Photo by Meral Aydos

Bogazici: A Dream Under Attack of Waking Up

The ‘appointed’ rector shut down the student club of LGBTQ+ in the Bogazici University. He opened two new faculties on Friday night without prior discussion. Rumours are going around how he will take further steps to transform the university into a pro-government entity challenging its 158-year tradition.

My second home is under a defamatory campaign. Here comes a story of my journey with Bogazici, in case if you have watched the video by Directorate of Communications of Turkey, showing some violent content of alleged Bogazici students.

I was feeling completely lost in 2010 when I was a sophomore in Ankara, and that was one of my monthly home town getaways from the grey capital. My parents gave me a ride to the coach station where the coach would take me back to my exile. I was utterly unhappy and desperate. Hating myself for I wasn’t capable of adapting to my new life no matter how hard I tried and being tired of people assuring me my school in Ankara was one of the best in Turkey. If you were deeply in love with someone, would you settle for another great person? My dream was the Bogazici University, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get in due to not succeeding enough in the national university admissions test in 2008.

In the car, mum told me “Why don’t you retake the university admissions test?”

I lacked the enthusiasm a 19-year old should have had. Thus, I grumbled as much as you would expect from a teenager and left the car.

It turned out my parents believed in me more than I did. After seeing me off, they directly went to the respective institution to enrol me for the test.

It was March 2010, when I took the initial test. It was okay. I was unusually relaxed because I had nothing to lose.

When I took the final test in June 2010, I was feeling more optimistic. I had no luxury to make a mistake, though. Had to score 80/80 to claim a place in Bogazici. There was a question to challenge me the most, and it was testing my translation skills. After studying translation&interpreting for two years in another prominent university, if I failed that question, I would lose all my charisma in my family and close friends. When you knew too much, nothing would seem perfect to you. I knew too much about the subject, and that was the burden on my shoulder. Finally, selecting the most appropriate choice, I scored 80/80.

I headed to the States that summer for a Work&Travel program. It was 3 AM in Minnesota when we were all set on my laptop with my brother waiting for the test results to get announced in Turkey timezone. My parents were on the other side of the ocean, on Skype, sharing my anxiety and fear. I managed to be the 74th top-scoring student in all over Turkey in my major, but that was not a guarantee for Bogazici. Only if I was among the top 50; that would make my admission beyond question.

We were watching the clock to tick noon Turkey time. And finally, the page started to download.

There were two possibilities: If I failed, I would go back to my previous life which felt like I never belonged to, with the heaviness of losing twice. And if I got admitted, I had no idea what was waiting for me in Bogazici, but I was sure that it would be a breeze of fresh air for my soul. That was a turning point for my life.

I am still crying while writing these lines. The page finally downloaded and confirmed my admission to the Bogazici University. My parents and I were weeping for joy on each side of the ocean.

After returning to Turkey, handling the admission procedures, passing the prep class test, and having exemptions for first-grade courses, I started my first year as a sophomore already. While studying for the mid-term exams of Etymology, one of the most challenging subjects of the Translation & Interpreting Studies department, I was expecting the least to see one of my classmates approaching me and offering me the notes they acquired from the senior students.

“Why?” I asked myself. “They hardly know me, why they try to help me without even me asking for it?” I was an outsider in the end.

They were not afraid of others to score better than themselves, and they were not jealous either.

That was the first time I realized I was in somewhere unique.

A couple of months passed, it was the new year’s eve when we gathered in a restaurant with all of my classmates to celebrate it. It was such a lovely evening and I offered to take a photo of the group. They knew me for only three months while they knew each other for more than two years. I had to be the one taking the photo of the group, I supposed.

“Meral, you should be in the photo with us, let’s kindly ask the waiter to take our photo” they replied.

That was the last time I was surprised by their kindness to outsiders as well as each other.

Not long before, I truly and profoundly conceived Bogazici values of treating everyone equally regardless of their opinions/backgrounds/identities and embracing an openhearted approach as welcoming as Rumi.

Londoner and Writer. Short Stories for Sundays.