It hurts me to admit this, but the first thought that crossed my mind this morning was, “Oh my gosh… we only have two weeks left until the fall semester?!” I couldn’t believe it, but the pit in my stomach was the proof. Where had the summer gone? Surely we still had at least a month left, right? I mean, I know I’m lucky that my three classes this summer were pretty flexible with the nine credit hours spent on a 9-day study abroad course in Turkey, 3 full-day classes with Dr. Brené Brown on Shame, Empathy and Resilience (with a lot of pre-course reading), and an ongoing independent study. I quickly decided I’d blame Turkey on this Monday morning shock that the summer was almost over. Why blame Turkey? Because it took about a month to recuperate from the learning, processing… and jet lag.
Any preparing I had done for this amazing learning opportunity almost completely went out the window once I landed in Turkey. The endless questions I had for the kind students and patient staff members who went the summer before, the UH study abroad office’s scholarship presentation, the Gülen Institute’s staff, the slight reading I had done on Rumi… none of it even came close to preparing me for the incredible impact this course had on me. This trip was the beginning of a whole new course in life for me.
Having been someone who was so passionate about social work and spirituality, this trip touched me. I couldn’t believe how much I absorbed being immersed in the Turkish culture for a week and a half… it was the best source of learning. Sait Yavuz (with the Gülen Institute) did such an incredible job setting up a fantastic itinerary that allowed us to learn so much more than what I had thought I was signing up for! With a special thanks to the historian that led the trip, Dr. Achenbaum, lesson plans were taught through dialogue and connection with host families over a meal, teachers, students, and our knowledgeable tour guides. We also had the opportunities to visit multiple social service agencies, Rumi’s tomb, walk around Ephesus, barter at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and just constantly process with one another (especially the morning we all heard about the Gaza flotilla attack).
My gosh, even the group got along the entire time! (Ask me about our photo shoot on the rooftop of our hotel in Cappadocia). In my opinion, the greatest blessings of all were our travel guides, Betul and Emre. This wonderful young couple taught us so much about patience and kindness – to me, their example of hospitality was one of the best lessons I received.
In conclusion, very few words could express just how touched I am by the GCSW and the Gülen Institute’s efforts to grant me this incredible opportunity. Since having returned from Turkey, well, I definitely needed a good week and a half to feel rested again before I submerged back into about two weeks of continued processing – now that I was back home, in America, what did this trip mean to me as a social worker? I took this question very seriously and used it as a basis for reflection in my paper about what I learned and how I would apply this new lens in my studies and social work practice. Lastly, I’d like to warmly welcome anyone who would like more information about the course to contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.