Hi Nuran, as part of the ERASMUS programme you have just spent a semester with us here at POLIS, how have you found it?
I just enjoyed it… university was great. I loved my modules and module teachers, friends, and discovering the UK. I feel that it was one of the best decisions of mine to come and have that experience both in academic and general life terms.
You are studying at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey, how is university life there different to here at University of Leeds?
There are quite a lot of differences. My university, luckily has a gorgeous campus, situated within a forest with a nice lake. I walk to my faculty every morning among long pine trees breathing the fresh air. Here, Leeds has quite a small campus, but I liked it as well. Leeds has quite an active student club's atmosphere, just like my university. I would like to be part of several of those clubs just like I do in METU. But time was really short to get adapted and discover everything. Probably because of its being older, Leeds has much bigger library facilities.
Apart from physical features, Leeds has a different way of education, seriously encouraging student participation. I am used to lecture style modules in METU. We listen to our professors for 3 hours a week per module. We of course participate in discussions and give presentations, but it depends on the module professor. Here in Leeds, seminars made me ready to produce counter arguments quickly and participate in very frequent discussions. But lectures were too short, for an undergraduate student who needs academic guidance of a professor to decide what is valuable to learn and search more. We are given all the ways of learning in Leeds, that is worth appreciating. But, we are not the students of Socrates or Platon. Information is getting huge and huge cumulatively, we are living in the 2008 AC. Unlike them we have millions of books, a huge "www" library, thousands of writers and scientists, and theories. It is inevitable to get lost in this ocean. Then, there is need for guidance in longer hours. Another difference is that we have quite personal contact with our professors. We work on our essays together, and the professor knows which essay belongs to whom. Our assignments are not collected centrally, unlike in Leeds. We don’t have to be anonymous. Both has pros and cons in themselves. Being anonymous is good for objective assessment, but sometimes the professor should know your background and special conditions and motives in writing whatever you are writing. Strictly applied objectivity seems a bit mechanistic, for a system dealing with "human".
What made you decide to do study your particular degree programme?
I was more interested in world affairs than domestic affairs, really concerned about global justice and development affairs. Then, evaluating the alternatives in my country, my department, International Relations was a good base to start with. Then I decided to see out of the aquarium, and have some real global experience fitting with my future international development career aims. Then I applied for the Erasmus Student Exchange Programme, and specifically the University of Leeds which seemed to have the best academic rating (compared to other Erasmus partners) in my interest area.
How do lectures at POLIS compare with back home in Turkey?
As I explained in the previous question, we don't have seminars officially integrated in our programme. It depends on module leaders' choice of studying….if s/he wants we prepare presentations, or have class discussions, or write essays, or have exams. Lectures here have been really efficient, giving you clear outlines of lectures every week (covering some good notes). In METU we just have a general outline at the beginning of the semester.
Which modules did you take here at POLIS?
Gramsci and Theory of Modern Politics (thanks to Dr John Schwarzmantel), North-South Linkages (thanks to Dr David Hall-Matthews) and British Politics (thanks to Dr Victoria Honeyman).
How has Leeds matched your expectations? How does it compare with home?
The University was really good, I enjoyed and learned a lot in my modules and loved the social environment with a colourful student activism. I had the opportunity to see what it is like to study in the UK, which has a global reputation in higher education. I gained an academic discipline and I made my mind that I will definitely be studying international development after taking the N-S Linkages module and I will be an activist, a public intellectual, part of the change in civil society after Gramsci module. I gained the courage and desire to think about the UK for the post-graduate levels.
What have you enjoyed most about your time at POLIS?
I loved studying on my essays, determining the problems and looking for the solutions by losing myself in the Brotherton and Edward Boyle libraries, in which I liked the time I spent. And I loved discussing under the supervision of relaxed seminar leaders.
What would you say about the facilities in the School and at the University in general?
Student Union, Libraries, International Student's Office, Accomodation Office, POLIS Undergraduate Secretary…these are the ones I used and the ones that helped me to integrate into the university. They have the most efficient, productive, and enjoyable time in my one semester short time. People were all welcoming me to help with a friendly mood. Leeds' covering so many international students has given it an expertise to deal with such a global mixture. Rules, instructions, outlines, brochures…I was given lots of these, telling me about any kind of probable events, situations and my should-be response to them. Instructions were so clearly written that it was hard to get lost. But, honestly speaking, I managed to get lost :)
What would you say to anyone on your course back in Turkey thinking of coming to POLIS on the ERASMUS Programme?
I would say, "Just do it and love it!"
What do you hope to be doing once you graduate?
I am just planning to have a PhD degree on International Development Economics, hopefully in UK.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I sing, sing sing…hah..I even had opportunity to sing in two concerts in London. I love any kind of sounds from any kind of country. I specifically perform Turkish Music (singing and trying to play the instrument called "qanon (kanun)" which is special to Eastern sound, a quite familiar of which is Iranian or Greek "santor") and tried to introduce it as many people as possible, there in Leeds. But unfortunately, despite my offers, Music Department ignored some kind of a musical exchange…I would like to do more, if I had the opportunity. Anyway, I love reading and discussing over what I read. I did it many times in Leeds with my Latin American and Far Eastern flatmates, and my British clasmates. We shared our opinions and experiences which I really find beneficial to learn, feel empathy and remove the bias. I love watching documentaries and historical movies. I love walking in the countryside, the UK gave me great opportunity to do. And I love writing, over anything making me feel strong, and again Leeds inspired me a lot, international student's society on the one hand, British society on the other hand.
I want to share here one of my observations about UK. UK seems to me just like "Noah’s Boat" It might be a bit exaggerated, but truly, I met so many professionals and future professionals to be well-educated in the UK (especially in London). They were all healthy, energetic, knowledgeable, motivated to change something, and open-minded. If something happens to the rest of the world (God protects ("Allah korusun!" in Turkish); UK can revitalize the world since it has at least one good couple from each nation!
What are your plans for the future?
I want to be working in the United Nations, and specifically in non-hard security dealing branches.
Is there anything you would change about your time at POLIS?
That question is not very clear to me, but according to my understanding of it, I would say; I would like to make more British friends (I had a global network of friends there, but really few of them are British, maybe the university can find some way of creating a platform for this purpose. International students are mostly interacting with each other but lacking the interaction with the British colleagues. In theory, there are probably mechanisms for this purpose, but I didn’t find it functional) and would like to have more modules if the Erasmus procedure had allowed me.