My last major post was about my study abroad experience in Paris. I still look back fondly on that time even now, and I actually visited last June and October — my fourth and fifth visits. Regarding the remainder of my Fulbright time, you might wonder if I’ll be able to accurately remember everything. Fortunately, I kept a journal while living in Turkey, so I’m able to refresh myself on the second half of my time in Ankara.
Side note: I was ready to go by the end of April, but I’m glad I stayed until the very end. The nostalgia still hits me today! I went back to visit in December, and the city hadn’t changed.
The first two to three months in Turkey were tough. Not knowing the language made me feel like even more of an outsider. I hated having to rely on my roommate to translate everything for me. In addition, my Fulbright year was the first time I experienced all four seasons! After this past year in DC, I’ve decided that I’m not a four seasons girl. The colder the weather become, the gloomier I felt. The homesickness grew.
By January, I was determined to have a better time, and I took this pretty seriously! I made a post about some goals I had to make 2017 the #bestyearever. Which of those goals did I accomplish?
- I started taking Turkish lessons in January. (Goal #1: win!) I already knew a fair amount of basic Turkish from “the streets,” but I loved learning the grammar, too. Turkish is such an interesting language! I love that it’s not Indo-European; that the rules are so logical; and that due to the fact that the order is subject-object-verb, putting together sentences feels like a puzzle. I can honestly say that this was the turning point for me, because…
- I made new friends! There were a lot of young people in my lessons who worked at various embassies around the city. Over time, we built a rapport and began to go out together. We even had some movie nights! Being in a room with Georgian, Greek, Spanish, British, French and Portuguese people felt like expat heaven. Some of these friends I still talk to today.
- I got into a graduate program! (Goal #2: win!) I actually was accepted into four my five choices before choosing American University, and it still feels great that my hard work paid off.
- I traveled more—both in and out of Turkey. (Goal #3: win!) In the next few months, I’ll be sharing posts about trips to Antalya and Fethiye, Vienna and Budapest, an entire European backpacking trip, and Rome, among other places.
- I didn’t post much on the blog. (Goal #4: fail…) In the words of a wonderful Fulbright roommate (who was quoting the director of the Turkish Fulbright Commission), “it’s never too late”–in this case to keep writing.
- Stop eating so much fast food. (Goal #5: maybe?) Boy, did Turkish food start to get old. I absolutely love it, but sometimes you just want a barbecue plate or Chinese takeout! Honestly, Fulbright made me a better cook. Keanna and I made sweet and sour chicken, lasagna, bibimbap, kettle corn popcorn, and so many other foods–all from scratch! But I still ate out a lot…
- Come up with more creative lesson plans. (Goal #6: win!) I was glad to achieve this goal. I’ll talk later about how the teaching changed throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, most students became more unenthused by the end of the year, if that’s possible. But I really loved so many of my students, and I even went bowling with some of them.
- Last but not least.. I started dating a Turkish guy. It’s cheesy, I know, but it made finishing the school year so much better than starting it. Meeting Burhan was one of the best parts of my Fulbright experience, and he really came through for me and my roommates when Turkey was… being its slightly dysfunctional and bureaucratic self. And my speaking skills are so much better now.
A few weeks ago was the one-year anniversary of my Fulbright year officially ending. Like my time in Paris, not a day goes by when I don’t reminisce. Now that I’m a graduate student, it’s not as easy for me to hop on a plane and go (DC is expensive!), but wanderlust is hard to control once it starts…