About the Blog

I recently accepted a position from Teach and Learn with Georgia, a Georgian Ministry of Education program designed to bring native speakers of English into classrooms around the country. I will be moving to Georgia in August of 2014 to begin my assignment.

Before this latest adventure, I studied at Bogazici University in Istanbul Turkey and at Azerbaijan University of Languages. I speak English German Spanish, Turkish Azerbaijani and Uzbek and am currently trying my hand at Georgian.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Everyday life

So I am currently suffering from a new condition that I will call Bad Blogger Guilt. I am trying desperately to shift the blame elsewhere, but I am pretty sure that it is just my fault that I did not post on my blog and not the universe’s. I have been much busier these last few weeks though, I will sue that excuse. My teachers have actually been holding class, it’s really very inconvenient of them. A little about my two weeks and then I will backtrack to last weekend, which might be another reason that I am desperately behind in my blogging. I had to go to class on Monday, gasp shock. The teacher was extremely kind though and there are actually quite a few Turkish students in the class so I think it will be a really cool chance to hear their perspectives on the issues. It turns out the class is about Material Culture, which I might not have guessed from the title, Contemporary Issues in Anthropology. Somehow I’m just not making the connection. Wait for it, wait for it…no. They are not the same thing. A significant amount of our reading workload was removed though, when we agreed to do a 300-500 word piece of writing every week. I will write whatever you want to reduce the reading workload. For this weekend I have more than a hundred pages for that class and it goes extremely light on the reading assignments as opposed to some of the poly-sci or history classes that my friends are in. Their course packs and enormous.
At Boğaziçi, no one buys the book for the class. Most classes don’t have books anyway, just massive course packs that you buy at one of the many copy-shops in the streets near the school. These are extremely cheap. I spent a total of 17 TL on the course packs that I needed for my classes. I bought a couple of others, which came to another 40 TL. Total splashed out on “books” for the semester? $32. For those classes which do have books, the teachers put them on reserve at the library and students then take them to the copy shops and make maybe-not-super-copyright-legal copies of the entire book for themselves and their friends. I know that the American in me should be upset about this clear violation of important privacy laws. But the college student inside of me is too busy saying, “The books, they are so cheap, I will buy them ALL!”. I think I’m done with buying books now though. For those of you considering studying abroad in Turkey, they will tell you to budget $500 for books. Don’t. There is no way you can spend that. Even at the book store huge science textbooks don’t cost more than 80 TL brand new ($45). I know that the GDP is much lower in Turkey so that these prices are higher for Turks than they seem for Americans, but still. Every step of the education process here is so strongly subsidized, most students pay for their housing and food, but housing on campus is dirt cheap and meals are less than a dollar each in the cafeteria. Might I point out that far from the stagnating economy that it might be assumed to have, Turkey has one of the fastest and most consistently growing economies in the world right now, comfortably putting up 7% growth a year. For the economics buffs out there, there are the BRICS and then there are the NEXT 11, the countries who investment buffs should keep their eyes on. Turkey’s on the list and it’s in the G-20. I guess what I’m saying is that investing steeply in education can pay off for a country. Turkey seems to have done ok out of the whole process. The best students go to public schools here; the ones who can’t get in to the public schools go to the private expensive ones. I find this inversion of American standards fascinating. And kind of exciting. This is by no means to say that the system is not flawed, but it does make me wonder what would happen in the US if students didn’t have to worry about money when it came to college. If they knew that the funding to pay for school would be there and they just needed to focus on school. And if low-income students knew that they would get in if they had the talent, and that the crucial factor is their potential.
This is completely unrelated to this post. This is just Istanbul.
Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now. Sorry, that was a much longer sojourn than I thought it was going to be. On Tuesday I had my first chemistry class. I’m taking a graduate level physical chemistry course and I don’t think I realized quite what I was getting myself into. The lectures are about 2 hours long, with a ten minute break in between the lectures to try and stop your brain from exploding. We’re covering quantum mechanics right now and most of the students have had 1 or 2 more classes of physical chemistry than I have. They are all master’s students except for one doctoral student. Oh and that’s right, me. The Professor is wonderful though and she came and had a chat with me. Her daughter actually teaches at MSU so it was fun to have that little connection right off the bat. She talked to me in Turkish for a little bit before going, “Wait, Hannah, you’re that American who emailed me. You speak Turkish?!”. This is a fairly typical reaction and it still makes me happy every single time because people are so inevitably pleased that I speak Turkish. The first few lectures moved super-fast and left me feeling slightly like I was drowning. I got the book for the class at the library despite the fact that I don’t have a student ID (like I said, the Turks are the most obliging people in the entire world) and spent all of this Wednesday studying my butt off for a quiz that I had yesterday. It didn’t go exceptionally well, but it also went much much better than the first week of class would suggest. I think that the class is going to be extremely intense and I will have to work hard, but I also am sure that I can pass it, which is all I need to get credit back at State.  
In other developments, I got a 3-month pass to the campus pool, which is gorgeous, but a bit of a hike from the dorm so you get to work out on the way there, there, and on the way back, which is good. My classes are coming right along and I’m starting to settle into the groove of the semester. I’m taking the weekend off from traveling to recoup and get ahead in classes since I’ve bought tickets for next weekend to Trabzon already. I’m making friends among my fellow students, both Turkish and foreign and I’m feeling at ease in my surroundings again. I’ve also made friends among the campus dogs by feeding them treats whenever I see them. This is useful though, because on Monday when I got back late and had to walk home from the bus station, a couple of neighborhood dogs walked with me. They have to be the friendliest and healthiest street dogs in the entire world. One came over to me while I was writing postcards yesterday; flopped down next to me in that attitude that clearly says “Give me a tummy rub”. So I did. The sun was out, and it was finally warm enough to feel comfortable outside.  I finished my postcards and took out a book about medicine in the Medieval Islamic world. What more could you want as a school or just plain life experience?

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