Turkish Students explore Cultural and Academic Changes at UCSD

July 24th, 2008
Hailey Paquette

Every summer, high school students from the U.S. and abroad visit La Jolla, Calif., in order to participate in UCSD’s pre-college program, Academic Connections (AC). Each international student brings a distinct culture, a different way of life and a new way of learning.

The international students attending AC this year come from several different countries, including: France, Turkey, Germany, Taiwan, China and Brazil. Deniz and Aycan, two Turkish students, are adapting to the differences of America after experiencing a culture shock and learning to navigate an foreign education system.

Hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, Deniz Senyuz is taking Behind the Scenes: Theater this summer and enjoys designing clothes. The 17-year-old attends an American school in her home city. Her school prepared her for many of the differences in the academic system of the U.S. by structuring their classes and scheduling similarly to the U.S.

Aycan Tekin, from Izmir, Turkey, is taking Big Business vs. Health: The Impact of Corporations on Human Behavior. Aycan has traveled to the U.S. before, but has never been to the West coast. She wanted to see San Diego and experience a University of California college. When she gets older, she wants to study health, and says that the experience she is receiving in the class is very helpful.
“I learned a lot about the western college style. The class experience was very different.”

Academic Differences

According to Deniz, the Turkish academic system is much different than the U.S. one. Deniz takes 10 classes at any given time, but only eight on one day. Teachers are more like friends than instructors. Turkish schools do not have final exams or switch classes. Instead, teachers move from room to room. “That’s one thing I like about American schools. Traffic jams can happen [while switching classes], and then you have an excuse to be late to class,” said Deniz.

In Turkey, college is known as University. One key difference from colleges in the U.S. is that in Turkey, freshman must declare their major before they begin their classes. Deniz added, “You can’t just change your major either. You pick once and then it’s hard to change.”

From Academics to Culture

Deniz and Aycan both think that Turkish culture is much more intimate. A common greeting in Turkey is to air-kiss on both cheeks, a greeting not widely practiced in the U.S. The two students could be seen greeting each other this way during the program. “Turkish people are very warm-blooded. We care about each other. Here, people care more about what your roots are, where your ancestors came from. In Turkey, we’re all Turkish,” said Aycan.

Perceptions of relationships are different. While in the U.S., public displays of affection are common, in Turkey, it is almost never seen and is not considered to be acceptable. Arranged marriages still occasionally take place.

Aycan said that she misses the food of her home country after eating the food at Sierra Summit every day. Much of the food of southern Turkey is very spicy. A popular dish from the South consists of meatballs wrapped in a Turkish tortilla and is known as durum. A traditional alcoholic beverage in Turkey in called raki. The drink is usually mixed with water and becomes milky white. Turks also eat a lot more vegetables than Americans, sometimes stuffing them with meat.

What’s Ahead?

During AC, Deniz was able to decide on a career path. After spending the past three weeks designing costumes for her class, she has decided that she wants to work in the fashion industry. Aycan learned a lot about the different college style used in the U.S. and life on the West Coast. Her studies in health have also broadened her view on what she wants to do with her life. But the best memory that both say that they will have about AC is the friends they made and the good times they have had.


From left: Deniz Senyuz, Aycan Tekin

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