Organizing Welcome Events for newcomer students every semester is a traditional activity for the ICO so far. For this Spring 2020 event organized on February 13th, ICO had a novel addition to achieve a more colorful activity. KU Musical Club was our guest and gave a short Turkish acoustic concert for the KU newcomers. During their performance, the new students had the chance to have a brief look into Turkish music while the KU Musical Club members had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their club.
Approximately 40 students joined the event where they met each other, conversed over some pizza and live Turkish music. The ICO also had the opportunity to introduce their office, their staff, and the service they provide to the KU International Community. The participants appreciated the event and left with pleasure.
Corona outbreak has surely taught many lessons to all humanity but it also made people to think and operate in surprisingly different ways. We had never imagined one day we would move our advising services online or have meetings with our teams from our homes or use instant messaging apps for our student or professor clients at the university. All these did happen and very fast and now we can even live with it, no? I overhear your nays.
Well, right, we all want to go back to normal as soon as possible, but let us tell you what this new way of operating has afforded us with in addition to all other adjustments.
We have started an online language practice community for Turkish learners at KU. The Online Turkish Practice Hour (TPH) was formerly designed as an on campus activity where we had aimed to bring together Turkish learners at KU with a volunteer Turkish student and where we were going to serve participants complimentary coffee and snacks and it was, therefore, named “Turkish Coffee Hour”. When universities were shut down and switched to distance education we thought this could be a good reason to move our Turkish Coffee Hour online. The structure didn’t change except that we can’t serve delicious Turkish coffee. We had already selected at least 6 volunteer Turkish students who were ready to begin their weekly conversation meetings. When we came up with this idea, they all agreed with excitement. Participants are invited to a closed whatsapp group and each online Microsoft Teams meeting link is shared with participants. We have over 75 members in our whatsapp group and in every session there is a participation rate of 5 to 15 people. Turkish Practice Hour is open to all non-Turkish speaking students, staff, faculty, researchers and their families. The meetings are every Monday and Friday between 4-5pm. We feel content that we might currently be doing more than what we had aimed for because online learning and Corona conditions together offer more flexibility for people to catch a conversation session. We hope we never have to deal with an outbreak again but we definitely are grateful for the challenge to push ourselves to think and do differently. We also would like to thank all our great volunteers who commit their time and positive energy into this and Koc University Office of Learning and Teaching for their help with resources.
Meet Muhammad Zeeshan. He is from a rustic-small town called KP in Pakistan, had his B.S. with a gold medal in Engineering & Management Sciences from Balochistan University of Information Technology, and joined KU in Spring 2017 for an M.S. leading to a Ph.D. program. Currently, he is working on Ionic Liquids and Metal-Organic Frameworks Hybrid Composites with Prof. Dr. Alper Azun and Prof. Dr. Seda Keskin. In January 2020, he got married and from his words, “life couldn’t be better”.
He emphasizes that he chose to be in Istanbul particularly because he finds the city as the world’s most beautiful one and he adds:
“I love the view of Bosphorus, the warmth of welcoming behavior of Turkish people, the smell of Kebabs, the breathtaking architecture of the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia, the rush at the traditional Grand Bazar, and numerous other things. I have also visited a couple of other Turkish cities, and I am amazed to explore the beautiful landscapes. In a nutshell, Turkey offers a blend of modernity, nature, and tradition”
Zeeshan gives two reasons why he is at KU: excellent campus life and its worldwide ranking. The university, he says, provides all the necessary research tools and advanced characterization facilities to perform quality research. He finds the campus life good since it offers various extracurricular activities and facilities to maintain the balance between social and work lives and he has several friends who helped him a lot in adopting a diverse life from the beginning. He also adds that the strong relationship of the International Community Office (ICO) with foreign students is a great advantage. He acknowledges that the ICO is always there to help in any challenging situation and extremely vibrant in arranging social events for them to make their lives entertaining. Zeeshan is an active member of the Pakistan Students Association (PSA) for almost two years as the Culture Coordinator helping PSA in organizing some traditional events such as Basant (Kite Flying), Pakistani food festival, and inter-university sports competitions to introduce Pakistani culture to the local community.
Turkish people and their traditions are generous and hospitable, which is fascinating, he says. Even though there are times that he finds it challenging to communicate with local people due to the language barrier, he has always found the local community very loving, friendly, and patient. His favorite activities in Istanbul are going out on a sunny day to enjoy traditional food at a rooftop restaurant, going for traditional breakfasts with his local friends, and enjoying Turkish coffee accompanied by fortune-telling sessions from a local friend if possible.
The current COVID-19 outbreak has changed his life since he says that he loves to socialize and work for long hours. His works are mostly experiment based in his lab which is not accessible anymore, affecting his ongoing projects. However, he is always in favor of looking for positive aspects of circumstances and he enjoys reading books and articles, watching his favorite TV series and movies, and talking to his family and friends.