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Students go to Turkish coast for non-traditional summer school experience
7/30/14

Students using summer break to take a course or two or to spend time at the shore is nothing new, but for a group of five Alfred University (AU) undergraduates and their professor, the classic summer pursuits took an uncommon turn this year. They spent four weeks in the Black Sea coast town of Sile (a suburb of Istanbul), Turkey.

In a break from the traditional summer school routine, for four weeks the students learned the Turkish language for two hours each morning and then studied Turkey’s history, economics, politics, and culture in two-to-four-hour afternoon lectures, all in a summer program called “Crossroads of Civilization,” offered by Isik University, about 30 miles outside of Istanbul on a campus about the size of AU’s.

Traveling with Jeff Sluyter-Beltrao, associate professor of political science, were Tiffany Chen, a junior ceramic engineering major from Barrington, IL; sophomore Je’Rei Hawthorne of Cambria Heights, undecided on major; Jae Kim, a junior from Springfield, MO majoring in history and environmental studies; Ariana Osbourne, a freshman from Jamaica, NY, undecided on major; and junior Damon Siple from Fairport, also undecided on major. They each will earn six credits for their experience, June 28-July 26, four for their course work and two for the language studies.

“Turkey is an endlessly fascinating place,” said Sluyter-Beltrao. “The many Turks we met were warm, giving, and hospitable people, and each of us had touching and unforgettable experiences interacting with them….

“We feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to have so much fun while also learning an incredible amount about such an intriguing, beautiful, and important country that is so little known or understood in the United States,” he explained. Adding to the classroom work, said Sluyter-Beltrao, “in the evenings there were often activities organized, like traditional Turkish dance classes, Turkish films, World Cup soccer viewing, or trips to a nearby town.”  

He noted there were some 50 students participating in the program as a whole, from places as diverse as Mexico, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, England and Australia.

“So our students also had the opportunity to make great friends from other countries and to better appreciate our similarities and differences. On the weekends we went on trips to some of the countless interesting places in this (northwestern) part of Turkey, including visits to the unearthed ancient city of Troy, to Gallipoli where horrific, insanely blood-stained battles were fought during World War I, and to the ‘altar of Zeus’ dating back to the 6th century B.C.”

Also a part of the experience was an interview on Turkish television conducted by Mehmet Emin Karaaslan, a professor at Isik and coordinator of the summer exchange program who was a former tenured professor at AU where he taught economics. The interview included Siple and several other students in the larger Isik group.