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The International Student

By Aylin Sozen

Deyran Ozkurt posing in front of Bringle Lake

The clouds settled slowly and maneuvered to fit the horizon of the sunset. The day was almost to an end, but the wind still blew swiftly over his figure and danced to match his silhouette. Computer Science and Engineering major Devran Ozkurt looked up to the sky and took a deep breath.

“I want to go somewhere where there is nature,” he said. “I like it here; it reminds me of a place in my country, Turkey.”

It has been approximately four months since his departure from his native land to a new country and a new school. Ozkurt sacrificed family. With his mother’s recent move to a village in Turkey, communication was cut off due to no reception. He has only talked to her three times since his move.

“I made sacrifices for different people, a different culture, and lifestyle,” he said. “My electronic devices, they don’t even work here.”

He wanted a change, something entirely different from his past experiences with not only his culture but also the education system in Turkey.

“Students in my country give up because it’s hard. Maybe they could be good businessmen but the education system is bad. If you learn the topic, they don’t care, it’s all about the exam,” he said.

“Here, even if you don’t pass the exams you still have a second chance because professors give you bonus points or use your homework grade–they don’t give up on you.”

He made a huffing sound as if he were out of breath. His English carried an accent and sometimes he left out a verb, yet he spoke with confidence as he articulated his words.

Grammar and writing instructor Dana Surginer walked into an empty classroom and paced to the very front of the room. She propped up her materials on the desk in front of her and analyzed Ozkurt in his leather jacket.

After she sat in silence for a few minutes, a wide smile took over her face and the glasses that sat on her nose moved with the motions of her mouth.

“He’s very knowledgeable and is very strong in the belief that education will get you far,” she said. “He’s already very Americanized, he fits in with other cultures and is very confident for being a non native speaker.”

Ozkurt’s Sunday mornings in Turkey consisted of family picnics held in parks nearby Istanbul where the city life was regular, composed of far stretched architectural buildings and monuments. Fridays were holy days spent in the mosque that included an hour or two of prayer.

“There’s a lot of pressure on my culture,” he said. “You don’t gamble, don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat pork, and if you are a girl you have to be with a boy. If not, it is trouble.”

He said that he saw a couple kissing here in a bar and was shocked. “Everyone is hiding in their homes in Turkey; it’s not ordinary to see people kissing in public.”

As he repositioned himself on the bench, he lit a cigarette and held it in between his lips. He found an importance in a Turkish proverb and used it to make a distinction between the people he came in contact with native students and the people back in Turkey.

It was a metaphor and reference to a snake and its ability to harm others.

“If a snake bites someone, then everybody has to kill it because if not then it will kill someone else,” he said. “But, I feel here they don’t really care if the snake (person) does harm to others as long as it isn’t harming them.”

His expressions included that his relationships with people were important and he believed in treating people with unity and justice.

Business major Nayeem Hasan sat across from Ozkurt with his hands placed in his lap and his dark hair dangling over the middle of his forehead. Hasan and Ozkurt are classmates and friends.

“Devran is really well rounded,” Hasan said. “We have both made similar sacrifices, and it feels nice to know there is someone here that you can relate to.”

Since Ozkurt’s arrival here, he still finds his culture and religion very important to him. He still reads his Koran and follows a diet that doesn’t allow pork.

“I don’t want to lose my religion… People are different, cultures are different too, but it doesn’t matter because we are all people,” he said. “Altogether, I am ready to start my new life in America”


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