July 4, 2014

Stretching my academic wings

The academician in me has been dormant for the month of June, and today, I got to briefly kick it back in gear.

After another delightful Turkish breakfast at the hotel, Alan and I were whisked off to Melikşah University for a day of observation and settling in with our future colleagues. Doğan explained to us the new European-funded projects being developed by teachers, including a refugee education project. Although I haven't directly worked with refugees, I have volunteered with organizations that help refugees gain literacy skills and developed a test for beginning literacy that was designed with refugees in mind. I'm actually very interested in the plight of people who, for a number of reasons, are forced to leave their country under difficult circumstances. Currently, there are an estimated 600,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey. Refugees often struggle with day-to-day tasks because of language and cultural barriers.

Alan and I were lucky enough to sit in on the committee meeting to discuss the refugee project. The basic goals for the project are to offer basic Turkish survival language skills to those seeking refuge or asylum in Turkey. During the meeting, despite the heat and my inability to drink (it's Ramadan, and I don't like to be impolite to my Muslim colleagues), we came up with a rough draft of a proposal for the project.

It felt good to stretch my academic wings on a topic that I'm interested in, and that will potentially help people who are in dire circumstances here in Turkey. I drew on some of the work I did during my master's degree in developing a literacy test appropriate for refugees. Alan and I both brought up ideas from our curriculum and administration courses. I was relieved that I haven't lost it all. It's not exactly riding a bike, but I'm happy to see the application of my master's degree work.