Friday, April 8, 2011

Greek student studying in Turkey writes letter back to Greece

Letter to my Home Country; 

I haven’t really missed you at all.

During the last 2 years, I have been studying and living in Turkey. It is a country with several strengths but also quite a few weaknesses. Nevertheless, it is a place with a Vision and a Serious Outlook, in brief “everyone works hard and tries to get ahead”.  

Vision a word that has sunk so low in our country. A quaint term heard at each and every political rally, that simply falls to the ground, only to be swept up by the next cleaner, along with all the small pieces of paper from the vote-seeking frenzy and mass delirium that characterize such events…  What I mean by the word Vision, is how we see ourselves in the future or, more simply put, how we wish to “order” our tomorrow.

By the term Serious Outlook I am not referring to the arrogance or bravado of some Greek politicians, when it comes to international events or when on TV. A serious outlook refers to our perception of a Vision, of the work and the resources required to achieve it or, in other words, to what my Maths teacher and High School Director used to say: “I am, I have, I want”.

I shall try, although it is hard, not to succumb to the temptation of complaining, which can be so galling; instead, I will attempt to describe my present experience –to the “others” mainly, from the University world, and prove why I simply will not come back. The conclusions and narration are my own, and therefore not objective; they are not the outcome of scientific research, but simply the presentation of a viewpoint, of a student who set foot in our neighbouring country two years ago, and continues to reside there, i.e. my own viewpoint.

This is how it all started. Our neighbours from Turkey presented me with a combined Scholarship in 2009. To be specific, the whole process was initiated by the Rotary Clubs of Turkey, which in conjunction with Yeditepe University, and for the purpose of promoting Greek-Turkish friendship and understanding (through the most effective medium, which is none other than Scholarships), and following a competition and the submission of applications, chose me as an Ambassador of Good Will to study in their country. Initially, I do not hesitate to say, due to a certain prejudice related to the inferiority complex that seems to abound in small countries such as ours ... I was reserved, but nevertheless quickly realized how different things were, how much this scholarship benefitted me and what a great honour it was to receive it.

Come back to what? To the dark hallways that are reminiscent of post-war Europe

To those strange guys selling their ideological waresitting around their Party Tables. To the Fidels and Zapatistas of the Greek University, that build up the doors to Entrepreneurship Offices (in the case of the University of Patras) or to the neo-Nazis from various groups, that seem to have every right to interrupt lectures and come … and go, reap, “rape” and do whatever comes to mind. What is there to envy out of all of this?   

The university I attend (Yeditepe Üniversitesi) is a Private institution; yes, our friends the Turks have them also; yes, these establishments that are such a threat to the glorious public (Soviet-type) Greek university …  It is an efficient private body, that Respects itself, but most of all, its Students. For the first time, I felt I “counted for something” and for the first time also, I had a lot of “homework”. And yes, I liked it! I was becoming a better student, I was suddenly motivated, something that I never felt in Greece unfortunately. Indicatively, I would like to mention that the professors constantly urge us to take part and become active members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and sometimes this is even a precondition in order to “pass” a course.   

Political factions are another Greek patent; there are none here, because they are simply not needed. Any complaints from students are taken seriously by the administration department of each faculty, and are resolved within a week, when they concern serious matters. There are of course, however, Clubs organized BY the University FOR the University, ranging from clubs on philosophy, amateur photography, scuba diving – extreme sports, dance, to Science Fiction clubs, and whatever else you can imagine; and yes, I like these “factions” very much, and they are also generously funded by the University.    

I will not make any specific mention of the facilities, since it is quality that matters not appearance; just to say that they can be compared to those of a 5-star hotel

In addition, Career Days are also organized within the university, indeed! Career Days, where companies come and talk and yes, why not, “Recruit” students! Sounds like a science fiction film, in the case of our country … The university has also applied the Credit system, which means that any courses Ipasshere, are recognized almost everywhere in the world but of course not in our country, whose degree by the way, was fully recognized by the Turkish government within 2 months.   

You might ask however, is all this happening because Yeditepe is a private university? The answer is NO, since I have also visited State Universities, thanks to my friends from Turkey and America, in fact! My American friends are students there and I have attended various lectures. To put it briefly, there is a Serious Outlook. The objectives of the University are clearly defined, and everyone there is performing their vocation, with a Surplus (in the case of private but also some public educational institutions) or Balanced (mainly as regards public educational institutions) Budget. In order not to be misunderstood, there are of course shortcomings and disadvantages; I am not trying to paint some sort of idyllic picture. However, what I want to point out is their Serious Outlook and Vision, as regards the way they deal with these problems, which is something that is missing in Greece.   

Turkey is an open, extroverted country. Yes! Open. Open to foreign students, open to ideas that will help it progress. Open to tourists, since Greeks can visit it only by presenting their ID, in contrast to the Turks who, when visiting our country, are asked to present everything but their …… Certificate of Social Beliefs -and that is questionable also. Open to investments and to entrepreneurship. Companies here are not seen as something evil; their owners-shareholders are well-respected, since they produce wealth instead of spreading misery. There are indeed problems and asymmetries, and clearly Turkey can prove to be a difficult place to live in, but there are opportunities nonetheless. There is great development and morale is high. And that is more than enough for me. Need I say more? 

Germenis Panagis 

Master in Political Science, Yeditepe Üniversitesi- Turkiye