After graduating from high school, Elif Bayoglu says she discovered that some of the universities in Turkey didn't have the major that she was interested in studying. She realized the degree and coursework are definitely offered here in the United States. “I came here to major in Economics, but now I am double majoring in Economics and Art History," she says. "I chose Northwestern because first of all it is a very good university and also there are many Turkish students - especially in Istanbul and Ankara - that like to go abroad to study. It has been popular in the last ten years to come and study in the United States for Turkish students that graduate from high school,” she says. “The biggest thing is some Turkish people that I already knew were going to Northwestern and I am also going here with my brother."
Although Elif is only a junior at Northwestern, she already has an idea as to how she will use her Economics and Art History background once she completes her coursework. “Since I am doing a double major in Economics and Art History, I want to use both of them,” she says. “I can use them in marketing and fundraising in different auction houses or museums -- or a better [idea] is working in an Art advisory part of a big bank like Citibank or Barclays. Those are my options and I am coming up with new ones everyday.”
Attending college is just one of the many things Elif says she likes about being here. From how Americans spend their free time to the transportation system here in the U.S., Elif says it has been a learning experience for her. “It’s nice to be with American people and many international people. We don’t have that chance in Turkey since it is mostly Turkish students. It is also nice to see another city and a very different campus and see a very different culture from the one that we have been used to. Even [things] like going from one place to another [using] all the transportation, how they spend their free time and all those things were very different to see,” she says. “It was really nice because we have life like Americans have here and it is very healthy for us,” she adds.
It has been nice, Elif says, sharing things about her country with her colleagues. “American people do not know a lot of things about Turkey. They still think that we speak Arabic or that we wear headbands so they were kind of shocked when they saw us come from big cities. We were just like regular American people having very like modern lives so that was kind of a difference,” she says. “Also they were really shocked when they learned that we could speak really good English because since we come from American-like schools - or even my brother coming from a German-Turkish school. They saw that we could speak English and that we had a good education there. I would try to show people that we live in a modern country rather than like Iran or Iraq - a little different than those countries.”
Elif also says just as she has become friends with many people at Northwestern, it is good that the United States and her country's relations are friendly, but she as well as other countrymen back home wonders how things will be in the future. “I think it seems friendly, but we are very very scared about the things going on in Iraq and the Middle East and people are expecting worse things for Iran and other countries,” she says. “So since we are very close to those countries and since America is getting in conflict with those countries, we are kind of scared that all these things might get worse for Turkey too. “We also are a Muslim majority country so it seems friendly right now, but everybody thinks that there might be problems in the future. It kind of affects us because, when you think about it, especially after September 11th jobs [here] are very difficult [to get]. They won’t accept people if we are not American or don’t have an American passport ... but we will see how it goes.”
Elif says one day she will go back to Turkey, but for now she is enjoying her time here in the United States.