Nicolas Murillo Rosas from Colombia is one of thousands of international students who came to our country for university studies through Türkiye Scholarships. Nicolas is studying in Ankara. He got used to both his university and Ankara in a very short time. Nevertheless, the hardest thing for him has been Ankara’s sever winter. “When I saw snow falling I was thrilled, because I had never seen anything like that in Colombia. But as the cold weather continued, I said, no, no I don’t want this.”
Nicolas is like us in every way. When we tell him “you really look like you were from Ankara”, he replies, “everyone says that.” “People sometimes stop me in the street to ask something. They realize I am a foreigner from my accent when I start talking. People ask me about Colombian dances a lot. But what I really find interesting is the famous Ankara Havaları dance. I find the verses ‘Ankara’nın bağları, büklüm büklüm yolları’ really enjoyable.”
Nicolas, can you introduce yourself?
I was born in the city of Florencia in the South of Colombia. I finished high-school in 2007 and started my university education the following year at the Universidad del Tolima in the city of Ibage. I actually wanted to study medicine, but due to a personal problem I was compelled to study International Business Management. Afterwards, I was very pleased with my choice.
After I graduated, I decided to pursue a master’s degree abroad. I heard about Türkiye Scholarships and applied. In fall 2014, I got a scholarship and was accepted to Gazi University, Department of Business Management. Three months ago, I finished my Turkish language course. I have been in Turkey for a year and half now.
How did your adventure in Turkey begin? What were your thoughts about Turkey before you came here? Had you heard anything about studying in Turkey from your friends?
At that time, I was researching scholarship opportunities for studying abroad. I got positive feedback from Costa Rica, Spain and Turkey. As I was trying to decide which one to choose, I thought that Costa Rica and Spain would be quite similar culturally speaking, but Turkey was promising an opportunity to experience a different history, culture and language, and it was really appealing to me, so I chose Turkey.
Of course, I had a couple of Turkish friends before I came here. I had heard that Turks were very hospitable and good people even before I came to Turkey.
Can you tell us about your process of learning Turkish? How did you practice speaking?
The grammar of Turkish language is unusual. I speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. In terms of language structure, it is not easy to learn Turkish. I still have difficulty pronouncing letters such as “ı, u, ö”. But I love Turkish proverbs.
Which ones for example?
Some of the proverbs that come to mind are: “Bir kahvenin 40 yıl hatırı vardır” (A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship), “Açma sırrını dostuna, o da söyler dostuna” (Don’t tell your secret to your friend, s/he will tell it to her/his friend), and “Dost acı söyler” (The real friend tells the bitter truth).
As for practicing, my Turkish friends help me a lot. They always tell me, “Hey Nicolas, you can ask for help whenever you need it. Don’t hesitate!”
Is there anything about you and Colombia that your Turkish friends are curious about?
They are curious about why I came such a long way just for education, and why I didn’t choose North America or Europe instead of Turkey. They also ask a lot about football, about players such as Mondragon who once played in Turkey, and of course, they ask about Colombian dances, because in Colombia, Latin dances are very popular. My Turkish friends are especially curious about Salsa. I, however, find Turkish wedding dances in Ankara very appealing. I enjoy listening to “Ankara’nın bağları” a lot.
You’ve been in Ankara for a year and half now. What do you think about Ankara? How do you spend your free time?
I stay at a dormitory in Gölbaşı, Ankara. Ankara is a very nice and affordable city, especially for students. I love Kocatepe Mosque and its surroundings. I like going for a walk and spending time there. When I am not studying, I volunteer at an organization.
Have you experienced anything interesting in Turkey?
I fasted for a day in Ramadan once. That day, I tried to live exactly as a Turk. We got up at 2 a.m. to eat. Then we prayed. During the day we visited Hacı Bayram-ı Veli Mosque and gave charity. We went to Kocatepe Mosque for Iftar (a fast-breaking dinner).
It was in Ramadan that I experienced my first day with a Turkish family. We went to Giresun for Eid to visit my Turkish friend’s family. We stayed at a village. We got up at 5 a.m. for Eid prayer. The people at the village’s mosque were trying to teach me how to pray the Islamic prayer of Salah. As a Christian, I find it very interesting to learn about Islam.
What topic would you like to work on in your theses?
There is a social welfare initiative that my friends and I have been working on for three years now. I am also interested in research about social entrepreneurship.
What are your plans for after you finish your education in Turkey?
I want to work at an international company first. I may work for an international company or organization that operates in the field of marketing or social entrepreneurship. I am not in a hurry to return to Colombia. Last year, the President of the Republic of Turkey went to Colombia, but there was no one in Colombian delegation who spoke Turkish. Maybe I could also improve my Turkish and help official Turkish delegations with translation when they visit Colombia. It could be a good opportunity for me.
Are you in touch with other Colombian students in Turkey?
There are a total of four Colombian students in Ankara. 35 students come to Turkey for education every year. We are trying to help new students with adapting and orientation.
What will you miss the most about Turkey when you go back? What are the things that you will want to bring to Colombia with you?
Most of all, I will miss the people who are always ready to help. I would like to bring a Turkish carpet and some traditional garments with me. I also like lentils, lentil soup, iskender kebab, chicken wraps, milk pudding with rice, Turkish pide and lahmacun pizzas, and nuts. I may even open a Turkish restaurant in Colombia one day.
What places besides Ankara have you visited in Turkey?
I have also visited Istanbul, Çanakkale, Ayvalık, Izmir, Bodrum, Pamukkale, Marmaris, Kapadokya, Safranbolu, Ordu and Trabzon. I travel together with my Colombian and Turkish friends. There are many places that I haven’t discovered yet though. I hope I’ll get a chance to visit those places as well during my education in Turkey.
“I like lentils, lentil soup, iskender kebab, chicken wraps, milk pudding with rice, Turkish pide and lahmacun pizzas, and nuts. I may even open a Turkish restaurant in Colombia one day.”