Our next experience-sharing hero is Fethi Kurtiy Şahin. Fethi is from Turkey and is a Ph.D. student at Middle East Technical University. He was an exchange student in Kyiv as a part of a Mevlana Project with the Turkology department of Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv in the spring semester, 2019.

Traditionally, let's get to know our storyteller first!

Greatest accomplishment as a child:

There were these batteries, and I had a small bicycle which was broken. But I inserted the battery, and it worked. I was three then, but I still remember that and I remember how proud I was. Oh, it was ages ago!

One meal for the rest of your life:

After eating something every day, I would hate everything. But I will go with Tatar-ash (dumplings with meat).

Song for a long car drive:

I can’t choose a song, so it will be a band. Okean Elzy. I am not trying to be Ukrainian or something, I have some Turkish songs too. But I listen to this band so much. I like their Randevu, Dzherelo songs, etc.

Favorite kind of transportation in Kyiv:

Metro. It’s the fastest, and sometimes you meet very unusual people there.

Now it is just the right time for Erasmus experience-sharing from Kurtiy!

Q: How would you describe your Erasmus experience in Ukraine overall?

Before I got there, I was scared of that post-Soviet bureaucracy, you know. But people were very helpful. We had this man in the International Office who was always there for us, and you, ESN Kyiv, explained lots of things too. People were also very welcoming. I didn’t feel like a foreigner at all. Of course, it was still hard sometimes. Yet, it was really easy for me in Ukraine.

Q: Have you experienced any Ukrainian-style holiday celebrations?

I remember medovik. It’s some kind of very old holiday. People would bring honey to the church so that it can be blessed. I saw a lot of people in front of Pecherska Lavra, and I don’t know why, but it impressed me. What I don’t remember is celebrating the New Year. I mean, I remember that I did celebrate it, but I don’t remember how. But it’s just the way it should be, right? ;)

Q: What differences did you find in the study process?

Well, the grading system is different, and professors too. I mean, in Turkey they are very approachable. You can always write an email, ask lots of questions during the class. In Ukraine, it’s a bit different. Some professors seem to be stuck in the 90s. But I see how things are changing and I love it.

Q: Who was your favorite professor?

Anton Korinevich, definitely. Now he is the Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. He knew a lot about Crimean Tatars and was willing to share his knowledge. He was also a sign of that change in professors I've just told about. He was very approachable and helpful, especially for my research.

Q: Did ESN influence your experience in Kyiv?

Definitely. It helped me to meet international students, discover very unusual parts of Kyiv and Ukraine (for example, trip to Chernihiv). I actually wasn’t trying to find international friends. I was more into meeting Ukrainian people so that I can improve my language skills and understand how they think. But ESN took me to another dimension of Erasmus. I met people from France, Germany, and I’m happy about it. ESN also made me feel safer. I knew that if I had problems, I always have someone to call.

Q: What was your favorite spot in Kyiv?

Oh, it’s café Kharms! My friend took me there, and I liked it a lot. I used to visit it once or twice a week, drink coffee, meet friends, having some good time. And they even let me stay if I didn’t order anything. Write that down, kids!

Q: What was your gastronomic experience in Kyiv like?

Of course, Ukrainian cuisine is really nice. Puzata Khata is a place to be. I just cannot forget it. I also loved Musafir. It’s really nice. You can try Tatar-ash there, the one that I would eat for the rest of my life. Kyiv is also a very nice place for Georgian food and sushi.

Q: What life-changing things have you experienced during your Erasmus?

Oh, for example, I’ve got my first backache!

It’s just a joke though. I had a lot of opportunities to speak Russian, but it is difficult. In Turkish, for example, we don’t have genders so learning a word was twice as hard. Russian also has many cases and lots of exceptions. So I pushed myself to learn harder and talk more. Even now that I’m back, I keep on trying. So I feel like I definitely grew up. Being away from your home for so long does it to you.

Interviewer: Anastasiia Mykytenko
Photos: Fethi Kurtiy Şahin's personal archive, ESN Kyiv