My China story is a long-lasting one as it has been quite a long time since I first met with Chinese culture with very warm “Ni hao!” in Ankara Atatürk High School ten years ago. After then I never want to break up my ties with this language and culture as it amazed me with every piece of information I learned in time. I tried to do my best in learning Chinese, and this continual effort gave me an opportunity to go to the 10-day BIEE (Beijing International Education Exchange) summer youth camp in Beijing with my schoolmates in 2010. This encounter with China assured me that I am on the right path. Interacting with Chinese people, and with peers coming from different parts of the world; tasting various types of Chinese food which I enjoyed tremendously, and visiting all those historical and cultural sites in Beijing, of course the Great Wall being the chief of them, left so many deep impressions on me that I was determined to go there for a longer period of time.
In Bilkent University, I continued learning Chinese, and was searching for more opportunities to explore many more aspects of life in China in person. Thus, I did not want to miss the chance of going to China as an exchange student. In 2017 spring semester, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) became my other home of education. This four-month time period was a life changing experience for me. It was not only the period of exploring and understanding Chinese culture but also myself, and all the things that shaped my understanding till that time. I tried to speak as many people as possible on the street, whether it was for asking address or grasping the things they were doing on that spot. I tried to walk as many roads as possible till my energy drains away. I tried to taste various local specialties (特产tèchǎn) of different cities even if I had to páiduì (排队-line up) for some time. While day was drawing closer, dance music and dancing steps were appearing on open public areas including parks where especially elderly aunties were dancing or exercising energetically. I was happy to flow with passing of time in China. At first, I thought that I stepped out of my comfort zone. Yet, in time I felt myself being at another comfort zone, thus at another home. China, for me, was not a country in the far east geographically and mentally but rather it was just at the center of the world as any other country might perceive its location in the world. Differences between my country and China is, for me, like any difference I can experience between me and my neighbor.
I firstly encountered Yenching Academy of Peking University in YouTube at the very early days of the program. In the promotional video of the academy, I saw some chairs which prominent figures in Chinese history sit down once. The message in the video was clear that more people are expected to join the ranks of these people in the coming years with Yenching Academy being one of the pioneers of this endeavor in the global arena. Thus, after studying various aspects of several Asian countries within Middle East Technical University (METU) Asian Studies Master Program, and Chinese language in METU Confucius Institute, I applied to Yenching Academy with all my hopes and dreams about forming more connections between myself and China. I am grateful to be given this chance of studying at such a prestigious program while at the same time, I feel the responsibility of contributing to this program to the utmost of my ability. Life is composed of memories we are left with during the limited time we are given. I wish when the time of leaving from Yenching comes, I will be left with memories which I will be sharing with people around me enthusiastically throughout my life.