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Why I Came

June 8, 2011

This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions of my year (both here and the summer before I came).  Why did you come to Turkey?  Why did you want to learn Turkish?  Why did you choose to leave your high school in the USA and come to a place you had never seen? 

The answer is usually: Why not?

Then I go on to actually talk about a few reasons I decided to be ‘foolish’ and leave America to live in a country where I spoke none of the language.  I use the word foolish because, if you look at the concept of exchange long enough, that is what you realize.  It is a completely foolish and risk-taking thing to do.  Go abroad to a place to live with a family and learn a language and try to build an entire life from nothing.  Without knowing anything.  The process involves an indescribable amount of trust and confidence from everyone: the exchanger, the student´s family, the host family, the program (AFS).  It is amazing that the whole thing works at all.   

So why do thousands of teenagers every year choose to go on this foolish adventure?  We have heard every reason in the book why not to go.  You´ll miss prom (that was three weeks ago).  Graduation (last week).  Christmas.  Football games.  Sports (good thing I don´t play :P).  Classes.  Then there is the strategy of ‘questions’.  What if you don´t like the food?  What is your host family are murderers (actually heard this a lot)?  What if the language is too hard?  What if you make no friends?  What if you miss out on something important?  Please note that every single one starts with ‘what if…’  Nothing is guaranteed.

So what if I did miss something important?  There are things I missed this year.   That is certain. But here is the other side of the saying.  If I have not come, I would have missed something here.  Now with such little time left, I want to make sure every day is full of Turkishness.  At the same time I have reached the point where the end is in sight and I just want to see my family and country again.  I can´t explain it with words (making it hard to explain at all). 

I came because I needed to.  I wanted to see the world past my small town.  Not through the eyes of someone else´s, but through my own.  I wanted to stretch my limits (totally succeeded here).  I wanted to change.  I wanted to speak Turkish. 

I have done that.  Now I have 11 days left in Samsun.  17 in Turkey.  Then I am back home.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mama permalink
    June 9, 2011 3:05 pm

    Your dad and I were the first ones to ask “WHY????” when you brought up the idea of exchange. I’m glad we decided to be brave right along with you. This year has been very different, but very, very good. We can’t wait to have you home.

  2. Nora Benson permalink
    June 11, 2011 12:55 am

    Hi Sam! Thanks so much for this post/ this whole blog in general. I am one of the NSLI-Y year in Taiwan students for 2011-2012 and, after deciding to take a gap year and fly across the world to a country where I know essentially nothing about the language/culture I’m getting this questistion ALL THE TIME. Hearing your response to this toward the end of your program is VERY reassuring and makes me a lot more confident that my descision is the right one/that I will be able to surivive and thrive (fingers crossed0 next year. Great job blogging!

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