A few years ago, I was walking down the streets of my hometown trying to picture places of my childhood to make an archive. When I came in front of the house I lived in as a child and compared my life then and now, I asked myself the question: “How the hell did you get to where you are, Itır?”
Don’t get me wrong: My hometown, Edremit, is one of the major towns on the Aegean Coast. However, when I was a kid, it lacked many of the opportunities for young people. For example, there was no proper movie theater. I moved to Çanakkale (a slighly larger city on the Dardanelles) at age 11 to attend to the Anatolian High School there, a school for bright students selected through a nationwide test, but not much changed given the fact that Çanakkale was also a limited city in what it could offer to people with multiple interests like me.
Still, in high school, I was able to take part in plays, take stage as the lead vocal of the high school rock band, profiting from my already strong English, and enjoy my time socializing with the many tourists visiting the city. At the end of the 7 years of my junior and senior high school education, having enjoyed the gorgeous nature and historical sites (Gallipoli and Troy) around Çanakkale, having pampered myself in the friendships of the best high school buddies and having read a lot (both as a result of good education and of a personal love for the books), I was happy to leave Çanakkale behind and start a new adventure in my dream city of Istanbul, studying at the Departement Francophone des Sciences Politiques et Administratives of Marmara University.
Istanbul and my university education truly gave a boost to my life and brought me closer to who I wanted to become. I spent university years at an old Pavillion on the Bosphorus, named as the Tarabya Unit of the University which hosted only our Department. Ever since I graduated, I have rarely had a chance to revisit my old school. The building was only 2 metres from the sea; all the classrooms had a sea view and the professors would at times interrupt their lectures to show us the tankers and freighters passing through the Strait of Istanbul. It was a place where the best student garden parties were thrown, where we were a small but closely knit group trying to create our own social activities, where there was less of a hierarchy between the professors and the students and where, as I realized years later while going over my old class notes which I still keep, the level of education was better than I thought it was while I was a student there.
Last Saturday, I attended a party there for the last time, the Department will move to a bigger campus next year. As I gave a tour of the building to my boyfriend, telling him stories of my college years, as well as my activities as actress and singer on the stage again during university years and how my years there contributed to my (still) amateur spirit of literary writing, I remembered the distinct culture of the Department which educated us as open-minded, self-learning and entrepreneurial intellectuals who also knew the value of relaxing and having fun.
Then the answer to the question “How the hell did you get to where you are, Itır?” became crystal clear. It was firstly a result of good education which started in my family and which was strengthened by attending good schools, but it was also the ambiance of this education where I enjoyed being a part of the academic life and learning. My modest conclusion is that there were probably better schools where I could have ended up, but I am not sure if I would have had so much fun in these places. Throughout my life, where I learnt the most were the places where I also had the most fun. I should never forget: a fun and good education is always better than a good but boring education. (I hope to come back to this theme soon.)
I have to let Tarabya go with this final lesson. Thank you my dear Department and everybody (professors, friends, administrators, the building, the trees and the Bosphorus) who were a part of it and made it what it is.
Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.