I studied abroad in Turkey
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 13:09
Most students see a Listserv pop up in their NDSU inbox and immediately click the “Delete” button. However, Emily Grenz, a senior majoring in English and history education, decided to continue reading.
The Listserv sent out by the NDSU Study Abroad office included a link which would help students interested in studying abroad to receive financial assistance. What began as a curious click for more information ended up changing Emily’s life.
“I’ve always wanted to study abroad. I have traveled a lot on my own so I was looking for something that wouldn’t cost me a whole lot, because some study abroad programs are quite expensive,” Emily said. “I had backpacked through Europe the year before so I wanted to do something different, see something I hadn’t seen yet.”
That mouse click eventually helped her spend eight weeks in Ankara, Turkey last summer through the Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS).
This program is issued through the United States Department of State which determines specific languages that very few people in the United States actually know. Other languages besides Turkish that are considered critical needs languages include Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian and Urdu.
CLS essentially pays students to go to a country to learn a language where it is spoken as a first language. As well as covering airfare costs, this program also pays for room and board and offers students an extra $1,000 stipend.
“I thought this was way too good to be true … this can’t be a legitimate program,” Emily admitted. “So I did a lot of research and it appeared as if it was legitimate.”
However, Emily didn’t discover this program until roughly two days before the lengthy application was due. Anxious to be considered, she contacted her English and history education advisors and asked if they would be willing to write letters of recommendation for her at the last minute.
Without hesitation, each of Emily’s advisors had letters ready for her by the next day. “I give them so much credit-- I am so thankful that they are the kind of people that drop everything and just help me … it was so cool,” Emily recalls.
Emily chose to study Turkish because it did not require an additional two years of previous language study, unlike the majority of the other critical languages she could have chosen from. Also, studying in Turkey was one of the least dangerous countries left for her to choose from.
“My family was very opposed to me going to Turkey -- they were very concerned about my safety,” Emily recalled.
Out of tens of thousands of applicants, Emily and 22 others from the America were among those chosen for this program. Realizing this opportunity doesn’t come very often, Emily called her parents immediately.
“It was a really big honor … I told them, ‘It’s free and I’m doing it,’” Emily chuckled. “They said if I was that decided then they’d support me.”
Even though she was prepared for the trip, at first she wished she would have had more time to research the country and its language before arriving.
“I didn’t know anything about the country; I didn’t know anything about the politics; I knew a little of the history just because I’m a history major but nothing extensive,” Emily mentioned. “I seriously didn’t know a single word of Turkish. I didn’t even know what the language looked like.”
The language barrier proved to be a difficult, though not impossible.
“There were a lot of hand gestures … Most of the time we were struggling through because you learn quicker when you don’t use a translating source,” she recalled. “I’m now conversationally fluent in Turkish -- that was mind-blowing -- I attribute a lot of that living with my host family.”
During Emily’s time in Turkey, she experienced her fair share of embarrassing moments while learning the language. For instance, instead of using a phrase that would get her waiter’s attention, Emily was asking her waiters if they were single.
“I can’t tell you how fast my service was and I can’t tell you how many date questions I got,” she laughed. “I was like, ‘I don’t understand why they’re all hitting on me!”
In Ankara, she lived with a host family and became very good friends with her host sister, Buket. “Through the course of this program she and I got to be so close, I would consider her almost as close to me as my real sister at this point,” Emily said.
Emily studied at the Tomer Institute for foreign languages where she and her classmates would study Turkish for four hours every morning and then engage in cultural activities in the afternoon.
One of the biggest differences Emily noticed was that the Turkish are much more of a contact culture. “People are much more touchy-feely. If you’re friends with someone, they’re going to hug you a lot, walk arm-and-arm with you down the street and there’s also a lot of hair stroking,” she laughed.
Men are also considerably more forward in Turkey than they are here. “I was proposed to multiple times in Starbucks,” Emily giggled. “I’m not offended by that. Honestly, I think it’s sort of flattering … It’s like, ‘I look good today and you appreciate that.’”
The relationships Emily gained through this program became “very, very close ... It’s amazing how fast they can grow in only eight weeks,” Emily said.
If students are worried about not being able to afford a study abroad program, Emily wants to remind you that there are always options. “I went for nothing. I was there for eight weeks for free. These programs are available and if you do the research, you can get them,” she mentioned.
“No one has an excuse to not study abroad and it’s something that everyone should do,” Emily said. “Get outside of your bubble and see how the other side of the world works.”
To check out Emily’s blog while she was in Turkey, go to http://emilytakesoneurope.blogspot.com/.
If you are interested in studying abroad, stop by the Study Abroad Office in the Memorial Union or you can email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.