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Emre's story

In 2002, I was busy preparing for the university entrance exam just like many other high school seniors in Turkey. I had no intention of studying abroad, until the YEF opportunity came up. Being an only child, I was hesitant at first and so were my parents, but I decided to give it a try anyway. The day I received the phone call which offered me the YEF scholarship was one of the most exciting days of my life. While I knew leaving my family and friends behind would be hard for me, I was also extremely excited about studying abroad with a scholarship that would cover all my expenses. 

My journey to Buffalo, New York started with a very emotional farewell at the Istanbul Airport. I had never said goodbye to my parents at an airport before. It involved tears. About an hour later, sadness left its place to a little bit of nervousness and lots of excitement when I stepped on the plane. I remember thinking about nothing but what was awaiting me for the whole flight. 

When I landed in Buffalo, I was greeted by my Turkish host family with whom YEF had connected me prior to my trip. They are some of the kindest and the most hospitable people I have ever met in my life. They helped me a lot during my first week. Not only they accommodated me, but they also showed me around, took me shopping and helped me move into my dormitory room. We have become life long friends and I am still in frequent contact with them today. 

Classes started about a week after I arrived Buffalo. I adapted to the school, life in the dorms and most things around me a lot faster than I had thought. Everything was very exciting. I was learning something new every day. I was also meeting a lot of new people, making friends, exploring Buffalo as a city and what it had to offer. Over time I had even adapted to Buffalo's cold climate and learned to love it. Buffalo wings... they were love at first sight.

Classes were easy at first but expectedly got tougher along the way. I picked Computer Science and Engineering as my major and studied it for the next 4 years. I also completed a minor in Mathematics. My teachers were some of the best in the world and I believe that I received a world class education at University at Buffalo. Once I found out what I wanted to study, the rest came easy. The campus was amazing too. I just loved walking through the different buildings each of which had its own character, its own ambiance. Spent many long nights in the several different libraries that UB had. It is a scene that I still miss to this day.   

Besides classes I also was active socially. Met a lot of people from many different countries. Went out with them, played soccer with them, cooked and ate with them among many other things. Became good friends with some of them and even visited them in their countries later in my life. Learning about so many different countries and cultures by meeting actual people and listening to their stories was an eye opening experience on which one cannot put a price in my opinion. This experience impacted me in a big way and helped shape my current perspective and vision in life. I have met other Turkish students too and even co-founded the Turkish Student Association and led it for a few years. I thought representing my country and sharing my culture with others was just as important as learning about other cultures. 

 

While I had a great time at UB and Buffalo, the most difficult thing was being so far away from my family. It was very hard at first, both for me and them. This was also a time when there were no smart phones, no WhatsApp, no Skype etc. My parents were beginning to learn how to use the computer that I had left behind. Thanks to international calling cards and services like mezun.com though, I was able to speak to them on the phone a few times a week. That was a big relief. Another big relief was that the YEF scholarship provided us with plane tickets, so I was able to go back to Turkey for winter and summer breaks. That way, the longest I did not see my family was about 4 months at most. Not bad at all.

The other very difficult thing was my graduation day. I simply did not want it to end. I had such a great time and experience at UB that the last day felt like waking up from a beautiful dream. But like they say, all good things come to an end and the most important thing is what you get out of them, and what I got out of my YEF experience at UB is a world class education, a richer perspective on life, an insatiable thirst for exploring the world, a worldwide vision and many great friends. Furthermore, other YEF scholars and everybody who made YEF possible are now more than friends to me, we are pretty much family. 

To wrap it all up, YEF set me up nicely for the later stages of my life. I went to graduate school at UB for 2 years after that and then found a great job in San Mateo, California and moved there. Since then I have worked at several e-commerce and health-tech companies in Silicon Valley and I am currently an engineering manager at a health-tech company. None of this would have been possible without YEF or at least it would not have happened the same way and I love the way how everything happened to me. 

Some photos from my days at UB

Freshmen year at the dorms

Freshmen year at the dorms

Turkish Student Association looking sharp

Turkish Student Association looking sharp

Studying with friends

Studying with friends

First Halloween

First Halloween

Turkish folk dancing

Turkish folk dancing

Volleyball with friends

Volleyball with friends

With my mother at graduation

With my mother at graduation

Graduation

Graduation

Visiting my college roommate in Korea

Visiting my college roommate in Korea

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