After my first day of classes I am exhausted. I took the weekend really easy, and I’m glad that I did. I applied for a student ID card here, did laundry, and spent some time playing music. Today I was up at 7 am and left my dorm at 8 am after a filling bowl of oatmeal. Then I walked across campus to where my Monday class is at and it took me a solid half an hour (which I did expect! I also took a practice walk over the weekend).
When I got to my class there were already about 5 girls there and they were all conversing in Turkish. I took a seat near the front of the room and pulled out my papers I need to get signed here (because I am an international student it is a different process than just registering online – which means more paperwork for me to do. And there has been a lot to do but I am feeling fairly on top of it, which is nice), and also a notebook and a pencil.
A few more groups of people trickled in and my psychology brain began thinking. A part of the Cocktail Party Effect is when you are at an event where there are many conversations going on and you hear salient words out of a crowd that suddenly get your attention. I know very little Turkish (in the grand scheme of a whole language) but I kept hearing “Çok güzel!” and “Sonra’, etc. I have been learning on Duolingo for the past year now. Apparently, I know too much actually, that I am not supposed to take the Beginners class that they offer here for International Students. Which made me very sad at first but I am okay with it now. It won’t be a waste of time for me and take up a spot for another student to learn it. I am glad I spent the year learning it, and I wouldn’t take it back if I could. The little that I do know has already helped me a lot in many ways; Turkish people really seem to like my efforts at Turkish. It is fun for them and me 🙂
My thoughts of psychology were interrupted when this girl (who had on black leggings like the ones I was wearing) came and sat down next to me. She left her friend group to do this, to introduce herself to me. Her name is Betül. We chatted a bit and realized that we actually have a lot in common (including three classes! – two others)
So.. it was supposed to be an English university. And it is in many ways. But Turkish is everyone’s default language around here (and the staff can not speak English which is often frusterating). Even in classes today though. My morning professor (who seems awesome, by the way!) began talking in Turkish and everyone started pointing at me and he apologized and told me what he had just said. It is helpful that I don’t look Turkish. People are generally curious about me, and assume that I do not speak their language. I appreciate that they assume this! Because I really do know so little. There is NO way that I could follow along a class in Turkish unless it actually was Turkish for Beginners.
I realized in my morning class (which is Children with Special Needs) that I actually have a disability of sorts, here at least. I am unable to speak the language that everyone else around here uses so effortlessly. It disables me to communicate in many ways. It is an obstacle here, that is for sure, but I am very fortunate, in that, I can just return home and it will no longer be a disability (of a sort) for me.
Betül and I spent the whole day together! We went to a cafeteria here that cost only about a dollar Canadian for a whole lunch!!! I was told it is the cheapest meal I will find in Turkey (and I do believe that :P). She showed me around campus a bit and we enjoyed the warmth of the sun together, we had çay together with her boyfriend and other friend, and I even go to experience an arabic toilet… basically just a whole in the ground. That was very funny to me, and made me fortunate that in my dorm here I have a toilet (with a seat and everything!) for me to use.