Reflecting on my exchange experience in Adana from England (which I did not remember feeling so cold!), observing religious tradition has not the only way in which I’ve been involved in the culture. Not one aspect of my Turkish lifestyle was the same as in England, my host family making sure that I experience things from traditional meals eaten sat in a circle on the floor to exploring Old Adana.
It’s not only my experience with host family and social life with fellow AIESEC interns that makes my exchange so memorable: the primary purpose of my time here that was the work placement, which has been fantastic to be involved in and surprisingly emotional to leave. Despite several class changes throughout my month at the summer school, I found myself growing attached each time. Towards the end of our time here, myself and fellow intern set about planning a fun-filled day of cultural education.
After turning into children ourselves, getting stuck into arts and crafts and devising games, everything was complete. The afternoon started with a Treasure Hunt, which led swiftly to a game of Hop Scotch, different flags indicating the different numbers. Interns we had invited from other summer schools came to talk about their home-countries, bringing prompts with them, including a beautiful Chinese traditional dress. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with games, in the backdrop of an arts and crafts display created by the children. Although this was not my last day, it will always be the one I remember the most.
In fact, cultural objects and pictures have proven useful to have ready for my AIESEC experience beyond work. The most notable example of this would have to be the Global Village: an event for which all AIESEC Adana interns travelled to Mersin to talk about their home-countries to passers-by outside the seaside town’s main shopping centre. At first, the prospect of this made me nervous: the thought of me stood outside a shopping centre in my traditional bowler hat costume, attempting to talk to disinterested Turks about the United Kingdom didn’t exactly thrill me. My bowler hat, the defining feature of my costume was £6:99 from a fancy dress shop. I had little food to offer and I had no experience of making a PowerPoint presentation. Despite these rather worrying facts, I packed my bag and set out for Mersin, finding myself completely surprised by the locals’ interest in England. Although it was clear that my table was the least prepared, many took a keen interest in it and I soon grew used to having my photo taken with passers-by.
Although I had initially been worried about how the Global Village would turn out, I soon didn’t want it to end, as this meant that my time in Turkey was almost over. Before long, I was packing my suitcase and saying a very emotional farewell to my host family. The idea of our close friendship being reduced to communication by email upset me, but I knew that this would not be last time in Adana and hoped that one day my host family would be able to follow through their ambition of visiting England. Then it would be my turn of being the host. Probably best I stick to cultural tradition than take them to Jesters, but it’s always a possibility.
After a series of farewells at the airport, I left Adana and landed in Istanbul, where I was instructed to phone the oldest of my two host sisters. She was visiting relatives in the area with my intern room-mate. Whilst I thought the chances of us finding each other so that I could see them one last time were slim, I gave it a try anyway. To my huge relief and surprise, within half an hour we were united once more. I was taken on a train journey so long that I could only sight-see in Istanbul for literally a couple of hours, but I was determined to make the most of it. Walking through the hectic but mesmorising Grand Bazaar, I barely knew what to do first, but settled on frantically darting around with my camera, constantly aware of time ticking away. I can even say I officially bargained, buying a fridge magnet for 4 Turkish Lira as opposed to the original price of 5- result!
Having ‘done lunch in a nearby cafe, it was soon time for me to return to the airport and finally leave Turkey, the country that been my home for the past six weeks, complete with work placement, host family and friends from all over the world. When I miss Adana, I console myself with the hope of returning for a reunion. Things would be different several years on, but the thought of seeing my host family again, as well as Adana’s AIESECers and the summer school, will definitely spur me into being more careful with my loan and saving for an exciting return.