Turkey Scholarships, a state-supported grant program for international students, saw another class of students graduate from Turkish universities this year. Students, who completed their education with scholarships provided by the Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), praises the program’s role in shaping their lives. Turkey has become a popular destination for international students and researchers who come for higher education at all academic levels, as well as research and language-learning opportunities.
The scholarship program, specifically designed for international students and researchers, with its all-encompassing scholarship provisions and services, is a gateway to education in the country. What makes the program unique is its provision of university and program placement as part of its scholarship application. The program was created in 2012 to bring together different scholarships provided by different state agencies under one roof. This year, more than 155,000 people from 171 countries applied for scholarships.
YTB held a graduation ceremony in the capital Ankara on Tuesday evening for this year’s graduates. Vaidah Simbiso Chemuru of Zimbabwe was among the graduates. The young woman graduated from Gazi University Faculty of Medicine in Ankara and said she felt like she “grew up” in Turkey. “(The scholarship) changed everything in my life,” Chemuru said.
She explained how it was challenging to adapt to her new life in Turkey at first. “But in seven years, I learned Turkish and started feeling like a Turkish national,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA). “I discovered a new culture here,” she added. Chemuru is now studying for an exam for medical school graduates which allows them to specialize in different branches of medicine. She plans to specialize in internal medicine, and if she passes the exam, she will have to spend another five years in Turkey, though she plans to return to Zimbabwe some day in the future. “I am grateful to YTB. Schools in my country are very expensive. YTB gave me an opportunity to study for free. I am now a doctor thanks to them,” she said.
Fayzullahkhon Otakhonov arrived in Turkey seven years ago, like Chemuru. The Uzbek student is now a graduate of doctoral studies in history from Istanbul Medeniyet University. “I was not accepted in my first application for a scholarship but I did not give up. They accepted my second application and I thank God for being here,” he said. Otakhonov’s family also moved with him. “Me and my family feel like Turkey is our home. We are no strangers here at all. Turkey and Uzbekistan already have close ties in culture, religion and language," he said.
Otakhonov said he also found another “family” in YTB. “This is not about scholarship only. I attended social activities, symposiums and conferences. YTB organized events and trips for us to tour Turkey. I am glad they are here to help us, I am glad Turkey helped us,” he said. Otakhonov now plans to stay in Turkey for a while and work as an academic.
Arleen Emerson from Indonesia graduated from the radio, TV and cinema studies program of Marmara University in Istanbul. She was 19 when she first arrived to study in Turkey in 2015. “Many things in my life changed with Turkey Scholarships. I met new friends and lecturers,” she said. Emerson has already received job offers back home but plans to stay in Turkey if she can find a good job. “I thank YTB for everything. Their Istanbul office is very helpful toward students,” she said.
The scholarship program is competitive and merit-based, where not only candidates' academic excellence is considered but also their extracurricular activities and other qualifications. All awardees are provided with a one-year, free-of-charge Turkish language course regardless of their program or academic background, wherein students get the chance to become acquainted with Turkish culture with a variety of trips and programs provided in their first year while they are learning Turkish.
The program aims to enhance Turkey's relations with other countries in the fields of higher education and culture. Students become part of a big family comprising of 16,000 current scholarship students and a 170,000-strong international student body in Turkey. Following graduation, students become members of Turkey's alumni network, which includes around 150,000 graduates from more than 156 countries.
With its aim to provide a comprehensive educational experience in Turkey, Turkey Scholarships also provides arts, culture, history and sports-related social activities and training programs for scholarship holders. It also acquaints them with academics, institutions and organizations working in their respective fields and offers academic counseling services throughout their study period.
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