As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, I majored in European studies and took many history and political science courses. As issues related to Turkey continued to arise, my interest in that country grew. In summer 2009, while a law student at the University of Louisville, I participated in the Critical Language Scholarship’s intensive beginners' Turkish course in Alanya, Turkey. After that, it made sense to apply for a Boren Fellowship that would include intensive study of the Turkish language, as well as coursework on the legal system of the greater region.
During the first four weeks of my Boren Fellowship, I studied at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, where I took rule of law and business law classes. My rule of law course focused heavily on law related to Turkish foreign relations, constitutional law, and criminal law within the country. The business law course surveyed the law behind some of the major financial actors in the region, such as multinational corporations, the manufacturing and energy sectors, and international arbitration. The last eight weeks of my Boren Fellowship put me across the city, at Boğaziçi University's Turkish Language and Culture Program, where I studied Turkish full-time.
A lot of tourists visit Turkey, but very few of them speak the language. Therefore, it was not uncommon to see people widen their eyes in shock when I spoke in Turkish to them, and I was invited into peoples' homes within just a few short sentences of conversing. On one memorable occasion, I asked a guard at Dolmabahçe Palace (the 19th-century Ottoman residence in Istanbul) where I could get some good kokoreç (a Turkish dry barbecue). Half an hour later, I was sitting at a restaurant with him and a group of his friends.
Now that I am back in the United States, I make the effort to practice my Turkish as much as I can, and I'm thankful for the internet. Kentucky doesn't have many Turkish-speakers, but the web does. In addition, as an upper-level law student I've devoted a lot of my independent study opportunities to researching topics related to Turkey, including a major study of the Turkish-Northern Iraqi border dispute, the law behind the Turkish pipelines, and other aspects of how the U.S. deals with Turkey in the NATO context. I hope to develop this into a career specialization after my time in law school ends.
After graduation, I will complete my service requirement with the U.S. Army. I received a four-year Army Reserve Officer's Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to pay for my undergraduate education at Vanderbilt University and I have a four-year commitment after law school to the U.S. Army.
Written: December 2010