Slagana Vujosevik from Macedonia is one of the international students who came to study in our country through Türkiye Scholarships three years ago. She is a graduate student of Theater at Istanbul University, State Conservatory, Department of Performing Arts. Slagana has become fluent in Turkish in just three years, even though she didn’t speak almost any Turkish before. Her love for Istanbul and her friends played an important role in this.
Slagana, a true lover of Istanbul, talks about the city with great admiration. While everyone complains about Istanbul being too crowded, she sees it as an indispensable feature of the city. She says that this diversity and wealth of Istanbul is what makes Istanbul the city it is – a city that has no place for the feeling of loneliness. “You know how you feel like an outsider when you live far away from your family and place you grew up in; well, that doesn’t happen in Istanbul. Istanbul can be a home and city for everyone.”
We talked to Slagana, a grantee of Türkiye Scholarships from Macedonia, about Turkey, her university life, and Istanbul.
Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Slagana Vujosevik. I was born and raised in Skopje. I am 26 years old. I graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje. I come from a mixed family. My grandfather from my mother’s side is Turkish; and my father is from Montenegro. Therefore, I am familiar with both Islamic and Christian traditions. I can say I come from a lovely family with rich cultural diversity.
Please tell us about how you came to Turkey.
After graduating from university, I did an internship for a year. However, I wanted to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree. Having a Turkish grandfather, I felt a strong bond and was interested in Turkey. Indeed, the more I researched, the bigger became my desire to come to Turkey. There are a lot of Turks living in Skopje. I had heard very positive things about Turkey. I started loving Istanbul and Turkey before I even got here. But, honestly, I couldn’t have imagined that it would be so beautiful.
What made the biggest impression on you when you came to Turkey?
Absolutely Istanbul. Istanbul simply fascinates you. It is as if this city has magic. I never thought that I would be so affected by a city.
Perhaps I was a bit afraid before I came here, because it is actually a very big city. There are people here from all over the world. How do they live together? I had this fear. But after I arrived here, I realized how mistaken I was. While promenading along the Istiklal Street, you can see people of all color from all around of the world, and everyone is smiling, everyone is happy. Of course, there are worries as well, but people have mingled and connected with each other in such a beautiful way that it seems as if this ambiance could never be any other way. It’s as if this city wouldn’t be this beautiful if there were any less people.
“Having a Turkish grandfather, I felt a strong bond with Turkey.”
“Usually people complain about Istanbul being too crowded…”
Unlike others, I love the crowdedness of this city. Some people may feel uncomfortable about this, but I like it. For once, you can’t feel lonely here. Even when I am very sad, surrendering myself to the streets of Istanbul, riding a subway or tram, getting lost in the crowd is enough to cheer me up. You know how you feel like an outsider when you live far away from your family and place you grew up in; well, that doesn’t happen in Istanbul. Istanbul can be a home and city for everyone.
Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque are all very nice, historical places, but they are also spots that draw many tourists who come to visit Istanbul. I don’t consider myself a tourist. I find it much more enjoyable to roam Istanbul’s small and narrow streets, and pass under clotheslines spread from one house to another.
Here, people live on the streets, socialize, play games. Seeing this makes me very happy.
“It’s as if this city wouldn’t be this beautiful if there were any less people. For once, you can’t feel lonely here. Istanbul can be a home and city for everyone. “
Thank you, how are you?
For me, the most amusing story I heard while I was in Turkey was something that happened to an international student. I can’t remember her origin, but the story goes like this: She gets hit by a car and falls down. Immediately, everyone around runs to her and someone asks her, “Oh dear, are you alright?” And in all that agony she replies with, “I am fine, thank you, how are you?” She says this because it is the only thing she knows how to say in Turkish. I don’t know if it is a true story, but it makes me laugh a lot whenever I hear it.
Slagana is aslo interested in photography. This interest of hers was somewhat inspired by Istanbul: “Istanbul, is a very photogenic city. You don’t need much talent for photography. It is enough to just press the button.”
Let’s talk more about your education. What has changed in your life after you won a Türkiye scholarship?
I came to Turkey in 2012. Before that I couldn’t speak almost any Turkish. I knew only words like “good afternoon, good night, one, two, three”, the words that I learned from my grandfather. It was all I knew.
What you achieved in three years is a great success. Your Turkish is really very good.
Thank you. I have to be fluent in Turkish, as I am studying performing arts. That’s why I am also being very careful about my pronunciation. I want to be able to clearly express myself.
I love theater a lot, and I do this work with love. People say that it is not education but talent that is important for stage actors. I don’t agree with this. You cannot be a complete actor if you do not travel to other countries, do research, and learn different languages. This is why I did my thesis on this topic. The title of my thesis is “Performing in Other Languages”.
The topic is right to the point. As someone who experienced this personally, you are one of the most suitable people to provide an insight on the subject.
As far as I know, this is the first and currently the only study on this subject. I’ve learned a new language from scratch, performed in plays, movies and TV series in that language, experiencing that whole process personally. I also had a part in the first play of the Turkish Theater in Skopje. These were all fascinating experiences for me.
You graduated this year. Looking back, what can you tell us about your education and life here?
I have learned very important lessons from my mentor Suat Özturna. I was the only graduate student at our department. Therefore, I took classes together with undergraduate students. I would sit next to my mentor and watch them. I closely followed his lectures and advice he gave to his students. I had a chance to learn firsthand how a lecture should be organized, and how to communicate with students. Anyone who is thinking about an academic career must learn this. Therefore, I’ve learned great lessons here.
The professors were very helpful. I made some great friends. Some of them even came to visit Macedonia. I showed them around, and they found Macedonians very friendly. I think the same about Turkish people.
There is one thing that surprised me in Turkey. For example, when I meet someone and say that I am form Macedonia, a lot of people tell me that they also have relatives there.
Our societies are not so much different from each other…
Exactly. I think we are all relatives. Apparently, our ancestors came from Konya centuries ago. This is why I am also very curious about Konya.
Which Turkish cities have you visited so far?
Honestly, I haven’t had many opportunities for sightseeing. I’m doing research and studying all the time. But I have been to Izmir before. This year, we went to Bursa and Adana for our performance of Skopje Turkish Theater’s play “A Summer Night Dream”. I got a chance to see these cities a little. Both are very different and very beautiful. I’ve also been to Ankara for an interview. I want to go to Cappadocia, but I still haven’t had a chance.
You are doing professional acting while studying performing arts at the same time. How does Macedonia compare to Turkey?
While both acting and studying, I noticed something. In Macedonia, they teach us that in acting everything must be big: gestures, facial expressions, speech. And this is what actors in Macedonia want to do on stage. However, in Turkey, much more attention is given to the feelings and glances, since actors spend a lot of time in front of cameras in TV series and movies. They express everything with less acting and much more intensity.
So, which one do you think is better?
I try to find balance between the two. Frankly, I think I am lucky to have the opportunity to see and experience both.
Are there any stage actors that you look up to or like?
People say I have some resemblance to Beren Saat. Some people even wanted to take a photo with me thinking I am her. She is a very successful and beautiful actress. I like her a lot. I also love Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s movies. I can say that I really admire her.
I also had a role in a play with Nigar Kalfa. She is also Macedonian. She helped me a lot both with acting and adapting to Turkey. She is a really good person, and an amazing actress.
I learned about Tres leches dessert in Turkey
How do you feel about Turkish food?
I eat rice everywhere. Turkey is a very rich country in terms of its cuisine. I love şekerpare (small cakes with syrup). I think this is the reason I keep gaining weight. Let me tell you something interesting. It was here that I ate Tres leches cake for the first time, and learned that it is actually a Macedonian dessert. My friends disappointedly said, “this is your dessert, yours!” But, before that, I had no idea.
What will you miss the most if you have to leave Turkey one day?
I don’t want to leave ever. I think I will come back a lot even if I do. I don’t want to break ties with Turkey, because I love Istanbul and my friends here. I feel like myself when I sit on the beach and gaze at the sea. There is one more thing I want to say. I feel I have grown as a person here. This is the first time I am away from my family, but I never felt lonely or alienated. I can even say that I came into a family.