Julianne Kelly

Turkey

Hometown:Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club:Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Host District: District 2440

Host Club: The Rotary Club of Dokuz Eylul

 

My Bio


Hello! Merhaba! My name is Julianne Kelly, I am sixteen years old, and I live in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Through out my entire life I have loved to travel. I have loved to meet new people and experience new cultures; that is why I am so incredibly excited that Rotary is sending me to Turkey this year. When I have free time I love to spend time with friends and be active by doing things like tennis and horseback riding. I play on my high schools competitive lacrosse team and I am also the president of the Ponte Vedra Chapter of the Environmental Club. At home I live with my Mom who is a Nurse Practitioner, my Dad who is a retired Federal Agent, and my two chocolate labs; Kiley and Ellie. I also have a 19 year old sister named Alexis who is a sophomore at FSU. I heard about Rotary Youth Exchange through a presentation at my school and when they described what it entailed I knew it was for me. Ever since I have been accepted into this program, I have been researching Turkey nonstop and the more I do, the more I fall in love with it. I cannot wait to start one of the greatest adventures of my life in Turkey and I am so incredibly thankful to Rotary Youth Exchange for providing me with this amazing opportunity. Tesekkur ederim! (Thank You!)

Journals: Julianne - Turkey

  • Julianne, outbound to Turkey

    I realize my writings may not be the most well written or the most interesting, but the one goal I have tried to achieve is realism. I don’t try to embellish and use extreme word choice because just as I am in person, I like to get straight to the point. I want people to know what is happening and the effects of the events on me. I don’t want to give you three paragraphs describing how beautiful the scenery of a lake was or how great a muffin was that I ate for breakfast. I don’t want to write you an essay. I just want to let you know what’s going on in the simplest way possible. I want you to understand and see things through my eyes. As you can see from past writings my eyes tend to see the world in a realistic and logical way. I’m not the type to add embellishment without reason.

    I experienced my first nation wide black out this past month. Actually in my life I have never experienced a blackout on such a large scale. People may think of Turkey as being off the map, but truthfully it holds some of the most populated metropolitan cities in the world. Istanbul blacking out is a prime example of this. The fact that not only a city lost power, but an entire nation, is a really huge event that went basically unacknowledged in international media outlets.

    The best part is that the cause is unknown; no one really knows what happened. There are a bunch of stories flying around, ranging from this being a terrorist attack, to cats attacking wiring all at once throughout the nation. Obviously some accusations are more ridiculous than others (personally I think the cats theory is hilarious). Due to the amount of government censoring already taking place, I don’t think we will ever know the true cause of this blackout. All I know is that for an entire nation to go dark, for more than 12 hours is something unprecedented in the modern era.

    To put this event in perspective for people that can’t create a clear image of Turkey in their mind, it is like if New York City and Washington D.C. were located in Texas and the entire state of Texas went dark. I do not know what caused this and I don’t dare to venture a guess for fear of reprimand for spreading slander from the Turkish government. The power was out until after the sun set so I was able to see my part of the city silent and dark except for the car lights on the streets.

    We are now back with power. However at the time, we didn’t know how long the power outage would last and our phones were running out of charge one by one. The most stressful part wasn’t why this happened or if we would have electricity that night, it was the fact that we weren’t able to use our smart phones. This goes to show the true reliance our society has on technology. In apartments like mine we didn’t event have water to flush the toilet because the pump runs on electricity. However compared to not being able to text, no one was focusing on this.

    It’s hard to pretend like I have problems when I look around me and see people with real problems. I see people begging just to survive from children to the elderly. My problems are miniscule in comparison with so many others. I can never feel bad for myself ever again. I have seen poverty and suffering before, but being surrounded by it every day is something entirely different. They live right next to me. They sleep in the newspaper I have read the day before. They eat the food I have not finished and carelessly dumped off my plate into the trash. The cast away parts of my life have become the sustenance for theirs. Children here roam the streets selling tissues for unknown figures that are commonly malicious criminals. They are unable to attend school because they must work to survive and even if they have the funds to attend school, most schools won’t even accept them because of their Syrian origin. Education is most definitely not available to all in this country.

    Most of April and May was taken up by Rotary trips and endeavors. We traveled over majority of Turkey. Although I enjoy history quite a bit, many of the ruins look remarkably similar. Some are bigger, some taller, but all are white and old. As general as that sounds, after living in Turkey for 10 months, you get used to the fact that everything around you is ancient. The fact that they were built in a time without advanced technology doesn’t even enter your mind. Its odd how numb you can become to something being surrounded with it every day.

    Our first trip was to Gocek. This is a beach town on the Mediterranean. While in Gocek I met the outbound student who is actually coming to Florida. He seems to be very open-minded and I think he will do well. His first host family is actually a gay couple. However what disgusted me was the fact that my director was less than thrilled with this placement because she thought being in that “environment” might “confuse” the boy. In Turkey homophobia is a part of the culture, but sometimes it still shocks me how medieval the mindsets can still be. Personally I think that from the sound of this couple they are great people and their sexual orientation has NOTHING to do with how they will be as host parents. I think that at the very least this will be a very good experience for this exchange student to become comfortable with the diversity of the world.

    Our next trip was to Bergama, which has quite a few spectacular religious sights including one of the famous eight churches that letters were sent to in the bible. Not many people know this; being that Turkey is a country that is ninety nine percent Islamic, but it is also home to many major Christian landmarks being that it is in the area where Christianity began.

    One of my favorite trips this entire year was to Pamukkale. This is the home to one of the most interesting and beautiful natural wonders of Turkey; the crystal travertines. These are also called the “cotton castles” or “ice mountains”.  In reality they are actually huge calcite formations filled with spring water. The calcite formations are huge and white giving the illusion from afar that it is snow or ice. We swam in the pools and felt the warmth of the dissolved minerals in the bottom. Also while in Pamukkale there is a pool that was actually built for Cleopatra to swim in. We paid thirty Turkish lira, which is equivalent to eleven dollars and swam where Cleopatra swam. The water in this pool is also a part of the same hot spring and the pool has tiny bubbles in it, making the water feel like a carbonated drink. It is said that the bubbles that are everywhere have healing properties for your skin. I thought this was incredible and I would have stayed there all day if we had been given the time.

    After this my parents came to visit. I met them in Istanbul and showed them all of the famous sights. To see their reactions to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque reminded me of my Orientation in Istanbul, which seemed like it was just yesterday. This year has been like a dream. It went by so fast. Do you know how sometimes you feel like you’ve been only dreaming for five minutes, but you wake up and realize you slept for twelve hours. That’s how my exchange has been, it felt so fast and yet it was actually eleven months out of my life.

    My parents then came to Izmir, my home city, and I took them all around. Honestly my parent’s visiting was so hard for me. To go back to feeling dependent on them and having to act like a tourist. I built my life for a year on my own and as awful as it sounds there just didn’t seem like there was a place for my family in it. My exchange was mine and it was just so hard to share it. To have to stop everything I was doing to show them around. To have to answer the same dumb questions I asked when I first arrived. They were a reminder of my old self; the self that I don’t want to go back to being. It reinforced the fact that I was leaving soon and that I had to return to my normal life; the reality that my time is almost up.

    After the extreme stress of my parents visiting, we had our five day Greek cruise. As beautiful as Greece was and as cool as it was to go to another country without Rotarians, I realized I’m just not the type of person who takes cruises. I prefer to sleep in the country I’m visiting, to fly in and have the freedom to go where I want to go, when I want to go. On a cruise you spend majority of your time in the boat eating out of sheer boredom. We went to quite a few different Greek islands and the mainland to see Athens.

    I enjoyed most of the islands although they were extremely touristy, however I extremely disliked Athens. Honestly it was kind of just a run down cookie cutter city. Also it left a bad taste in my mouth because I asked a man which bus to take to the temple of Zeus and he refused to tell me because I didn’t say “hello” and “how are you?” before I asked. Then he proceeded to lecture me on manners. I then turned and walked away while he was still talking in response to his rude condescending response. Overall though it was an eye opening experience in terms of how Greece was financially doing at the time. The issues with the economy showed in the upkeep of everything and in the faces of many of the citizens.

    In our district at the conference it is traditional that the inbound students every year perform a traditional Turkish dance and create a video of their time in Turkey. Obviously to prepare we took dance classes every week for almost 2 months before the conference. Most people when they picture dance classes think that they aren’t difficult and you don’t exert much energy. Well I am here to tell you this isn’t true and that traditional Turkish dances are actually extremely tiring. We danced for almost three hours every class nonstop. After every class we were soaked in sweat.

    Our particular dance for the 2014-2015 inbounds was called “Ata Bari”. It is a dance that was created for Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” when he visited the northeastern border of Turkey. The dance has many Russian influences as well as Turkish influences. Therefore there is a lot of difficult jumping and falling to ones knees and hopping up again, especially for the boy dancers. The funny thing about all of this was that because of the fact that in my district we have only two boys and ten girls, two of the girls had to play men in the dance. Lucky for me I am tall and don’t really have a feminine figure, so I was one of the few that got the lovely task of cross dressing for the performance in front of my entire district.

    Our District conference this year was held in Marmaris, a lovely beach city farther south than Izmir. We stayed in a beautiful resort right on the water and met a bunch of foreigners there. I met the representative of the Rotary international president who was assigned to attend our conference in 2440. It turned out he was from Alabama and he noticed how I was pretending to be a boy. His wife and him said they knew because I was too pretty to be a boy. I thought they were both very sweet for saying this. At the conference we were a big hit and it really was a great experience. My host mom was also there and received a few awards because she is the president of one of the most successful clubs in our area.

    Coming into my last month as an exchange student in Turkey, I am starting to get nervous, but I am still holding it together because no one has left yet and for some reason it still feels like I have time. I know logically it is almost over, but in my heart I can’t imagine how this year will ever end. This place has become my home and I don’t want to leave.


  • Julianne, outbound to Turkey

    In past journals I have written, I have not been entirely truthful. Because of how amazing my exchange has been thus far I have been blinded to the negative aspects of Turkey. The truth, I think, is more important than the peace of mind of some Rotarians.

    My exchange has been amazing. This is no lie, but I have encountered less pleasant aspects of my country that I think it is time I finally share them. One of the most major issues that rings true throughout the country, in even the most liberal of places, is sexism. Before coming to Turkey I knew I supported women’s rights, but I never knew to what extent. In my life I have been lucky enough to be given the same opportunities as any man around me. I was never told no just because I was a girl. I was judged based on my actions and my character, not on the absence of a male sex organ. I am sad to say that this has changed since I entered Turkey. As much as I love this beautiful country with all the wonderful things it has to offer, there is a major gender gap. I live in the most liberal part of Turkey where women have the most rights and to me this is incredibly disheartening. Officially women have the same rights as men in terms of legal situations (to some extent). However in social situations I have to say this is not the case. Previously I have talked about issues in Turkey with cat calling, but it is so much more than that.

    I do not want to paint the entire country with one brush and one color. I have met many people and experienced many events that show the fight for equalization of the sexes is well underway in Turkey. When an atrocity was committed to a girl in a city in the far east of Turkey, women AND men wore mini skirts and marched through the streets to show women have rights. The mini skirt was a symbol that no matter what a woman wears, she is not a sexual object. Ever. Turkey is the place where for the first time in my life I was subjected to real unadulterated sexism. I have been told I couldn’t do things because it “wasn’t what pretty girls do” and that “I wasn’t as good at something as a man”.

    The gender gap is not as clear to see here as in many other countries because it is hidden in the shadows of everyday interactions, but its still a prominent part of society. Every so often you will have an event that really gives a moment of clarity to the everyday injustices that previously had been unnoticeable. As an exchange student I am told to assimilate to society and the new culture around me, but there are some things that I do not find right and I don’t care which culture they come from; I will never allow them to become a part of my cultural ideology. The behavior many others and I are subjected to on a daily basis is grotesque and completely inexcusable. I don’t care if you were raised in barn; women are not your property, we aren’t your pets, we are your equals. Accept it. This is the twenty first century and feminism is alive and real.

    The point at which I truly realized the extent of the issue was the day I found out about some of the archaic and medieval laws that are still in existence today in my host nation. In Eastern Turkey if a girl gets pregnant before she is married, her father has the right to kill her without consequence. This is called an “Honor Killing”. Personally I couldn’t think of a more ironic and disgusting name for this act. There is absolutely nothing honorable about these killings in even the most twisted and demented universe. The shear fact that this law is still in existence makes me want to vomit. As soon as the cloak of Turkey being a modern country is over your eyes they go and tear it off with news like this. Another aspect of everyday life in this magnificent country is the questioning of your virginity. Since when did it become socially acceptable to scream across a restaurant to a perfect stranger asking if they’ve “lost it yet?” If I had to choose which question I had been asked the most this would probably be it.

    Every country has beautiful aspects and the aspects that most wish would just be swept under the rug. Turkey is no different. I could name countless examples of this throughout the world, including in my home country. This essay is not to destroy the image of Turkey that most have. It is to open their eyes to see the good and the bad. It is to enlighten those who do not know about the country they are about to step foot in. This is my way of shedding some light on the shadows of the world.


  • Julianne, outbound to Turkey

    Sometimes I think about what it would have been like to go to another country for my exchange, but every time I think about it I come to the same conclusion. I would never change my choice of coming to Turkey. It’s like sometimes moments of your life happen that you know will stay with you forever. Every moment of being in Turkey is like that for me. Of course if I had gone to certain other countries my language skills would probably be more advanced at this point because of previous knowledge or similarity to English. My experiences would have been totally different. It’s hard to believe I am almost half way done with my time here. When I think of my exchange this way it makes me a little sad and happy at the same time. It’s hard to explain the mixture of emotions that takes over. I’m proud of all that I have accomplished so far, but I’m sad it has gone by so fast. Time is slipping by at a rate that is almost unimaginable.

    I am, however, proud to say that I have not let a moment slip by that I haven’t used in an important way. Every moment since I have arrived in Turkey I have explored new places and met new people. There is a phrase in Turkish my host mom loves to use when describing me; loosely translated it means when I was born my mother threw the umbilical cord out the window, so because of that now I feel the need to go out and explore all the time. My host family and I have a great relationship because they know I am not just going out to meet exchange students, I am going out with Turkish friends, learning about Turkish culture, and discovering the city. In Turkey, I am given a great amount of freedom by my host family because they know I am safe about everything I do and I stay out of trouble. My goal in Turkey is not to see how many rules I can break, but how many firsts I can have. Like my first time exploring Bornova (where I live in Izmir). My first time reading a an article from the newspaper completely in Turkish, my first time walking in hail, and my first time being able to find my way from one end of the city to the other; completely on my own.

    Honestly in terms of language in my district I am not the best. I have made a huge amount of progress and I am steadily getting better, but what I have excelled at is cultural immersion. I am one of the few that has true Turkish friends and this I feel is a triumph. Here making friends with a language barrier is extremely difficult and I have succeeded! I have truly adapted to the atmosphere of Turkey and I find myself explaining cultural aspects to other exchange students. I find myself leading and showing them around places in the city they have yet to explore. I wish I could say that my life has reached a steady pace where I can predict what I will be doing in the next few days, but honestly everyday is an adventure. Besides school, which I attend regularly, I never know where I will be or what I will be doing. I always say part of being an exchange student is that you actually have the ability to make your own choices on where you go and who you choose to be with. Be wise in these decisions, but every so often take a risk that you think will pay off in the long run.

    To all future outbounds (or any who actually reads this journal) I just want to say, follow your gut; in a country that is still new to you, your gut is the one reliable source that will tell you what is a good decision and a bad one. I want to warn you that by 5 or 6 months into your exchange you will feel cocky. You will feel like you have lived in the country long enough to know how it works and how to get around, but unpredictability will hit you one day and you need to be prepared. By five or six months you are not an expert on where you live. People can live in a country their whole lives and still not know that much about it. I don’t care if you are in a tiny village in France or a huge city in Brazil. Be prepared and be ready for anything.

    For anyone coming to Turkey I recommend bringing all the jeans you think you will need for the whole year because its basically all people use here and they are expensive. I would bring a pair of waterproof boots like Timberlands or Hunters because it gets really cold and rains/snows a lot in the winter. Literally everyone also wears leather jackets and dark colors. My wardrobe has become very monochromatic in terms of color scheme. Plunging necklines are semi uncommon, but are still used or at least I use them. For boys going to Turkey, shorts are pretty uncommon no matter how hot it is and sandals for boys and girls are uncommon as well.

    I had a trip to Mersin for five days last week and it was extremely interesting. Mersin is a city in southeastern Turkey. It is a few hours from the Syrian border actually, but it is very safe. Right now there is a great deal of problems going on in my area of the world. Everyday I feel I am witnessing history as the Syrian refugees pour into Turkey. Mersin has a different culture and feel than Izmir, but it has changed and become more conservative as the refugees have affected the cultural identity of the city. Mersin was one of the cities that had a huge amount of refugees because of its close vicinity to the Syrian border; much higher than my host city of Izmir.

    Just before I went to this city a young girl named Ozgecan was raped, killed, and burned. I visited during the cities period of mourning. The death of this college student caused an uproar throughout the nation. There were protests all over the place to defend women’s rights. Men in Istanbul even put on mini skirts and marched through the streets to show their support. Personally I wished I could have marched with them. I find the whole story disgusting and disgraceful. Turkey in so many ways is incredibly modern, but in others I feel like they haven’t progressed at all. For example in all of Turkey women have the right to vote, but there is also a law that states if a woman cheats on her husband or gets pregnant before she is married, her family has the right to kill her. This is called an “honor killing” and it is completely legal. They consider it a family matter. When I heard of this for the first time I couldn’t believe that such a modern and beautiful country could have such a despicable law still in existence. I did and saw many amazing things in Mersin, but many of these were shrouded in darkness because of the shadow of the terrible event that had recently occurred in this city.

    Looking forward on my exchange I feel sad. Whenever I look at the photos I have taken I know that the places I have been will never be the same as the instant I took that photograph. That everything is changing. Enjoy every moment in the moment because once its gone you can never relive that moment again. When you are an exchange student you thrive on change, but once you get to a point where you are incredibly happy you don’t want things to change anymore. You don’t want to continue on because you know the farther you get into your exchange, the closer you are to returning to the life you left at home; that the more friends you make, the more friends you have to leave at the end of the year, and the closer you get to the other exchange students, the harder saying goodbye to them will be.

    When I have days that are incredibly amazing it’s hard to let them end because moments like that in life are so rare. For my entire life I have tried to stay emotionally detached from everything and everyone because it makes it so much easier to live for yourself and reach the goals you want; but now everything has changed. Everything about me is different. I have done a complete 180 on who I am as a person and although I am proud of who I have become and how open I am, I have become so much more vulnerable. Everyday I feel a few details of past days slip out of my memory and it makes me so sad. I don’t want to forget any moment of my time in Turkey. This sadness is however derived from the fact that my exchange has been exceptionally successful and incredible in all aspects. It has been far beyond my expectations and I currently have had almost no problems.

    Since I have been in Turkey however we have had a tragedy occur and we all have had to deal with the pain of it. One of the students here had a parent murdered in their home country. They will not be returning home and so we have taken it upon ourselves to take care of them during this tragic time. I do not want to share the identity of this person, but I do want to express my deepest condolences to them and all other exchange students, past, present, and future, that have experienced something terrible like this on their exchange.

    One of the great things about living abroad is that you get to test your limits and you get to know what is your breaking point. I have never been in a situation where I have actually reached my breaking point, but that doesn’t mean I won't encounter one of these moments soon especially since I have almost 130 days left. I have had to learn to get along with people that I would never have chosen for myself as friends and I have actually found that I get along better with them than people I would think would be a better match for me. I have come to realize that you can connect to people that are just like you AND people who are complete opposites. I like having some friends that I can relate to and having some friends that I can debate with all the live long day.

    I sincerely apologize for my English and how bad the writing of these journals have become, but writing about experiences and feeling I have had that have happened in another language do not always translate correctly and at times may come out awkward. I sometimes find myself putting English words in the Turkish grammar order. I find infinite typos and misspellings. I can’t even remember what half of the punctuation symbols mean. The SAT’s will definitely be fun when I return, especially in the essay section.

    So I thought I would give you a briefing on Turkish people and what I have learned about them so far. Turkish teenage girls love drama. They love to gossip and start fights in school. I truthfully don’t know why and I don’t want to stereo type them and put them all in one category, but I have found it to be true. All of the girls here think I am literally in Turkey for one purpose; to steal their boyfriends. Believe me when I say I have no idea where this stems from. Apparently I have the look of a man stealer. Many of the girls here don’t really like me because of this, but they are all usually nice to my face. On the other hand the teenage boys never seem to leave me alone. They always want to talk asking me about everything and anything under the sun. They just can’t seem to get enough time to talk to the foreigners. I have been at my school for five months and I am still crowded at lunch so much that I can hardly find time to eat. The older generations here are pretty similar to the younger generations just a little more conservative and sedentary. They rarely do anything but drink tea and talk once they get past a certain age.

    I received what they call a “traditional Turkish bath” the other day. I was very excited to go with my friend Lea to get it, but when we got there it was nothing like I thought it would be. A Turkish bath or a Hamam is basically an underground building that is split into two sides (one for men and one for women) and in these two rooms are two gigantic caves filled with steam and sinks and bowls with a large heated marble slab in the middle. Everyone basically gets naked and they wash in the sinks. Once you have thoroughly cleansed yourself and are soaked with water you go and lay on the marble slab. Women who work at the Hamam then come up to you and do the traditional Turkish scrub, rub, and shine. They take an extremely rough cloth and take off your first three layers of your skin all over your body and when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Because remember, you are completely naked. Then they scrub you with soap and after this they massage you. They put carbonated water in ground coffee and rub it all over you following the soap. You then have to stand completely naked for 10 minutes so it can dry on you. They pour carbonated water on your face to take off the coffee grounds and the burning sensations it causes is one of the most intense I have ever experienced. After washing all the coffee grounds off you, the Hamam workers take shampoo and wash your hair and face 3 times. You are finished once the last bit of shampoo has been washed from your hair. It is tradition for a bride to turn on all the faucets at the beginning of the Hamam time to have good luck on her wedding day during her bachelorette party. I personally did not enjoy this experience, but only because my skin is not tough enough to take so much all at one time.

    The last thing I would like to talk about in this journal is the fact that I have become a diehard tea addict. I have to have at least five cups of tea everyday or I can’t function. Turkey is the country where people drink the most tea in the world. Most people think its China or Japan, but its actually Turkey. The home of the famous two-kettle Turkish teapot. I have to admit at first I did not like Turkish tea at all I thought that it tasted like rotten leaves, but now I can appreciate it and I really have adapted to liking it. It is a true testament to the fact that your taste will change as you assimilate to the culture of your host country.


  • Julianne, outbound to Turkey

    It’s hard to believe how much a change in scenery can impact you. How a different lifestyle can set you on a completely different path. I never thought of myself as ignorant or unaware of the world; having traveled it from a young age, but exchange has proven me wrong. In my life I have never truly appreciated what I had. From the opportunities I was given, to the home I grew up in. Never having to worry about money or where my next meal was coming from. I have been introduced to people whose lives make mine look like a fairy tale. People who have endured hardships, that I couldn’t imagine in my wildest nightmares. I used to be a judgmental person. I thought that just because you dressed a certain way or talked a certain way automatically put you with a certain class of people.

    Since being in Turkey my views of the world have been completely turned upside-down. I have met people from different countries, cultures, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and age groups. They have all in some way, shape, or form opened my eyes to the pieces of the world I had consciously or unconsciously chosen to ignore or not pay attention to. To each an every one of these people I would like to say thank you. Although my world views are no longer as clean cut, they are much more real and all encompassing. My black and white vision has been mixed into gray and I could not be more happy.

    My perspective has changed, my views have broadened, and my mind has been opened. It is actually quite surprising how being in a more closed and conservative country has made me become open to much more. I have tried things here, I would have never tried at home because I would have been too scared. Not only have the people of Turkey impacted me, but the other exchange students have also made a huge impression on my life as well.

    I read 5 newspapers a day now and I am more informed than I have ever been in my life. I have learned just because it isn’t in the news doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and isn’t a problem. Just because we have decided to put another issue at the forefront of our minds doesn’t make the other any less important. Everyday something is happening somewhere and the only way to keep up with our world that moves at a faster pace everyday, is to stay aware and stay involved. My entire life I have been working towards becoming a scientist, but now I have had a change of heart. I would like to be someone who is involved in the intercommunication of international groups. I have decided from this point on this is my new passion in life.

    In my district in Turkey they say that I am very good at socializing, that I have the ability to walk up to anyone and start a conversation. I have always been a shy girl. I have been taught that just because you talk the most or the loudest in a room doesn’t automatically mean you are right. I have been trying to break out of this mindset because talking is an asset when you are an exchange student, but in truth I’m not outgoing. I just pretend to be outgoing; I am actually terrified to walk up to new people.

    Obviously as an exchange student this is not acceptable, so I had to find a way to overcome this flaw. My only strength is that I can make people smile with a joke and as soon as this happens people begin to relax and open up. No matter what your nationality, race, or creed, everyone in the world enjoys a joke even if it isn’t that funny, it is an international ice breaker! Jokes will make getting to know someone a lot easier. In the USA I was always too busy with school to socialize that much, but now that I actually have the time I feel much more open and able to be myself with people.

    The truth is I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to return to my old high school. I have changed too much to go back and meet my old friends. They won’t understand what I have become and the transformation I have gone through. I have actually begun to find myself and not just become what other people wanted me to be. I always tried to be what others were looking for so I could please everyone. Of course I hope people like what I have become but it is no longer my main concern. I am finally happy with myself; I have found inner peace at least for the time being.

    It’s hard to look back at the US because everything is so different. There are things that I like about the US, but I have never felt as though this is the place I will end up. I have always felt that it is just a step along the way until I find where I need to go. I am a nomad. I have known this about myself my entire life. I know I will never settle in one place for long. My only true bond is to the open road and I plan to uphold it. It’s hard especially on American holidays that I have celebrated my whole life to see how easily they can be forgotten. How you don’t even remember they are coming up until they are passed and gone.

    We have since traveled to Cappadocia one of the oldest places I have ever had the privilege to travel to in my life. We went to thousands of years old cave churches that were literally carved into the faces of cliffs, we went hot air ballooning in the wee hours of the morning in dangerous conditions with high wind turbulence just to view the natural beauty of the land created by volcanoes long ago. While it was freezing cold we slept in caves and tried some of the food native to this region.

    Next we went on a trip to Konya, which is known as the most conservative cities in Turkey. I have to say that out of all the places I have traveled to in Turkey I felt the most unwelcome in Konya. Majority of the women there were almost completely covered. Even though it was cold and I was almost completely covered as well my skinny jeans and long sleeve sweaters were drastically different from the scene of never ending burkas. We as a group did receive many angry stares and were turned a way from a few restaurants because we were speaking English when we walked up. To this day this is the time I felt most like an outsider. The scenery in Konya is beautiful, but I have to say it was not worth the price of being there.

    Because it is now after December, we are now allowed to travel alone around Turkey with permission. I am about to embark on my first adventure alone to Mersin, a city in the South East of Turkey a little west of Syria on the water. I am very excited to go and see an area of Turkey I have not explored yet. This is one of the best things about being in Turkey, I can see places that very few even seasoned travelers would go to. The culture is also so wildly different from all other countries that my experience is truly unique. I am also going on a school trip to Ankara and this will also be another city that I have never been to before. I am very excited for my upcoming months in Turkey and I could not be more happy with my choice of country and the people in Rotary who made this choice a reality!


  • Julianne - outbound to Turkey

    I know that literally everyone on exchange uses the lame excuse of not having any time to write journals, but for me it is completely true! I barely have time to check my email. In Turkey I have been so busy and having so much fun that I have not turned on the television once. Why would I when I can go meet friends from school and explore more of the city? My lifestyle has been turned completely upside-down, in the US my life revolved around school and getting good grades, getting homework done, and pleasing teachers. All of my extra curriculars were targeted towards getting into a good university. Here I can just have fun. I can focus on actually having friends and spending time with them. Socialization is my job. I am not expected here to be the valedictorian, or the star athlete. I am not even expected to, just encouraged to make friends and spread the image of America that is true. I am supposed to represent my country, my district, my club, and myself in a way that would make all those involved proud.

    In school here I practice Turkish and I feel as though I am actually learning something applicable to my life. I’m not learning what the PH of a stomach is or why giraffes make no noise. I am learning something that is actually useful. There are many differences in school here. Unlike the schools in the US students are treated with respect and trust, not as juvenile delinquents who are likely to burn the place down if left alone for too long. There is such a thing as a student-teacher bond where they take care of us and we take care of them. If a teacher forgets their lunch everyone from class chips in and buys them lunch. We stand when a teacher enters the room to show our respect for them. Our teachers are the ones that switch classes not the students. So we stay in the same room all day with different teachers coming in and out.

    We have ten minute breaks in between classes and this is when the real fun happens. Sometimes we have chalk wars where we throw chalk around and get covered in different colors; by the end we look like we celebrated the Indian holiday of Holi. We climb through windows to get to class and people carry each other through the windows. Our uniforms (especially for girls) are extremely ugly, so we shorten the skirts and change the shirts if we want to follow the rules at all. Most people just completely disregard the rules and wear whatever they want because no one enforces dress code. I know this sounds bad, but the more time I spend in the Turkish school system, the more I want to compare it to the US in the 80’s. People smoke in the bathrooms and kiss in the stairwells. There are no real restrictions enforced towards educational establishments.

    Schools in this country are still places where free expression is thought of as healthy and good for the learning process. I agree with this thought process immensely. Since being in this Turkish school for three months I feel I have learned more than both years at Ponte Vedra High School. The people at my Turkish school are all immensely gifted. In Turkey you take a high school entrance exam at the end of middle school and how well you score on that determines which high schools you can go to. Izmir Ataturk Lisesi (my school) is the top school to get into in Izmir and top 5 in all of Turkey because it is 127 years old. We have some of the brightest students there from all over Turkey because of this. Turkey has managed to find the solution to getting rid of the time wasters no one wants in class; the kids who just go to school because it is illegal not to. The kids who are actually trying to go far in their lives have their own schools with likeminded peers, who benefits the learning process of others.

    Sometimes when you visit foreign countries you have moments when you just know you are somewhere drastically different from where you are from. I am going to list a few of these moments just because there is no way of mentioning them except by just saying them. The first is getting on a bus and having the driver drive with no hands while singing the song “No Hands” in a tiny back street filled with traffic. Another is going to watch a surgery and being 2 feet away from the operating table because your host dad is the surgeon and says its normal to have people view operations. The last is seeing someone eat, smoke, talk on the phone, and parallel park at the same time while coming to the realization that they are still better at it than you. These things just don’t happen where I live in the US.

    I went to the Mediterranean sea with my host family during the holiday called Bayram. Bayram is an Islamic sacrificial holiday where they sacrifice animals and give the meat to the poor. Although it sounds a tad barbaric, the thought behind the holiday is actually one of charity and equality. During the holiday of Bayram it is also tradition for young people to go up to elders and take their hand in a fist to their mouth as a sign of respect; in return they are given money. My family and 9 others decided to take a trip during this holiday, so we drove seven hours down to Marmaris and stayed in a beautiful ocean villa that had been rented out specifically for us. The villa was surrounded by orange, pomegranate, and olive trees growing freely and were open for anyone to take from. While there we rented a private beach and used it almost everyday. The water was crystal clear and beautiful! I would come up from swimming underwater and think I was hallucinating because the scenery was so beautiful; sapphire blue water surrounded by powder white sand with mountains and cliffs rising up all around.

    Every night we would go out to dinner, which was really interesting because the restaurants we ate in were so extravagant! One of them was in a marina where the water was lit up from underneath and you could see all of the huge fish swimming around. Another was on a cliff over looking the bay with an all you can eat buffet bar of fantastic food (which I can tell you are not that common in Turkey). Always the rides back would be a little spine chilling because Turkey isn’t known to have many street lights, so we were on perilously small roads on huge cliffs in the pitch black taking turns at full speed.

    The next weekend I had my second inbound orientation, which was actually a four day excursion to Istanbul. Although there are many geographical similarities to Istanbul and Izmir, I am here to say that they are wildly different. Istanbul is much more conservative than Izmir. There were many more people there with covered heads and prayer beads. Of course while we were in Istanbul we did all the touristic things such as go to the Hagia Sophia, the Blue mosque, the Tokapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and on the Bosphorous tour.

    All of these sights were as spectacular as people say they are, especially the Hagia Sophia with its astoundingly detailed architecture, but these were not what impacted me the most while I was there. It was the interactions I had with people and the subtle differences to Izmir that caught my attention. For example when I was in the blue mosque an Arab man came up to me and rudely told me to show my respect by tightening my scarf around my face. (I would like to note that in the blue mosque because it is a tourist attraction you are not even required to cover your head if you are a woman.) Me being the feminist, I am, told him to go find his wife and leave. He then proceeded to march up to the women’s prayer room and leave with a woman who was completely covered except for her eyes.

    This is a first rate example of the fact that a majority of Islamic people who I live and go to school with are completely normal and have a moderate view of their religion just as most Christians do, but the vocal Muslims who catch our attention are the crazy fanatics who are a severe minority. Every type of religion has some sort of extremist, but for some reason in the Islamic faith, this has become their stereotype. In the US we do not like being seen as the obnoxious stupid fat tourists in other countries, so why do we continue to give another ridiculous stereotype of being terrorists to Muslims. Where is the logic in this?

    Another interaction that truly impacted my view of Istanbul was the true love for one another people have. We were walking and an old woman fell and men jumped out of their cars to go help her and call an ambulance and her family. Istanbul may be the biggest city in Turkey, but the neighborly feel of a small town has not been extinguished. A less flattering detail of Istanbul is the cat calling in the bazaar. Everywhere I turned a man would be giving me some outrageously cheesy pick up line and I kind of just wanted to sprint for the door. Contrary to popular belief pick up lines hardly work with strangers and they do not make me want to enter a shop. You would think they would have caught on to this by now, but apparently not. Also while in Istanbul, I realized how incredibly clumsy I am. I do grant the fact that majority of the streets in Istanbul are very uneven, but for some reason my feet decided to not work at all that trip. Even in the hotel our first night there when I was going down the stairs I fell and got a huge bruise all the way up to my elbow. Since being back in Izmir I have gotten a little better, but not by much.

    I have to say that I think driving in Istanbul is actually less crazy than Izmir because a majority of Istanbul is straight traffic. In Izmir it is severe road rage with 3 cars next to each other on a one lane road seeing who can get out in front. Istanbul really is a beautiful city filled with history and I wished I could have stayed longer to see more of it, but I am happy I was placed in Izmir instead because it suits my lifestyle much more in terms of how I am treated and that I can walk down the street without tripping on a hidden ridge in the road.

    Later that month we had Turkish Republic day, which is the day that Mustafa Kemal made Turkey a Republic form of government. In my city of Turkey, because it is very liberal, Ataturk is seen almost as a god. I agree with the supporters of him when I say that he did great things for this country that were ground breaking and that he was way ahead of his time in terms of ideas. During Republic day as exchange students, we were features in the cities republic day parade. We wore our Rotary blazers and did our best to look graceful while walking through the uneven streets of Izmir. At the end when the leader of Izmir gave his speech we were even mentioned as fine representatives of Rotary International. All the Inbounds of Turkey bought matching red ribbons to put on our blazers to commemorate this event and show our support for this great past leader of Turkey! I have become incredibly close with these people, they are like a second family to me and for all future exchange stude nts I can tell you that your fellow exchange students are your support system that will get you through anything. They can make or break your exchange and mine have helped me have the best three months of my life thus far!


  • Julianne - outbound to Turkey

    My First Two Weeks in Turkey! 

    So it turns out I actually avoided jetlag, but not for the reason you would think. Since the day I landed in Turkey I have been so busy that I have not had the chance to feel awake at night. Sleep is so precious to me now that I sometimes don’t shower, just so I can catch an extra half hour of shuteye. For my entire first week here I have not gone to sleep before 11 at night.

    So starting with my first day after the plane landed I had my first traditional Turkish breakfast, which consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, toast, different cheeses, and olives. It was really good because I was starving from the lack of edible food on the airlines. After eating breakfast I decided to iron some of my clothes that had gotten wrinkled on my way over here from Florida; only to discover that they all had been ironed, folded, and put away by my host family's maid, Ayshe. Ayshe is one of the sweetest people I have ever met! She makes me breakfast every morning and cleans the whole house every day. She doesn’t speak any English at all, which is great because I practice Turkish with her all the time (most of the time though we have no idea what one another is saying). Then Idil (the daughter of my host mom's friend) took me around Alsancak (the center of the city).

    Izmir is beautiful and I can’t put that any other way. It has a beautiful ocean and coastlie. We have beautiful mountains rising up all around the edges of the city and if you look out over the bay, you can see more mountains that are actually in Greece. Idil and I got our hair done at this Turkish salon and it was definitely an experience I will never forget! Many people kept coming over to me and petting my hair, asking if it was real; there reaction when I said yes was one of shock and awe. I have not seen a single other person with natural red hair here, so this is probably why I am seen as such an exotic visitor.

    Here in Turkey I obviously don’t blend in, but being different here, unlike the USA, is seen as a positive thing. Women in Turkey want to show that they are strong and independent; many do this through hair dye, high fashion, and color contacts. They keep telling me how beautiful I am, which is really embarrassing for me because I am not used to all the attention I am getting. When I walk down a street people do not glance, they fully stop and stare; cars slow down just to get a better look at the foreigener in their neighborhood. I do not know if I will ever be fully comfortable with this attention.

    I went to my first Rotary meeting that night, which was basically a big welcoming party for me. I met many Rotarians, Interacters, and Roteracters. My host mom is the President of our Rotary club; Dokuz Eylul Rotary Club. She is so sweet and she takes care of me like I am her own daughter. The Rotary meeting was on a rooftop over looking Izmir. The view was breathtakingly beautiful. The Roteract president gave me a huge gift of Turkish traditional items and things to put on my blazer. My blazer is very full now and probably weighs about 10 pounds, which will make walking through the airport on the trip home much more interesting!

    I am proud to say I have tried every type of food I was given so far and although some of the things I did not like, I smiled and thanked everyone for giving me the food. I have discovered that no matter how many times I try it, I do not like yogurt. In fact I find it extremely repulsive. Just the thought of eating yogurt makes me want to gag. I am sure that many people back home are thinking that I am crazy and that yogurt is delicious, but I am here to let you know that yogurt here is very different than the yogurt in the USA. Yogurt in the US is usually sweet and flavored. Here it is none of the above. In my opinion it is salty and plain and sour. It has the consistency of an egg yolk and tastes like spoiled milk. There is a specialty drink called “Ayran” here made with this yogurt mixed with seltzer water and salt that literally everyone drinks. If I am made to try it one more time I may scream. And to top it all off (no pun intended) they put yogurt on everything.

    On a more positive note I have had some food that is amazing. Most of this was some form of lamb because the lamb in Turkey is incredibly tasty.

    For those of you who are wondering, my family here is very liberal, I dress the same way I do in the United States and do not attend a Mosque. My host mom does not cover her head. Actually, a majority of people where I live do not cover their heads. When they say that Izmir is a liberal city they are not kidding. Many people here are striving to be as western as possible. They love the United States and Europe. I have not met any fanatics of Islam so far on my trip here and I have been warned if I do to just walk away and don’t look back.

    I met the two other exchange students the next day who will be going to my school Izmir Ataturk Lisesi with me; Barbara and Maya. They are amazing friends and I am so glad I met them. They are supportive and totally understand everything that I am going through because they are going through it too. We are already very close and they are a nice contrast to the Turkish friends I have made. We all went uniform shopping together and ended up looking like we worked on airlines with our outfits. I have had my skirt brought up to regular length and it fits well. My host mom also found me a skirt that her friend’s daughter used to wear, but it is very short.

    I went to see Konak and the famous clock tower that was built by the same man who designed the Eiffel tower! It was beautiful! When we got there, a protest was taking place. Since I have arrived I have seen 6 protests. All of which were rather large and had police there in riot gear. Apparently protests are very common, but the fact that I have seen so many is highly unusual. I am starting to think I attract them.

    I have attended a traditional Turkish wedding since I have been here and truthfully I would have to say it was somewhat similar to weddings in the USA. I have also been involved in a 27 km bike race, which was very fun! I really like bike riding and I wish I could do more of it here. The bike pros that assisted with the race were very interested in me and why I was participating. I have been to 5 different Rotary clubs and exchanged banners so I only have a few left to trade, but I am proud to say that many different clubs in Turkey have heard of the Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary Club!

    I had my first two weeks of school and they were great. I have had no problems making friends here. People want to meet me and get to know me. I have a solid friend group now that I hang out with on a regular basis. They are like my second family! We all look out for each other and they try to keep me safe in the city. I have had an easier time than most of the other exchange students in Turkey. I think it is a mixture of the fact that I look so different and sheer luck. I stick out so people know that I am not from their country and automatically look out for me a bit more, however I was also put in one of the most welcoming classes in my school which is mostly luck. My host mom also being very outgoing has introduced me to many people. All of these factors has made my adjustment here very seamless and easy.

    I take the subway to school everyday, but it takes me 15 minutes to walk to the subway and 15 minutes to walk from the subway to school. Overall it takes me around 45 minutes to get to school in the morning which isn’t that bad because I get to listen to music on the way to school. I don’t really understand anything that is going on in school except in chemistry and biology.

    My English teacher is actually incredibly bad, he has broken English and a very thick accent so usually I end up teaching the class. Apparently his Turkish is very bad as well, but I can’t tell because mine is worse. I have 15 classes here including history, literature, math, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, counseling, music, PE, Grammar, religion, philosophy, English, and French. Because all of these are taught in Turkish I understand nothing, but the only class I am truly useless in is French. I don’t know how many of you have tried learning advanced French taught in a language you don’t know, but it is literally impossible. Starting out I did not know a lick of French, now after 2 weeks of class I have learned 3 words.

    Luckily most of my teachers don’t care if I try in their classes. During most classes I just write down Turkish words and study. Many boys in my class have offered to give me Turkish lessons, which is helpful. None of them are very good teachers, but its fun to have someone to converse with during lunch and after school.

    Everyday after school I go somewhere. I do not think I have ever gone home right after school before. My school is right in the center of Alsancak, which is great because there are many places to go and meet. I can find my way around Alsancak all on my own now which is a very big deal to me because it is so complex. I have found a great little English bookstore and I have already bought 4 books. Most exchange students spend their money on food, I spend mine on books. Speaking of which, while I have been here I have lost 2 kg. This is equal to about 4 pounds. I have started to walk a lot more and I am one of the few exchange students that actually looses weight on exchange. I truthfully thought I would gain weight, but I guess everyone is different.

    We had our first orientation where we met all the inbounds and went to a traditional market place. When I arrived at the orientation I received a 15 minute lecture on how I should not have worn shorts when I “knew” that we were going to a traditional market place. They lectured me on how I get yelled at on the streets because I dress provocatively. I would like to say for the record that I in fact do not dress inappropriately in any way, shape, or form. I dressed more conservatively than many at the market place. I am very conservative in dress here because I know I do not want to attract any more attention than I already do. I attract attention because I have red hair, blue eyes, and white skin, not because of my clothes. Also my host mom speaks very little English and did not tell me where the orientation was going. However she did tell me to wear shorts because it was hot outside. When we got to this market, I realized I had already been there with my host family, and guess what? I wore shorts and absolutely nothing happened.

    I would just like to say that a woman’s choices in what she wears should not constitute the wrongful behavior of others. Just because I wear shorts does not mean it is my fault that a man catcalls at me down the road. There is a line where, yes, I do believe you can dress inappropriately for a given situation and attract negative attention, but I was in shorts and a t-shirt not shorts and fishnets. This is not directed at the people who gave me this lecture; it was just their way of looking out for me. However, I feel very strongly about this issue in a global context and when it was applied to me I felt that I needed to address how truly insulted I was to have been told that my clothes and the clothes of women around the world constitute a reason to be treated in a lower manner.

    Out of the inbounds in our district I tend to be the trailblazer in terms of making decisions and being out spoken. When we stopped for lunch we had to line up and choose a traditional Turkish food. The problem was that we had no idea what anything said on the menu. I ordered something that sounded like beef and everyone else decided to play it safe and get the same thing. It turns out that because of me everyone ended up ordering liver. I had never tasted liver in my life up until that moment and I have to say I don’t care for it. No one really ate their lunch that day, but its just a word to the wise that people really should not follow my lead!

    There are many things in Turkey that are drastically different than in the US. For example, no one wears seatbelts. When I get into a car and put on my seatbelt people laugh at me, which is insane because the driving here is INSANE! I have almost been hit by cars multiple times and a car has crashed 5 feet in front of me on the way to the subway.

    Another thing is that they don’t have dryers here! It takes literally a week for a pair of socks to dry, let alone anything else! Also the police carry machine guns, they really don’t mess around and won’t hesitate if there is an issue. Also we have chalkboards in our classrooms at school. I have never had a chalkboard in school ever. Even my parents had white boards for most of their schooling, so it’s like going back in time here.

    Light switches go up to turn off and down to turn on which is weird and confusing especially when you are leaving a room. Also when you want to answer no for a question you click your tongue instead of saying no. Talking about politics is also very common in every situation. In the US we don’t do this too often for fear of conflict, but Turks love to debate so it is very open forum.

    My exchange overall has been basically amazing. I can’t imagine ever having gone somewhere else. Turkey was a perfect fit for me. I have found my place in this culture and sometimes it is surreal how easily it happened. I hope my exchange continues on this high note!




  • Julianne - outbound to Turkey

    My Journey and Arrival in Turkey!

    My departure was supposed to take place on the 8th of September from Jacksonville Airport, but due to the classic Florida weather of thunderstorms, my flight to Dulles was extremely delayed. It was so delayed that I would not have been able to make my international connection. On the other hand, the flight plan I was given by my travel agency only gave me an hour to get from one plane to the other in time for departure, so thanks to both of these factors I ended up departing on the 9th. I realize things happen that are beyond my control, but the main reason I was upset was because I wanted to fly with the other Turkish inbounds from Munich to Izmir. However in comparison today’s flying hasn’t been that much better.

    Actually my experience flying has been so full of bad luck that by the end I was laughing at how incredibly bad the journey had been. My flight to Dulles boarded promptly, but we were delayed because there was a backup in takeoff times. When we finally did try to go take off, we got about 5 feet off the ground and something malfunctioned, so we had to make a quick landing. As we were going to try takeoff again, a woman had a panic attack and demanded to be taken back to the gate. Once again we had to turn around. When we took her back she realized that she had checked bags on the plane and she didn’t want them flying without her. We had to have them open the cargo hold and look through all the bags to find hers. By this time we had been there so long that we didn’t have enough gas to make the trip to Dulles. We then had to refuel for the second time. Finally we took off, but many people missed their planes because unlike me they didn’t have a seven hour layover waiting for them in Dulles.

    Once I arrived I found out that the gate that held my flight to Munich for later that night was at the literal other end of the terminal. For those of you that have never been to the Dulles airport each terminal is huge. Walking from one end to the other will take you 20 minutes. It will take you more if you have 2 heavy bags and a five pound blazer on. On the ceiling, in the international terminal of this airport are the flags to the world and I thought it was a tad peculiar that right outside the gate my flight would fly out of was the Turkish flag. My flight to Munich was also delayed, but nowhere near as long as the first flight. Other than that, the flight to Munich was pretty uneventful. My next flight was to Izmir and it was also delayed due to weather problems in our flight path. We waited for an hour and finally they planned a new flight pattern that went around the rain and through Croatia. I have also failed to mention that I can’t sleep on planes so by the end of my flights I had been awake for around thirty hours.

    Finally I made it to Izmir! I used euros for the first time to rent a cart to use to carry my plethora of bags. I waited at baggage claim for quite a long time and all the other bags came out of the carousel before mine. I am not exaggerating. My two bags were the last ones out of baggage claim. The entire time I had been in the Turkish airport I had been stared at; I have never felt more visible in my life! Ever since I arrived in this country I have felt eyes on me all the time. After my bags came, I walked out and so many people were waiting for me I couldn’t even spot my host family! The group of people had signs and flowers and balloons, they had even made shirts to wear that said “Welcome Julianne”! We took a bunch of pictures and then got Turkish tea at the airport. Just the idea of drinking Turkish tea in 90 degree weather makes me start to sweat, but I’m sure I will get used to it soon enough!

    We then went home and had a huge traditional Turkish meal. The dinner was amazing! I still have to get used to the idea of eating things immersed in lukewarm yogurt, but other than that I loved it! During dinner I learned that my host mom has her own home furnishing business, that my host dad is the most famous doctor in all of Turkey (the Turkish equivalent to Dr. Oz apparently), and that they have a summer home in Cesme. My school is right near where they work and so I can come visit them when I want!

    The Turkish people are so nice! Every single one of them wants to get to know you and be friends! We exchanged gifts and they gave me a furry panda diary from Claire’s. After I showered and came back to say goodnight, they gave me Turkish coffee and baklava for the first time. It turns out Turkish coffee is like 5 times as strong as an espresso, but is thick and almost muddy. After trying it and having both my socks knocked off from the sheer amount of caffeine, I was told I would have to finish the entire cup to have my fortune read by my host mom. I then went back to my room and started to unpack around midnight. Eventually I collapsed into my bed and fell asleep around 1 am. Hopefully I will avoid jet lag!

     

     

  • Julianne - outbound to Turkey

    My final week in the Florida for this year!

    It is less than a week until my departure date! I have actually had quite a few new experiences while still being in the US. I have gotten my first credit and debit card in the mail, which is very exciting, but also terrifying because I’ve never used one before! Both of the cards have chips in them, which I was told will be different than using a regular credit card. Because of the fact that I don’t know how to use a “Signature” credit card either, I actually might be at an advantage to use this new version called “Chip and Pin”.

    I have been taught to iron, which after almost my shirts in the learning curve, I think I have gotten pretty good at. I have had my first ever going away party, which I would like to say should not be under the category of “party” because it was actually pretty depressing. I also had to say (a long) goodbye to my sister for the next eleven months because she couldn't make it home from FSU on my actual departure date. To make matters worse the day we had to say goodbye, turned out to be her birthday; September 2nd. Although it was sad I know that exchange goes by fast so it won’t feel like as long as it is.

    A rather unexpected and difficult part of pre-departure is finding gifts for your host parents. The actual shopping part is fun, but trying to think of ideas of what they would like is where it gets tricky. The whole point is to give your host parents things that represent your country and where you live, but also be something that they will keep and treasure as a memory of you. It is supposed to last; not be used and discarded like a candle. Finding a gift like this would seem easy, but in my case I do not want to give my host parents some tacky tourist junk that says Florida on it. So to find something genuinely Floridian and nice, takes time. Luckily for me, I waited until the last week to find great gifts, so I was running around everywhere I could think of and still coming up empty handed. Eventually I stumbled into a boutique in Sawgrass Village with my mom and found the perfect gifts! I ended up purchasing a starfish plate, a turtle plate set, and a coffee mug that are all beautiful and undeniably Floridian. After finding these gifts I am glad I maintained my high standards throughout my shopping ventures because I found exactly what I was searching for.

    Packing on the other hand has been a nightmare. I have been traveling the world since I was three; packing a suitcase should be a snap for me, right? It turns out I was dead wrong. I can’t pack for my life. First of all, I am terrible at folding, so trying to save space by being very precise in the placement of each item is basically impossible for me. And second of all, I’m a girl and this entails the fact that I have options in my wardrobe. Now I don’t mean to sound like I am trying to pack everything I own, but you cannot imagine the frustration that comes with having to pack your life up in one teeny box. How can I pack necessities when I have 40 pounds of room, not only for clothes, but shoes, gifts, makeup, and pins (which weigh like 5 pounds on there own)?

    The other problem is that although Izmir is less conservative than most of Turkey, I still have to have appropriate clothing for when/if I travel to a more conservative area of the country. I also have to pack for multiple contingencies in terms of weather because it fluctuates from 100 degrees to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I understand you don’t need to pack your entire wardrobe (which believe me I’m not even packing half), but how do you decide what stays and what goes! The same not only goes for clothes, but shoes as well! Do I need flip-flops, boots, sandals, flats, heels, sneakers, running shoes, and rain boots?

    No guidebook ever really explains what is appropriate, all they give is some watered down generic response of “ be conservative if you feel you need to be” and “dress for the weather”. Both of these responses are also just a way of saying that the situation in Turkey varies so much we cannot give you a direct answer for fear of being wrong. Finally after packing and taking things out and repacking and taking more things out, I have fit everything into one bag. However upon further inspection the bag weighed almost 70 pounds. After all the drama of packing eventually I have just decided to take two suitcases; one of which holds mostly gifts and pins and the other holds my regular items. This will also come in handy when I am coming home and have all the extra room for things I buy while over in Turkey.

    I attended my last Rotary meeting in Ponte Vedra this Thursday, September 4th and although it was a tad bitter sweet, they gave me such a great send off, that I know they have confidence in me and my ability to succeed in Turkey. I feel like I have been attending meetings at the Ponte Vedra Sunrise club for such a long time! I really am going to miss some of the amazing Rotarians I have met that have encouraged me throughout this entire process to try my best and to live up to Rotary standards. To my entire club and the entire Rotary organization in Florida and the world, I would like to say thank you.

    I know it is a tad unorthodox to post journals before one actually departs for exchange, but I feel the exchange starts the day you find out you are accepted into the program. You do not start to change when you step on your plane; you start to change during the preparation for your journey, when you truly understand you are a part of something more and are making an impact. None of the changes you develop would be possible without Rotary and this is why I am so grateful to be given this wonderful opportunity.


  • Julianne - outbound to Turkey

     

    As an Exchange student with Rotary Youth Exchange in Florida I have been through many difficult processes including, but not limited to: the application, the two interviews, stays at Lake Yale, language camp, visa applications, and dreaded public speaking. However all of these pale in comparison to the pain and anxiety that comes with those few months before departure. In my case I will be the last to leave, out of everyone, to go on exchange. I truthfully do think it is well worth the wait to go to the country of my choice, Turkey, but I am going to explain the emotional context of what comes along with this seemingly endless wait.

    First of all, watching some of my fellow outbounds leave more than a month before me is pretty excruciating, just in the fact that I have so far to go before I even step foot on a plane that will begin my own journey. Not to mention that a lot of them are my good friends and watching them leave, knowing I will not see them for at least eleven months is harder than I thought it could ever be. I try to keep busy with learning Turkish, sports, reading, and hanging out with friends from school, but it is getting harder to ignore the gap that was filled with my missing rotary friends. On the other hand I do have the privilege to meet some of the new inbounds who are wonderful people and we are so lucky to have them. School friends are hard to connect to because we both know that we won’t see each other at school or any where else for that matter until next summer.

    One of the major benefits of leaving so late (if you are hosting) is that you get to actually spend time getting to know the person you are hosting. This year our family has gotten the privilege to host an amazing girl from Germany and if I had not had such a late departure I would never have had the chance to gain a second sister. She has taught me so many important rules of etiquette that I have forgotten to use in my own home and taught me valuable lessons that I can use with my own host family on exchange. Hosting has actually been a very good test drive of cultural immersion; getting me ready for the real thing I will experience in Turkey. Being an exchange student myself has also helped me realize how I would want to be treated in her situation and act accordingly.

    Overall I am not scared to go on exchange. Actually I am so calm about the idea of departure that it is scaring me. I am so excited and ready to go, however I don’t dare be open about my excitement for fear that my exchange won’t happen. Not until the last minute will I share my true elation about this opportunity. I do however want to express now how happy I am to be a part of this program, to have gotten the country of my choice, and to have made such great friends along the way. Even though the process of actually going on exchange can be difficult at times, I can say with certainty that it is all worth it in the end and I haven’t even gone on exchange yet!

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