Dinneen reflects on Fulbright year in Turkey

By Will Dinneen ’12

I spent ten months in 2012-2013 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA)  in Gümüşhane Province, located in northeastern Turkey. I was one of 67 ETAs, under the supervision of the Turkish Fulbright Commission, who were sent to teach English at developing state universities located in cities of various size scattered throughout Turkey. The universities selected are typically new (5-15 years old) and located primarily in areas of Turkey undergoing rapid development.  

Will Dinneen '12 during Fulbright year in Turkey
Will Dinneen ’12 (third from right) with some of his students during his Fulbright year in Turkey.

I was assigned to Gümüshane University (G.U.), a “hardship placement” due to its remoteness both geographically and culturally from the western and more modern parts of Turkey. Gümüshane is located in the rural and agricultural Black Sea region of Turkey among rugged mountains just south of the Black Sea. It has a population of 35,000 and was established as a silver mining town under the Ottoman Empire. Gümüshane has historically, and continues to, serve as the gateway between the Black Sea region and Central Anatolia.

G.U. was established in 2008 and has a student population of 11,500. The university is focused primarily on technical education programs and engineering. In Gümüshane I was paired with another Fulbright ETA and together we taught a group of 50-70 students (aged 17-20) enrolled in the Emergency and Disaster Management program.

These students were completing a compulsory year of English-only instruction. This program at G.U. is one of only two such programs in Turkey and is considered prestigious; as such it was the only program at this university that included a compulsory full year of English education. Additionally, we began two “English Speaking Clubs,” one for beginning students and the other for advanced English speakers. The clubs were open to students, faculty, staff, and community members. While these clubs were not large, the students were highly motivated and engaging.

As an ETA, my primary responsibility was English instruction. However, I relished using Gümüshane and G.U. as an opportunity to learn more on a subject I had started researching at Cornell: democratization in developing Turkey.

I also had fantastic opportunities to travel around Turkey with a community of fellow ETA Fulbrights. Exploring Turkey alongside 67 curious, bright, and passionate fellow Fulbright students made me feel like I had an extra year of the Cornell experience. It was like an extended block abroad; intense, engaging, always difficult, always exciting.

My ten months in Turkey flew by. I consider my time in Turkey a success but I could not accomplished nearly as much without my years at Cornell College.