It has been two and a half weeks since I arrived home and every moment of every day I've been thinking about my exchange; the experiences that I had and the opportunities that were given to me as a result of the volunteer work of the exchange committee in Turkey. By coming to Turkey and being part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program I have been able to grow through amazing life experiences which presented themselves along the way. More to this point by coming to Turkey I was able to experience a completely different culture in a part of the world I had wondered a lot about before arriving.
Tulin hanim, I am deeply indebted to you and the exchange committee for this opportunity that was provided to me which became the best decision of my life. It was Turkey that taught me the deep value of learning another language and culture, how to navigate through tricky situations (especially while my Turkish was in its early days), and I became more open to new ideas and a way of life among many other things. As such, I can't thank you and the Exchange Committee enough for this experience which I have been gifted, I will be forever grateful.
It’s been two and a half months here in my beautiful country. I can’t believe how time is flying already, it honestly still feels like I’m living in a dream and will wake up any minute and be back in Florida. I can’t even grasp the fact that I live in a country 7,000 miles away from “home” and I’ve created a life for myself here. I have friends, I have a home, I have school, and most of all, I have begun to find myself.
So, since my last journal I started Turkish school. I was so nervous and did NOT want to go, and it wasn’t like a typical teenager feeling of not wanting to go to school, I was completely and utterly terrified. I was scared I wasn’t going to fit in with my classmates, not be able to communicate at all, and that I wasn’t going to enjoy it…… but I have never been more wrong. I love love love love school!!!! I have made so many friends and been accepted as one of them, it is such an awesome thing to see; a group of kids accepting a foreign girl into their lives.
Even though there is some issues communicating with my teachers and classmates, because they don’t know much English or none at all, I look forward to school. I wear a uniform, which they are very lenient with. My uniform consists of a yellow/brownish skirt or pants, any type of sneakers, and any school tee-shirt, however, I cannot wear makeup, nail polish, or wear earrings. Turkish school is very different from school in Florida. Firstly, the bus picks me up in front of my apartment building around 7:25 every morning, but the bus isn’t the typical “yellow bus”, it’s a very nice and small bus with air-conditioning. I then arrive at school around 8, and go to my classroom on the third floor of the high school building. There are several buildings in my school, there is a pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, cafeteria, gym, pool, dance studio, art studio, and a music area.
The first class of every day is “home-room” which is just 15 minutes, then the day really begins. The schedule differs from day to day, some classes repeated throughout the week. I take biology, chemistry, math, history, religion, philosophy, guidance, Turkish literature, English, German, PE, physics, and art. Classes are 40 minutes with 10 minute breaks between each class, and an hour break for lunch. Typically, with the core classes, there are two lessons back to back, like for example, on Thursday morning, my first two classes are physics, with a 10 minute break in the middle. During the breaks, students are free to do or go where within the school, and use their cell phones, which is something I’m not used to. Lastly, about lunch. Lunch like in American schools, changes day to day, but the school lunch is amazing. The cafeteria has several flat screen T.V.s and they play popular music, either American or Turkish, and at every table there is a pitcher of water and glasses. The lunch tables don’t look like American lunch tables either, they have picnic tables or like little cafe tables.
I tried two Turkish food/drinks that aren’t very normal, one is more abnormal though. First, I drank “banana milk” or “ muse süt”, and it was reallllyyyyy gooood!! Second, my exchange friend from Tawain, Apple, and I tried “şırdan”. It was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten…. It’s famous in Adana, so mostly all people born and raised in Adana love it. Basically, şırdan is goat intestine. It’s cleaned and stuffed with rice, then sewn, and boiled. It looks awful, tastes awful, and smells awful. But, as Bob White, my country coordinator in Florida said, “ I hope you have consumed something that you never thought you would eat in your life. If not, you are missing something”. So that’s that! Until next time my friends.