Turkish students find American education appealing

Alper Mirmahmutogullari, left, and Ipek Demirgezer, right, have both been in America for about five years. (MEHMET TEMEL/ THE STATESMAN)

Alper Mirmahmutogullari, left, and Ipek Demirgezer, right, have both been in America for about five years. (MEHMET TEMEL/ THE STATESMAN)

Instead of an hour drive or a two-hour train ride to get home at the end of this semester, sophomore psychology major Ipek Demirgezer will have to endure a longer journey to see her family: a 12-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

This is not the first time Demirgezer will be going home.  She has been making the trip three times a year—for winter, spring and summer breaks—for the last six years. And she has not been the only one.

According to a census by Open Doors, which tracks international student movement, in the 2011-2012 school year, 11,973 students from Turkey came to the United States to study at a primary, secondary, undergraduate, graduate or Optional Practical Training level, making Turkey “the 10th leading place of origin for students coming to the United States.” The west Asian country obtained that position in 2000 and has kept it since.

In New York, Turkish students make up roughly 2.8 percent of the state’s international student population. Stony Brook University ranks as the institution with the fifth highest number of foreign students with 3,726 students, based on Open Doors’ state census from 2012.

While graduate students make up a little more than 50 percent of the Turkish student population in the United States, Demirgezer and many of her friends arrived in the United States alone at age 14.

“I always wanted to go outside of Turkey and live without my parents,” Demirgezer said.  “Then my dad found out about an opportunity to go to the United States so I [said] ‘I want to go,’ and I came here.”

The appeal in coming to the United States at such a young age, she said, is much more than just the educational opportunities.  “We thought it would be easier to learn English when we were younger,” she said.

Although senior computer science major and president of Stony Brook’s Turkish-American Student Association Zeynep Doğanata was born and raised in the United States, she says that fluency in English for Turkish internationals can take them a long way.

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