upa-admin 01 Aralık 2012 4.435 Okunma 0

Interview with Yasemin Kesen

Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State brings about 100 foreign teachers to institutions of higher education in the U.S. each year to reinforce language instruction from native speakers. I sat down with Yasemin Kesen, Turkish FLTA at Yale University, to hear her thoughts on the program and life in small-town America.

Why did you want to come to the U.S. on the FLTA?

I wanted to come to the U.S. because I had never had an opportunity to experience cultural and social aspects of the language that I teach (English). I wanted to grasp a variety of the views and opinions in their authentic environment. As a Turkish instructor, I wanted to evaluate and expand my knowledge and experience in the multicultural environment in the U.S.

What have been the biggest surprises or challenges to living in a small town in the U.S.?

Since I have been living in Istanbul, which has the biggest population in Turkey, for 9 years, it was hard for me to adapt to the lifestyle in New Haven. It seemed to me that it was restricted to Yale and its resources (which are really immense). After observing how people live and what they do, I realized that the city provides many opportunities.

What is your sense of Americans’ attitudes towards Turkish people?

I was ready for introducing Turkey and Turkish language before I came here. This is my mission, anyway. Although I heard that some people have negative opinions and judgments about Turkey, I haven’t encountered anyone like that. Basically, they were interested in Turkey due to its location and history. I have also realized that people are curious about the lifestyle, religious issues and position of women in Turkey (not in a negative way).

How does the American university system differ from the Turkish system?

In the U.S., students have more time to decide what they really want to study. They can choose their majors later than students in Turkey. They have more time to observe and see the broader picture in this way. Besides, they are more used to do critical thinking and brainstorming. I am not a hundred percent sure but I have seen that students in the US take fewer courses, which might help them to focus deeper. In Turkey, on the other hand, since students take more courses, they have a better chance of studying theoretical background. They have a higher chance of studying abroad and experiencing different cultures.

Have you had a chance to travel in the U.S. much?

I have only been to New York and some other places in Connecticut. There are obvious differences between lifestyles in New York and Connecticut for sure. It seems that smaller cities are better to see the American lifestyle.

What did you think about the recent 2012 U.S. elections?

I don’t think that students are more politically active in the U.S., but they seem to have more opportunities to voice their opinions. I have observed that people in general are more active in the U.S. and they seem to be more interested in debates.

Why do American students learn Turkish?

There are quite many students learning Turkish. The main reasons I have seen so far are because they study the Middle East (politics, history, etc) so they need to read the archives in Turkish. Some are interested in the history and culture of Turkey while some want to visit Istanbul (probably for a second time, and talk to people in Turkish). There are also half Turkish students who haven’t had any opportunity at home. Some students have studied other Middle East languages so they want to go on with Turkish.

How do you think your time in America will help you as a teacher when you go back to Turkey?

I have observed that some of my colleagues, who have done FLTA before, have improved themselves both professionally and socially. I expect to have the same change as well. In my university, we offer a Turkish Language and Culture Program during summer, so through the experience I gain in this program I will reevaluate and redesign the program. I will also have a chance to learn from my colleagues here and reflect my experiences and understanding in Turkey. As a linguist and a language instructor, I will also have the opportunity to put my theoretical knowledge into practice.

What is your advice to other Turkish students looking to come to the U.S.?

They should have aims before they come here. Otherwise, they can get lost. They should prepare themselves culturally and mentally. If they think they don’t know enough, they should learn about Turkish history, cultural changes and trends. They should also read about the U.S. so that they will feel familiar to the culture.

Interview by Leslie ESBROOK


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