International Students Feature: Turkey

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

This week, Aslinur Taskin, a third year student from Turkey studying architecture, gave her two cents about the differences between her home country and life in America. Taskin is from Ankara, the country’s capital. While she recognized that each city is different, she thought that as a whole Turkey’s history was much more visible than America’s because there were many “traditional things still from the Ottoman Empire,” like old mosques.  Another clear difference, according to Taskin, was the organization of the streets themselves. “There are no perpendicular streets; everything is diagonal. You can get lost even if you’ve lived there your whole life.” Because of this, Taskin explained, Google Maps is a necessity when traveling.

Taskin left Turkey after the third grade. However, she briefly remarked upon the differences in academics. When she moved here, she remembers that “all of the math and sciences here were very behind. By the time I was in fifth grade, we went over the math stuff that I had gone over in second grade.” Additionally, Taskin has friends in Turkey that tell her the architecture program at Turkish universities is only four years, a year shorter than the five year program at Illinois Tech. It’s the same environment, though, Taskin said. Architecture colleges consist of both studio space and lecture space, although she said that “here maybe it’s more artsy, but it also depends on the school.” She explained that there is less of an emphasis placed upon math and science classes for architecture majors in the U.S. than in Turkey. In Turkey, there are no separate architecture and architectural engineering programs, yet here the classes that make the two different are those math and science classes. Because of these extra classes and the shorter period to complete them, architecture students in Turkey experience a heavier class load.

Readers may be surprised to hear that American food, in Taskin’s words, “is not anything compared to food over there.” Taskin thought that this difference came from the varying ingredients that each country uses. “Let’s say my mom is making a particular dish,” Taskin explained, “when she makes it in Turkey, it tastes completely different than if she would make it here. It doesn’t taste as good [here].” People living in Turkey get their fresh ingredients from the bazaar, or marketplace, every Sunday. Taskin’s grandmother, she said, went there often, and as a result, those that worked there always recognized her and offered her discounts. According to Taskin, people at the bazaar are very friendly and most everyone knows each other because every neighborhood has its own bazaar. She contrasted this to American life, remarking that “even if you go to the same mall, that guy is not going to remember you at all.” Taskin also explained that bargaining with shop owners was common, even expected, in Turkey, yet not at all common here.

As an example of common ingredients that differ between countries, Taskin said that the use of solid oils like butter were hardly, if ever, used in Turkey. Instead of butter, cream is very common, and Taskin recalled times when she would eat it on toast for breakfast. According to Taskin, breakfasts also commonly consist of olives, cheeses, barbecued peppers, eggs, bread, and paninis. Turkish coffee is usually served after breakfast, not during, and it is usually the responsibility of the youngest person in the family to make coffee for everyone else. Dinner, on the other hand, usually consists of soup first, followed by a salad, then a cold bean dish, and then rice served with meat and yogurt, which is much different than the yogurt that is commonly sold in American grocery stores, and is more salty than sweet. After the rice dish, fruit is served (commonly watermelon and grapes) as well as nuts, such as walnuts and almonds. The almonds are commonly soaked in water before they are eaten, Taskin explained, so that the skin goes away. Tea and dessert conclude the meal, after what Taskin described to be about a five hour process. It is no surprise, then, to find that she thinks dinner is a very rushed process in America. “Here you eat your dinner and you’re done. [In Turkey you] calmly end your system right. You don’t eat dinner and then you’re like ‘oh no, I have so much food.’” Overall, Taskin thought that a typical diet from back home was healthier than an American one, a feeling that many international students shared with TechNews this semester.