Turkish student links UK, home



By Kristin Martin

Supporting the blue and white is one thing most UK students have in common — including a student from Ankara, Turkey.

Sarp Atan, a 22-year-old management and accounting senior, is not much different from the average UK student. Atan has lived in Lexington for about a year and is one of the 1,500 foreign students who attend UK.

Turkey, a country located in Southwestern Asia, has a population of about 73 million. Atan said he once was asked if he lived in a tent while in Turkey.

“The kind of differences you think there are (between America and Turkey), there aren’t,” he said. “We talk and walk the same, and hold a woman’s hand.”

Atan said he attributes what he calls America’s tendencies to stereotype other countries to a lack of education. He said schools in Turkey focus more on international education while America places more emphasis on domestic education.

“If you’re not a history major, you don’t learn much (about other countries),” Atan said.

Elif Bengu, an international Student Affairs adviser at UK, is also from Turkey but has lived in the U.S. for about nine years. She, too, said Americans often have false impressions of other countries and vice versa.

Bengu said the media and movies create stereotypes sometimes reigning in people’s minds about foreign countries.

“I think of small villages and farmland rather than big cities,” said Morgan Wade, an agricultural senior.

Bengu said most international students, particularly those from big cities, adjust well to American culture because it is not entirely different from their own. She said three main differences most foreign students must adjust to are transportation, food and relational differences with American students.

Atan and Bengu said people in Turkey grow up with a stronger American influence than most Americans realize.

Atan said people in Turkey see the same movies and TV shows, and he even learned English before Turkish.

However, he said cultural differences do exist. Atan said where he lived in Turkey, pen and paper was used most often for learning, versus the online emphasis in the U.S.

Atan also said hearing a person voice an opinion in Turkey is rare but is pushed in America, and college students in Turkey typically live with their parents and do not have jobs.

Atan, although enjoying his time at UK, said being away from his family is difficult.

“That’s my home,” he said. “If anyone gets a chance, you have to go to Turkey … (Ankara is) a little America.”