Donning their graduation gowns, hundreds of foreign students gathered at a congress center in the capital Ankara yesterday for a graduation ceremony that brings together students of many nationalities from all Turkish universities.
Organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and state-run Turks Abroad and Related Communities Directorate (YTB), the event was a showcase of Turkey's position as a major education hub for students from around the world. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among the guests at the ceremony and addressed the students. The president said Turkey hosted 150,000 students from 182 countries, with a majority of them coming from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq. He added that they wanted to host as many as 200,000 students by 2023, the centenary of the Republic of Turkey. The president emphasized that Turkey viewed international students as "representatives of Turkey" in their homeland once they graduate and return home. "Wherever you live, whatever you do, please do not sever your ties with this country. Turkish is now your common language. I extend greetings to your families on behalf of my nation," Erdoğan told the students.
"Our culture does not confine brotherhood and sisterhood to time and space. It is a tie that will remain intact until our last breath. I believe we built a bridge between our hearts, with our international students. Our door is always open both to graduates here and those still studying," he said.
Turkey launched an international scholarship program 27 years ago to attract students from around the globe and in the past decade, the number of students benefiting from the scholarships has significantly increased.