Natalie Guernon

Turkey

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Augustine High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: St. Augustine, Florida
Host District: 2430

Host Club: The Rotary Club of Adana Seyhan

 

My Bio


Merhaba! My name is Natalie and I live in St. Augustine with my mom, brother, sister, and two cats, Mr. Fluffy Pants and Thomas. My mom is a nurse in surgery, my brother is a freshman in high school, and my sister is in seventh grade. I'm a senior at Saint Augustine High School and I'm so excited to graduate!! I currently work two jobs; my first job is at restaurant on the beach called Salt Water Cowboys and my second job is at a store for teen girls called Justice. I love to read books in my spare time, I'm a bookworm. I also like to go to the beach during the summer with my friends and love to shop. During the summer, I volunteer at the hospital in outpatient surgery and I love it!!

After my exchange, I plan on attending the University of Central Florida to go to medical school. I'm so beyond grateful for this opportunity to go to Turkey!! I love Greek mythology and ancient Roman history, so Turkey is perfect for me!! I am so excited to travel all around Turkey and Europe and to broaden my views. Thank you to everyone who made this opportunity possible for me! Daha sonra görüşmek üzere!


In Çeşme, enjoying the Aegean

In Çeşme, enjoying the Aegean

Got to see Egemen who went on exchange to St. Augustine last year

Got to see Egemen who went on exchange to St. Augustine last year

Bosphorus tour

Bosphorus tour

Apple, Beco, and I climbing a mini mountain

Apple, Beco, and I climbing a mini mountain

Famous Adana Kebab!

Famous Adana Kebab!

Blue Mosque at night

Blue Mosque at night

I probably shouldn't pet the stray animals

I probably shouldn't pet the stray animals

My beautiful city

My beautiful city

Cami (Mosque)

Cami (Mosque)

Caity and I at EEMA

Caity and I at EEMA

Swimming in Mersin

Swimming in Mersin

Host mom and myself at the cami

Host mom and myself at the cami

The Black Sea, Samsun

The Black Sea, Samsun

Sheep stopped us on the highway

Sheep stopped us on the highway

Breakfast

Breakfast

Türkçe düğün(Turkish Wedding)

Türkçe düğün(Turkish Wedding)

Traditional performance at Sünnet

Traditional performance at Sünnet

View from my second host families house

View from my second host families house

Dinner

Dinner

This...is... şırdan

This...is... şırdan

Okul (school)

Okul (school)

entry-109-image2

entry-109-image2

Riding a camel on Christmas

Riding a camel on Christmas

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Paintings in the churches inside the caves from 300

Tüz gölü- Salt lake

Tüz gölü- Salt lake

Journals: Natalie - Turkey 2015-16

  • Natalie, outbound to Turkey

    Merhaba arkadaşlar,

    So it's been a little while since I last wrote a journal and month 6 is about to begin in a week. It's really hitting me that exchange is flying by and I leave in June, and I don't think I'm prepared one bit for my exchange to end. At the beginning of my exchange I would think, “I have a whole year to accomplish everything I want to and to learn Turkish fully”, only I was completely wrong. Yes, I have accomplished a lot in the five months I've been here and have come very far with learning Turkish, making best friends from all over the world, creating a family connection with two Turkish families, and making memories that will last me a lifetime. But, if I could go back to August 8th and tell myself one thing, I would remind myself to salvage every minute that I have in my new home country. I've also have had time to reflect on how grateful and thankful I am for every person in my life, here in Turkey and back in America. Being over 7 ,000 miles away from your family really helps a person to realize and acknowledge how important your family is and how much you really truly do love them. So thank you specifically to my mom who has been my main supporter and there for me through all the weird and amazing things that have happened to me since I left home.

    So most future exchange students are probably curious about how the holidays were away from home, but all I can say about it, is that it's a different experience for everyone. I have an amazing host family that wants to celebrate and incorporate my American traditions into their families as well as the Turkish traditions, so my host parents threw a Thanksgiving dinner party with family and friends. I also had an American exchange student who lives on the other side of Turkey in a city called Samsun come stay with me for a couple days. Between the dinner, having my friend, and my amazing family, I really didn't experience any home sickness because I felt the meaning of Thanksgiving, being thankful for what you have and loving the people around you. As for Christmas, I was very fortunate to go on a Rotary trip with all my exchange friends to probably the most beautiful and unrecognized city called Cappadocia. I'll explain what Cappadocia is in a minute, but Christmas didn't really feel like Christmas. Turkey is about 99% Muslim, so Christmas Day is just another ordinary day for the Turks, but being with the other exchange students really helped spread some Christmas cheer, so I didn't feel very homesick because I was very busy on Christmas Day.

    Cappadocia definitely needs to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and it makes me so mad that it's not. Cappadocia is rich with history and natural beauty and truly looks like it came straight from a fairytale. Around 1800-1200 BC, the area of Cappadocia, called Göreme, was occupied by the Hitties and later sat on the borders of the Persian and Greek empires and later Roman and Byzantine empires. Göreme being located on the border offered protection for some locals in the rocks, so the locals began carving and living in these rocks. Early Christians also used the caves to hide from prosecution from the Roman Empire, and in the 7th century, many monks created monasteries in these caves and rocks and painted Byzantine frescos, which are still preserved and there today in its original form. Seeing those original Christian paintings that were taken straight from the bible was so beautiful and humbling. Around 400 BC, the largest underground city was dug and carved and was used throughout history as a place of refugee. The city goes to about 2600 feet deep and is very detailed
    Exchange has taught me so much about myself and who I am as a person and that you have to focus on yourself and who you are before you can worry about others. People will come and go and they come and leave your life for a reason, but family will always be there, even your host families. There are a lot of stereotypes about Turkey, the culture, and the religion, but you can't always believe what you hear. To any exchange students coming to Turkey in the future: you are very very lucky to experience this beautiful country in a way a lot of people don't get to and I hope you can treasure every waking moment and live your exchange to the fullest.

    Till next time, Görüşürüz

    Natalie

    To see my homepage and some photos click HERE


  • Natalie, outbound to Turkey

    Merhaba, arkadaşlar!

    It’s been two and a half months here in my beautiful country. I can’t believe how time is flying already, it honestly still feels like I’m living in a dream and will wake up any minute and be back in Florida. I can’t even grasp the fact that I live in a country 7,000 miles away from “home” and I’ve created a life for myself here. I have friends, I have a home, I have school, and most of all, I have begun to find myself.

    So, since my last journal I started Turkish school. I was so nervous and did NOT want to go, and it wasn’t like a typical teenager feeling of not wanting to go to school, I was completely and utterly terrified. I was scared I wasn’t going to fit in with my classmates, not be able to communicate at all, and that I wasn’t going to enjoy it…… but I have never been more wrong. I love love love love school!!!! I have made so many friends and been accepted as one of them, it is such an awesome thing to see; a group of kids accepting a foreign girl into their lives.

    Even though there is some issues communicating with my teachers and classmates, because they don’t know much English or none at all, I look forward to school. I wear a uniform, which they are very lenient with. My uniform consists of a yellow/brownish skirt or pants, any type of sneakers, and any school tee-shirt, however, I cannot wear makeup, nail polish, or wear earrings. Turkish school is very different from school in Florida. Firstly, the bus picks me up in front of my apartment building around 7:25 every morning, but the bus isn’t the typical “yellow bus”, it’s a very nice and small bus with air-conditioning. I then arrive at school around 8, and go to my classroom on the third floor of the high school building. There are several buildings in my school, there is a pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, cafeteria, gym, pool, dance studio, art studio, and a music area.

    The first class of every day is “home-room” which is just 15 minutes, then the day really begins. The schedule differs from day to day, some classes repeated throughout the week. I take biology, chemistry, math, history, religion, philosophy, guidance, Turkish literature, English, German, PE, physics, and art. Classes are 40 minutes with 10 minute breaks between each class, and an hour break for lunch. Typically, with the core classes, there are two lessons back to back, like for example, on Thursday morning, my first two classes are physics, with a 10 minute break in the middle. During the breaks, students are free to do or go where within the school, and use their cell phones, which is something I’m not used to. Lastly, about lunch. Lunch like in American schools, changes day to day, but the school lunch is amazing. The cafeteria has several flat screen T.V.s and they play popular music, either American or Turkish, and at every table there is a pitcher of water and glasses. The lunch tables don’t look like American lunch tables either, they have picnic tables or like little cafe tables.

    I tried two Turkish food/drinks that aren’t very normal, one is more abnormal though. First, I drank “banana milk” or “ muse süt”, and it was reallllyyyyy gooood!! Second, my exchange friend from Tawain, Apple, and I tried “şırdan”. It was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten…. It’s famous in Adana, so mostly all people born and raised in Adana love it. Basically, şırdan is goat intestine. It’s cleaned and stuffed with rice, then sewn, and boiled. It looks awful, tastes awful, and smells awful. But, as Bob White, my country coordinator in Florida said, “ I hope you have consumed something that you never thought you would eat in your life.  If not, you are missing something”. So that’s that! Until next time my friends.

    Güle Güle!!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE


  • Natalie, outbound to Turkey

    Today I experienced being lost for the first time by myself and it was one of the scariest feelings I’ve ever experienced. I got on the normal bus to get to the other city center near my house and it took a detour which was odd. The bus driver was very angry and stopped the bus in an area I’d never been to and made everyone on the bus get off. I had no idea where I was and nobody spoke English, I felt so sick to my stomach. I found some woman who spoke no English and I explained, in the best Turkish I could, that I had no idea where I was and I was trying to get to T. Ozal and she helped me to get onto a different bus. I am very fortunate to be in a country that the people are known for their hospitality, because even though there is an obvious language barrier, the people want to help in any way they can. Every exchange student has this type of experience, I think it’s honestly one of the best ways to learn your surroundings and it forces you to speak the language even if your scared.

    So, I’ve experienced three very important Turkish events in the past couple weeks. First I went to a celebration called Sünnet. Sünnet is an Islamic and Jewish religious tradition in which circumcision is performed on boys typically aged at 7 or 8. After the circumcision, the parents of the boy throw a huge party for the boy, where family members, friends, and strangers will attend and eat a lot of food and dance all night. The boy wears traditional clothing( usually a cape, a sash and a crown) and the people at the sünnet put gold onto the boy’s cape as a present. It’s a very strange celebration, but very interesting, haha.

    Next, I went to a Turkish wedding, which are very different from American weddings. In a traditional American wedding the bride walks down the “aisle” with her father, but in Turkey, the bride and groom walk up to their seat which is elevated near the stage. There is a lot, and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT of dancing to traditional music. When it comes time for the bride and groom to get married, they sign in a book in front of a government official and then the groom kisses the bride on the forehead. There aren’t any bridesmaids or grooms men, but the bride and groom choose one person each to be their “witness” for their marriage. In some Turkish weddings, people will throw American money when people are dancing, which is meant for the band and workers at the wedding. Unfortunately, my friend and I were not aware that it was meant for the workers and we took the money that was thrown at us by some old man, haha.

    The last event that I was apart of was Bayram. Bayram is an Islamic holiday in which Muslims will sacrifice a sheep/goat and donate part of it to the poor and eat part of it. Families will all get together to visit and there is a lot of eating and “ Iyi Bayramlar”.

    About the food, at the beginning I wasn’t the biggest fan of the meals here, but I have come to love everything and I’ve gained a little bit of weight :(. For breakfast, which is “kahvaltı”, the traditional Turks will eat cucumbers, tomatoes, special bread called Simit, millions of different cheese, olives, yogurt, and Turkish tea, called “çay”. For lunch and dinner it really differs, just with any culture. My family and I eat a lot of kofte, which can be compared to a meatball, but it has a different taste, in a red sauce with potatoes, and a mix of fresh vegetables, like zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, scallions, squash, etc. Another really popular dinner/lunch is Kebab, especially in Adana, my city. Adana is the founding city of the kebab, and its eaten with onion,bread, parsley, tomatoes, green and red peppers, and a lot of random vegetables.

    Adapting to the Turkish culture and language was difficult, but I am finally starting to feel like I belong here. I can not imagine myself in college right now or in a different country other than Turkey. Maybe I can convince Rotary to let me go on exchange again next year, (double gap year?) :))?!?!? As hard as it has been, I love the life I have begun to build for myself. Like other exchange kids have said in their journals, this is NOT a vacation, although you do get to go on very very many vacations, this year is very hard, and it’s not for everyone. You have to be really dedicated to your exchange, because it’s very easy to think “I want to go home”, but you have to go out and explore or even just Skype with the other exchange kids in your country, because it will take your mind off things. This is truly and honestly a once in a lifetime opportunity and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, so if you are applying currently for Rotary, take it seriously, because you are extremely lucky to have this opportunity.

    Güle Güle, Görüşürüz!!

    To see my home page and some photos click HERE

  • Natalie, outbound to Turkey

    Merhaba! As many of you know, there is a lot of events happening around Turkey currently, the most well known being IS. The past week or two, there have been some attacks on the training bases for the Turkish military, which is compulsory for Turkish boys after they turn 18. The Turkish people are enraged by this, because these boys are considered the country's "children". The past three days there have been very peaceful protests and marches on my street for the fallen soldiers, and it is a beautiful thing to see, all the Turks getting together to support and pray for these innocent kids. The Turkish people are very caring and loving and is safe. The media distorts the truth of this beautiful country and its heartbreaking.

    Last weekend, Rotary payed for myself and the other exchange students in Turkey to all fly to Antalya, a big beach city on the Mediterranean Sea. We all attended a big conference called EEMA, where Rotarians from all over the world come to one country and tour it. This fall, Turkey got to host it! We spent only one night there sadly, but we made the best of it. Rotary payed for everyone to stay in this five-star hotel called the Titanic, and it was designed like the actual Titanic. It was all inclusive and had a private beach.

    Getting to spend time with the other exchange kids is honestly the best part about exchange. Everyone is awesome, and you get to learn about different cultures other than your host country's. Even if you aren't the most outgoing person, everyone is so welcoming and loving that you don't have to feel shy or uncomfortable. I've come to learn that it's not where you are, it's who you're with.

    So, some different things to know about Turkey:
    - they LOVE to eat, after saying "Yeter" (enough) three times, they give me a third serving
    - they have McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Popeyes, Dominos
    - A LOT of stray dogs and cats
    -they put yogurt (not american yogurt, theirs is salty) on top of everything. pasta, meat, bread, pizza, anything
    -dinner is about 5 different courses
    -they have some squat toilets, not all of them are though
    -they kiss on both cheeks to greet somebody
    - always take off your shoes when you enter someone's house
    - Turkish coffee is not normal espresso coffee
    - they drink Turkish tea several times a day
    -Turks talk really really loud and fast

    To see my page and some photos click HERE


  • Natalie, outbound to Turkey

    Today marks my third week in Turkey, and in these three weeks, I have experienced so much and seen much of Turkey, but I have also experienced the worst luck I have ever had. From losing $1000 dollars on the plane from the U.S., to experiencing bad jet lag, breaking my toenail off, the airport losing my luggage, my brand new Macbook breaking, and losing important paperwork, I've experienced it all. However, I also have gotten to see Istanbul and the amazing history it offers, Izmir, and Cesme.

    In Istanbul, my host parents took me on a boat tour of the Bosphorus River, which was used throughout history for trade and a connection to the Black Sea. We also went to the Haggia Sophia and Blue Mosque around one in the morning, so we weren't able to go inside, but we were able to sit and drink cay, outside of the Blue Mosque, which is hard to do during the day because of how crowded it gets. In Istanbul, I also experienced my first "call to prayer". I was standing in the kitchen with my host sister when I heard this man singing in Arabic on a loud speaker for everyone to hear, and I remembered reading about the call to prayer. The head man of the mosque calls everyone five times a day, to stop what they are doing and pray to God. He calls at midnight, five am, lunch time, five in the afternoon, and later at night. My host parents also took me to this very famous street, called Taksim, at night. It has many many shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, the Greek embassy, and many street performers. After Istanbul, my host mom, sister, and I stayed in a beautiful hotel in Cesme for a week. We spent our time swimming in the Aegean Sea, eating lots of Turkish food, laying in the sun, and shopping down popular night streets.

    After two weeks of much fun exploring Istanbul and Izmir, I finally was brought to my home in Adana, located in southern Turkey. People told me "Oh Adana is very very, very hot", but coming from St. Augustine, or Florida in general, I figured I would be used to it, no big deal. Well, unfortunately I was wrong. Adana is hot. It's humid, hot, sticky, and there is this hot wind that you hits you while you're walking down the street. Other than that, I'm in love with this city. I live on the sixth floor of an apartment currently, and I have an ice-cream shop and makeup store below me and a Subway and frozen yogurt store across from me. Safe to say, I understand why exchange students gain weight. The street I live on is all shops, traditional restaurants, dessert stores, and apartments.

    My city, however,  is also very well known for the Seyhan Dam. It is so huge though, it looks like it could be the ocean, and it is beautiful. Learning Turkish has been a difficult, slow process, but I am learning so much by just talking and listening to my host parents, Rotarians, or friends speak. You can only learn so much on your own, and the best way to learn is to fully immerse yourself in the language in the country. My host family is surprised at how quickly I've learned Turkish, but when all people speak is a different language you don't know very well, you are forced to learn it as quickly as you can.

    I love the other exchange students in my district as well. Even though I have only known them for a short time, they have become my best friends. We all share the same ideas and we all want the same things. I love that they are from all over the world, because not only am I learning Turkish culture and language, I'm learning culture from Australia, Tawain, Mexico, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and many more places. I'm so thankful for Rotary and everything they do to make this life changing experience for us. Well, until next time. Güle Güle, Hoşçakal!

    Read more about Natalie and see all her journals HERE

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