**I began writing this post several months ago in Turkey, but ended up losing my final draft due to internet issues. Not wanting to redo the work, I abandoned for a while, but am now posting the unedited version below. Next up: Bulgaria!**
In some ways, CLS is a fairly strict program.The teaching system at TÖMER, our host institution, is remarkably rigid, class attendance is mandatory, activities are rarely optional, there’s the language pledge (which admittedly– and, in my opinion, detrimentally–isn’t always enforced). In other ways, though, the program has been remarkable flexible.
Take, for example, my request to switch families. For reasons that aren’t worth explaining in their entirety, I switched host families at the end of my fifth week here. My old host family–benim eski ailem–wasn’t bad necessarily. For another student, they might have been perfect. Even I appreciated some of the benefits: I had a lot of free time, was very independent, and met an interesting crowd of people. Unfortunately, though, those people were largely other yabancı (foreigners) and thus, instead of practicing Turkish, I spent my time after class resurrecting my rudimentary college French.
Depsite these perks, I realized that I wasn’t getting the practice I needed and wasn’t taking full advantage of CLS’s (important) focus on true language immersion. Sure, I loved having coffee and breakfast on the balcony, watching the sky brighten and enjoying a few hours of cool and quiet before the day began. And yes, I appreciated the independence to explore Bursa that an empty house gave me in the afternoons. But, I wanted a host family that would talk to me.
So I got one.
And talk they do!
My first few days here, this wonderful group of people must have asked me some variation of the question “Are we asking you too many questions??” at least 25 times.
And each time, my answer was the same: “No. This is exactly what I wanted.”
Truth be told, right now I’m not sure what my opportunities to continue studying Turkish will be like this coming year. While I hope to take classes in Bulgaria, right now I can’t count on finding them (or on having the time and money). My eight weeks in Turkey, though, are a golden opportunity, a small window. While I waffled on switching families for weeks (well, in reality, it was only days, but the stressful situation made it feel so much longer) and likely talked the ears of half of the other American öğrenciler (students) in the process, I knew that if I didn’t take every opportunity to use this opportunity to its fullest, I’d regret it.
And so, introducing the new host family. And my new and altogether happier, more constructive, more interesting, and altogether fuller Turkish experience.
(18 Oct) Now, two months out from the program, I’d like to tack on that this switch was the best decision I made during my CLS summer. I was welcomed with open arms into a wonderful family and had exponentially more opportunities to practice Turkish. Now I’m only disappointed I didn’t speak up sooner. Additionally, it was an excellent lesson for me in expressing myself clearly and directly–in this case out of necessity because my Turkish skills were too rudimentary to waffle or beat around the bush. I had to address my wants and needs quite simply because of the limits of my language ability. Hopefully that’s a lesson that sticks with me!