Tales from Turkey

“In the beginning it feels like you’re really young- like you’re a child, because you don’t know anything and you’re learning. But now I can say it feels good. You are different but at the same time you know that you have your place in this [country]. It’s a good chance… so I feel lucky.”

Damla Y and Selin Y pose outside of the ESL room after this week's Cultural Mosaic Club meeting
Damla Y and Selin Y pose outside of the ESL room after this week’s Cultural Mosaic Club meeting

Damla Y, a grade 12 student at WCI reflects on her life as a young immigrant to Canada. She recalls the vibrant bustling streets of Turkey, much different from those of Kitchener-Waterloo. There, it is always busy, “at all times. Even in the night, you can hear the cars on the street.” She, as many other Turkish people, pride themselves in being exceptional hosts.

“Turkish people are smart. They use their minds for humor. We have so many jokes. I’m proud of that. And it makes us welcoming because we welcome our guests and foreign people with humor and smiles.”

In a video with Around The World At WCI, Damla spoke to some of the basics of Turkish culture and her immigration to Canada.

Born and raised in Ankara, Turkey, it has been two years since Damla and her sister left behind their parents to live here with their uncle in Canada.

The frequently changing education system in Turkey was a driving force in the family’s decision to move the sisters here. Last year, Turkey announced the closing of all support schools, a form of daily tutoring attended by almost all students in Turkey for around 2 to 3 hours each evening in addition to the regular school day. According to Damla, the support schools are crucial to student success, especially since the examination process in Turkey is extremely difficult. In Turkey, a single exam is the deciding factor between a university education and the lack thereof.

“The exam is so hard that you have to get support. So the best thing to do [would be to] make the exams easier and close the support schools. But if the exam is going to stay, there have to be support schools,” said Damla.

Many of her friends back in Turkey are now paying to attend private schools in preparation for their exams. Damla and her sister, on the other hand, decided to move here, where the education system is more stable and there are greater chances for success. In just less than a year from now, Damla hopes to be studying film production at either Conestoga College or Ryerson University in Toronto.

Aside from the differences in the education system, Damla has had some difficulty adjusting to the Canadian culture.

“I’m not sure if it’s just Waterloo [and] Kitchener or [all of] Canada, but in Turkey it’s more alive. The cities and the people are more energetic. I feel like people here are so bored and tired. The energy of Turkey is what I miss,” she said. She even expressed her shock at how early everything closes here in Canada, with most businesses and stores ending their nights at roughly 9 pm, a drastic difference from Turkey, where almost everything is open until midnight.

Ms. Schulz, an ESL teacher at wci, has made the transition for Damla much easier. The variety of extra-curricular activities available to students here at  WCI is something very new to Damla.

“There are so many activities in the school. In Turkey we don’t have [any] at all. So here, I am trying to get involved as much as I can. After school I [participate] in clubs and shows.”

“She made me get involved in a group called Crossing Borders. We met every month last year and we presented to several different schools.”

Crossing Borders is a group which supports refugees and newcomers to Canada, with their main purpose being to create awareness in the community.

Damla is also an active member of the Cultural Mosaic Club and ABCD at WCI.

“It made me feel like I am part of Canada, like I am doing something. I made friends in [these] group[s], so it made it easier to adjust.”