The bridge between occident and orient
Hello to all! Merhaba arkadaşlar!
Firstly, I will briefly introduce myself
I am Laura, 24 years old and I was born in Frankfurt and raised in a small town in Germany. If you see me, probably you will not believe me – like most people – that I am from Germany. Actually my mother is from Italy and my father from Turkey that is why I even do not look German. Because of my background, I see and identify myself as a multicultural and international person. Since I was a child I was travelling to different countries and enjoying meeting people from all over the world, learning from each other. For me it is important to be open-minded towards other cultures and to get to know people who have different attitudes toward life.
At the moment, I am studying social sciences with the focus on intercultural relations in Germany. Before I started my studies, I was working as a volunteer with migrants for some years, especially refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia in my hometown in Germany and also one year in Italy. This experience was very valuable for me and my personality. Also, I collected experiences in the field with youngsters and children.
I see my personality as a process and as a metaphor like a puzzle where I discover new sides of me step by step and add pieces of myself to it. During my volunteer year in Italy, I was discovering my Italian side and this year I decided to go for my Erasmus exchange to Turkey/Izmir to discover also the other part.
When my semester was over, I really wanted to stay longer in Turkey because the local people are very helpful and hospitably and I feel comfortable in there. A small example, during our first weeks in Izmir, when my German friend and I were asking the local people for the way, they really tried so hard to explain and even came with us to show us the place. And also during my internship my colleagues were really helpful when I needed something.
Besides, I wanted to improve the Turkish language and to get to know more about the country and their habitants.
After my Erasmus exchange, I was planning to do an internship. By chance I heard about the Pi Youth Association called “Pi Gençlik Derneği”, a non-profit organisation which works on youth rights and issues. They were searching for an Erasmus intern for three months, from July to September. So I applied to the NGO and after it I was invited for an interview to introduce myself.
There were also other candidates interested in it but I really hoped that I would get the chance to be part of the Pi Team. After some time I got the letter of acceptance and I was really happy to stay three more months in Izmir.
In July, I began my Erasmus internship and got to know my colleagues and a lot of volunteers. There was a time where we mainly worked in the office, five days per week. After, during the projects also outside.
I moved from the quarter Balcova (where I did my Erasmus exchange) to Buca coop where I lived for one month with my two colleagues from Greece, Styliani and Ingrida from Lithuania who are doing an EVS (European volunteer service). My other colleagues come from Turkey, so our team was a diverse mixed group.
Pi Youth Association offers different activities for the local youngsters.
Until now we had three regional meetings called “Genç Bak-İş” where young people from different parts of Turkey came together to discuss about the topic youth unemployment and vocational training. I was supporting the team, preparing the lists of participants, collecting documents and writing the Youthpasses – a certificate which they received in the end of the project. Also during the meetings we were doing some “energizers” (games) after the breaks. The seminar was about a serious subject because in Turkey the unemployment for young people is very high, so the participants were working hard during the workshop but at the same time they were very creative and had a lot of fun together. I was also responsible for taking pictures during the project and after the event I shared them in the social media.
Additionally, I helped the team in another project called “Planetarium” which was about space shuttle. The participants came from Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey. During this time we were staying in a hotel in Basmane. It was nice to work with international people and to meet some from my home country. One night the international group went to an observatory to see the stars through a telescope.
In August, I started with a German conversation club where I taught a small group of youngsters the German language, and in September I also offered an Italian class for the local people.
Another important assignment we did during my intern time, was that we created with some of our volunteers a new working team for the topic “finding partners” from different countries. For the future we would like to expand our network and cooperate with countries for the Erasmus+ projects for sending or hosting EVS volunteers or in participating in youth exchange projects. I was responsible for Germany and Italy because I speak both languages. I made contact with them and asked if they are interested in collaborating with us. Hence, I could utilise my diversity languages.
Also during my time as an intern I had some “Turkish lessons” with Esin – a very nice girl. She is a volunteer at Pi Genclik Dernegi and speaks also German
During my time in Turkey I could also visit some cities around and I went even to the Eastern part of the country which is very different from the western part where I lived. I had the chance to see new parts of Turkey and of course I am in love with the Turkish cuisine! It’s one of the best ever!;) My favourite ones are sarma, dolma – a filled dish, also “balik ekmek” – freshly caught fish sandwiches and In Izmir, I tried the first time in “İnciraltı“ “midye” – warm mussels filed with rice. Of course, I also ate a lot of meat, like “köfte“- meatballs and lamb.
One day, Begüm showed me how to do “Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatasi” carrot with yogurt and also garlic. I tried it here in Germany and the people who ate it liked it a lot. 😀
But that’s not all: I was crazy about the “tatlı” – different kind of turkish desserts, so almost every day we ate them together with my colleagues. I am pretty sure that I gained some weight after 8 month living in Turkey.
Also I noticed some differences between Germany and Turkey, one of them is for example that the colleagues’ relationships in Turkey are closer like friends and are doing also something in their free time together. In contrast, in Germany the private and working life of the people is more separated. Also our working atmosphere was most of the time pleasant and we celebrated our birthdays all the time together! 🙂
At the beginning of October, it was time to go back to Germany to continue my studies. The first days or should I say weeks were not so easy for me to get used to my home country again. Everything is so different. The weather, the food, the people – the environment. Even I was really confused with the languages and didn’t know which one to talk. I had Turkish and English words in my mind and it happened when I talked to my mother that another language came out. I was aware of the “culture shock” which people can have after staying in another country but I did not expect it like this because it was not my first stay abroad for longer time.
In general, I had a really good time in my second home country and I am happy that I had the opportunity to live, study, and work in this beautiful country. In the past, I often went to Turkey for vacation but it is totally different to stay in a country for a longer time. For my personality, it was the best decision I could do to discover and expand my Turkish part. It is something inside of me and an inner feeling and development which is of course very personal and individual.
For sure I would suggest to everyone to go abroad for some time and to experience living in another country.
For me it was interesting to work in a NGO and to see how it looks behind the scenes. My internship was helpful for me and my future because I got inspired and have now some new ideas.
Izmir is the third biggest city in Turkey.
For me it was the first time living in such a big city but I got used to it.
Now I’m back to my daily life but thinking still at my time in Turkey and reflecting about it. I’m sure that I will stay in contact with the people I got to know in Izmir and around and I am looking forward to see them again 🙂