local roller derby team in Haifa to meet friends. This is definitely one to add to your blog roll for this fall.

FREEdom Abroad

I happen to have the privilege of being the advisor to the lovely blogger of FREEdom Abroad. Katie is first headed to London at the end of July for a semester abroad with our university, then will be traveling through Asia independently, and she’ll finish out the year with a semester in Budapest, Hungary. As a journalism major, Katie’s writing is interesting and inquisitive. She is constantly wanting to try something new and she is highly adventurous (sometimes to the dismay of her study abroad advisor!).

Turkish Musings

This blog is written by Hayley, a senior at Grand Valley State University headed to Turkey for the semester. Hayley’s prep has been extensive. She posts regularly and goes into detail into everything from learning the Turkish alphabet, saying goodbye to friends, and the visa and financial aid process. I’ve allow noticed that Hayley is pretty active in the blogosphere and is reading a lot of abroad blogs to prepare. I’m pretty eager for Hayley to go abroad to read her personal Turkish musings. One more fun fact about Hayley – she’s a regional official for the US Figure Skating Association.

Adelaide for a Year

I’ve only been following Anthony of Adelaide for a Year for a about a week but I’ve enjoyed going back through this prep posts. From Essex, UK, Anthony just arrived in Australia to spend a year studying at Flinders University in Adelaide. There are so few men that study abroad and blog about it that I was excited to find Anthony’s site. His new camera seems to be serving him well and I really appreciated his first post about leaving home. Now that he’s just arrive in Adelaide, I’m sure he’ll have some great pictures up soon.