Güneş Gurbandurdyyeva from Turkmenistan is one of the students who came to our country through Türkiye Scholarships. She first came to Turkey in 2012 to do an internship, and then a year later to pursue a master’s degree. During her internship, Güneş was amazed by Ankara and Turkey. She has lived in Eskişehir for three years now.
We spoke to Güneş as she was about to finish her master’s theses. For this reason, she was experiencing happiness, excitement and stress all at the same time.
Güneş told us about challenging moments she experienced during her studies, and how her professors and friends supported and motivated her through those difficult times.
Güneş considers Eskişehir as her hometown. That is why she describes herself as “a Turkmen girl Güneş Gurbandurdyyeva from Eskişehir.”
As she guides us through Eskişehir’s lively streets, we talk about three years she left behind, her studies, future plans, and Eskişehir. The old city of Odunpazarı, çibörek turnover pastry, university, Turkey, Turkmenistan…
Güneş, can you tell us about yourself?
Of course. I am Güneş Gurbandurdyyeva. I was born and raised in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where I finished my primary and secondary education. In 2009, I got accepted to Ahmet Yesevi University in Kazakhstan, where I studied for 5 years. In addition to my academic studies, I also received Turkish language education.
When was the first time you came to Turkey?
I got a chance to do an internship in Turkey during my university studies in Kazakhstan. That was the first time I came here. I stayed in Ankara for a month during my internship training.
What were your first impressions?
I absolutely loved Turkey. I was familiar with it, of course, but Turkey I found when I arrived here was much different from what I had imagined.
What had you imagined about Turkey?
I was actually expecting a much more closed society, but I was welcomed by open, friendly, loving and hospitable Turkey. As soon as I experienced this, I started dreaming about pursuing my graduate studies in Turkey. I was able to make my dream come true in 2013 owing to Türkiye Scholarships.
Your Turkish is rather good by the way…
Really? I am so glad. Honestly, I had great difficulty at first, especially with understanding, because Turkish that we learned in Kazakhstan was very different from Turkish spoken here. I got a good grade from my Turkish exam, but I still couldn’t understand most of what was being taught in classes. One day, I explained my situation to the head of our department Mr. Ahmet Öztürk. He told me that I should not give up on my classes, and that I would be able to overcome this difficulty by patiently working harder. This increased my motivation, and I did just that. I even took some undergraduate courses to help me improve my Turkish.
“Eskişehir is like a second home to me. I see myself as a Turk from Eskişehir.”
Learning a new language requires some sacrifices, doesn’t it?
What I needed was actually to get more familiar with the language, because in Kazakhstan, our teachers spoke simply and slowly. I had great difficulty with following lectures at the university in Turkey. To overcome this, I tried to follow as many courses as possible, and I benefited greatly from that.
What are your experiences in terms of connecting with friends here?
I made some great friends here. Of course, I always make comparisons with my student life in Kazakhstan. My friends in Kazakhstan were mostly from Turkish-speaking countries. In Turkey, however, I made friends with people from all over the world. When you meet someone from a country you don’t know about, you immediately want to learn about that country as well. Their culture interests me a lot.
While I stayed at the dormitory, I shared a room with Kyrgyz and Georgian friends. I also had Romanian and Polish friends. We used to offer different things to each other all the time, and drink tea together. We were all from different places, but had come together to share life. This enjoyable dormitory life was one of the things that kept me in Turkey.
“I love listening to Mustafa Ceceli and Kayahan. I also listen to the instrumental music of Selçuk Balcı a lot.”
What do you do apart from your academic studies?
I can’t say I do much, as I have been very busy with my courses and working on my theses this year. But I love living in Eskişehir. Eskişehir has a special place in my heart. It’s become like a second home to me. When I have time, I try to participate at the events organized at the university and in Eskişehir. For instance, during Turkish Culture Days everyone gets to present their country’s food, music and traditional attire.
What is the attitude of people and tradesmen in Eskişehir towards you?
People of Eskişehir are wonderful. They are curious about Turkmen culture, language, cuisine, and traditions. They do their best to be helpful in every respect.
What would you recommend about Turkey to newly come Turkmen students?
In general, I try to help all new freshmen students when needed. I don’t want others to face the same problems I did. Any international student who came here to study will tell you that they are very pleased with their educational life here.
The important thing is to choose Turkey without any prejudice. Our Christian student friends say the same thing when we ask them. They tell us how they had certain worries when they first came, but how they didn’t want to leave Turkey after.
To get to know a country one needs to mingle with its society. I try to make decisions based on learning and experiencing. This is actually one of the most important things that Turkey has taught me.