Interview with middle schoolers

Hey gang! I had a difficult time tracking down middle schoolers to talk to so I could do this final regular post, but at last, I have an interview to share with you.

It’s crazy that this is my last post (before the “final celebration post,” wherein I document the time we ate Turkish delight and listened to Erkin Koray together). We’ve covered lots of topics together and I hope you feel like you’ve learned something valuable from reading this blog. For me, it’s the only way I’ve been documenting my trip, so it’s been a handy way to reflect on my experiences, collect my thoughts, and think about/research single topics. More rewarding than that, though, was the opportunity it gave me to interact with and get to know all of you. My peers (who are doing the same project), teachers, and parents have been consistently blown away by the thoughtfulness of your responses. I’ve written about some complex stuff – issues I can’t pretend to fully understand myself – and you guys have absorbed it shockingly well and responded in ways that challenged me and forced me to consider new angles. Basically, you’re gonna kill it in your upcoming high school and college years.

My plans

This is the last post I’m required to post until we meet. My finals at Boğaziçi end in the middle of January. After that, a friend and I are going to travel through the Balkans to Prague, Czech Republic. I expect a lot of fun adventures in the upcoming couple of months. I’d like to document things for you (maybe just pictures and short blurbs), so check back if you’d like!

Interview with middle schoolers

Approaching Türkan Şoray Middle School

Approaching Türkan Şoray Middle School

At first it was really challenging to find a middle schooler to interview. I was looking for a Turkish friend or acquaintance who had a middle school sibling/friend I could meet with, but I had no luck. In the parlance of MySpace, there were on Turkish middle schoolers in my “extended network” (did you guys use MySpace?).

So I decided just to walk to a nearby Middle School and go through whatever channels necessary to have a conversation with one of their students. The channels were surprisingly few. My friend Ayşegül and I walked straight into the principal’s office and asked if we could interview someone. He rapidly agreed and sent two boys to find an eighth grader. They ran down the hall and came back moments later with not one, but two eighth graders. We did the interview in the library, surrounded by about 10 other kids who were silently very curious about the whole situation. Ayşegül came along in case I needed help with Turkish, but after our conversation with the principal, I managed on my own.

The girls, Elamur and İkra,  had different enough answers that I’ll provide both of their responses here. Some of the answers below come from follow-up answers, but I won’t bore you by writing all of those.

They were cool kids – you’d all hit it off really well.

Elamur answers:

What is your favorite class?

(In English) How is your English?
(laughs) (responds in Turkish) I like English because I want to be an English teacher someday. I also enjoy the class because I love the teacher. I’m interested in different languages, cultures, and stuff like that. I want to learn other languages, like French. I’ll probably study French in high school.

So you know some English? What do you know how to say in English?
I mean, I’ve learned some in classes, but it’s so weird when we try to speak English. When I watch American films, it seems like everyone speaks in a way that seems so cold. They don’t seem very friendly. I want to ask you about that. Like, do you and your mom talk the way they do in American movies?

My response: Americans are typically just as friendly as Turks, but in my opinion, most conversations and expressions in Turkish are a lot more touchy-feely. For example, I watched a Turkish sitcom called Yabancı Damat and it seemed like people were either screaming at each other or talking very affectionately. Americans aren’t that different from Turks, but they express their feelings differently. The more English you learn, the better you’ll understand this.

What are your hobbies?
I used to play guitar, but I realized I had no talent, so then I stopped. I like watching films and listening to music.

Do you prefer Turkish or American music?
I prefer Metallica and stuff – my brain’s corrupted .(laughs)

Who’s your favorite musician?
Metallica and Slipknot.

What films do you like best?
I watch whatever films my friends want to watch. I really liked The Hunger Games.

Do you speak any other languages?

Have you ever left Turkey?

What is your favorite food?
Mantı (Turkish raviolis)

Do you have breakfast before school?
Yeah, my mom normally fixes breakfast. Like tea, eggs, cheese, basic stuff.

Do you like school?
(laughs) I don’t like school. I like my friends, but I don’t like classes. During the 40 minutes of each class, I just want to hang out with my friends.

What do you usually do after school?

I play volleyball. After that, if the study hall is open, I go there, then I go home and use Facebook and stuff (laughs)

What do you do on the weekends?
I go to the study hall. Then I hang out with friends, but if I don’t hang out with friends, I go home and listen to music.

Do you think there are many differences between Turkish and American culture?
It definitely seems that way, but in fact I don’t really know. I want to know more about it. In films and stuff it seems way different, but like I said, Americans don’t seem as friendly as Turks. I don’t know. There’s gotta be though.

Elamur, me, and İkra

Elamur, me, and İkra

İkra’s answers:

What is your favorite class?
Math… and Turkish.

What do you study in Turkish class?
Turkish sentence structures and grammar, but not literature

What are your hobbies?
I like singing – lots of different styles, but all Turkish music. Pop music and stuff, but I don’t like foreign music much

Who’s your favorite musician?
Murat Boz (a famous contemporary Turkish singer)

Do you prefer Turkish or American films?
…Turkish. I prefer drama films. I have lots of favorites.

Do you speak any other languages?
Not really. Just what we learn in school. My English isn’t so great!

Do you play sports?
Not now, but I did karate back in the day.

Have you ever left Turkey?
No, but I’ve traveled around Turkey a little bit.

Are there bullies at this school?
(both of the girls laugh) There are so many bullies you can’t even count them. 

But neither of you are bullies, right?
(nervous laughs) Of course not! 

Are there both boy and girl bullies?
No girl bullies. Just boys. Like Ergen (a boy’s name) (laughs)

What is your favorite food?
I don’t really have a favorite, but maybe broccoli soup.

Do you have breakfast before school?

Do you like school?
Yeah, but I don’t really look forward to it.

What kind of food do they serve at the school?
Homestyle food, hamburgers, döner, et cetera.

What do you usually do after school?
I usually go to the park with some friends, then I go to the study hall

Do you think there are differences between Turkish and American culture?
From what I’ve heard, Turks are more hospitable and generally warmer… but I don’t really know.


What did you think of their responses? Did anything surprise you, or does their middle school life seem pretty similar to yours? Any Metallica fans out there?





  1. They seem a lot like 8th graders in America! Their schools seem very similar to ours as well as the community there. Their answers seem normal – you could believe them to be from an American school if you didn’t know it was in Turkey!

  2. i agree with Leo. They do seem a lot like us. I remember when I was in turkey I met a girl about 2 years older then me named Beiza. She knew very little English and I knew no Turkish but after a little while we got to know each other through hand motions and trying to teach each other how to play card games. She was really nice and we had a lot of fun together. We still exchange emails every once and a while .

  3. They have very much in common with us and It would be cool if we could get to meet them. Their responses seem very similar to an 8th grader’s in America and the food they have sounds delicious. I wonder what a Manti tastes like? Thanks for sharing this interview with us! It was great to share a lot in common with Elamur and İkra!

  4. Wow, they sound a LOT like us. Go hunger games! But I can agree, we Americans aren’t as open with our feelings as the Turkish seem to be. We are a bit more closed, except to our very good friends. They are very friendly sounding, but it saddens me that they have lots of bullies. I am looking forward to your next post, but dreading that it’s your last!

  5. They sound so much like and 8th grader in America. If they were to have those answers here they would sound pretty normal. It’s cool that they have study hall after school to like hang out and do homework. That’s awesome

  6. first of all. . .YAY PRAGUE ( i really only know of it from a book) but i heard its cool and i have researched it and hope to visit someday, though i will probably be helpless without a translator. Please tell us how it is when you visit it. Elamur and Ikra seem very nice. I don’t know what i was expecting, but they don’t sound that different from a couple people i know. On the topic of hunger games is “Catching fire” already out/showing there? Did it come out there before here? I only ask because some of my family in the Philippines will sometimes watch movies before they even release here in the US and i was wondering what the condition is in Turkey when it comes to movie release dates. Looking forward to your next and last 😦 post.

  7. Hello!
    Turkish 8th graders don’t seem so different than the American 8th graders. Well except for the language difference and we don’t have study hall. I don’t think I would have been courageous enough to be interviewed. A few comments on the movie discussion. I think American movies are maybe like that because they are meant to be serious or actors don’t put a lot of emotion into their speaking.:) I haven’t seen many other movies that aren’t American. I have seen a few Korean movies but I can’t understand them AT ALL!!
    I’m not really sure what Metallica is….. but maybe it’s good? Anyway thank you for your last regular post.

  8. They’re a lot like us, except we don’t have any (or not many) bullies at school.
    Their study hall sound fun!
    I also like broccoli soup and math class!
    About movies… Asian Dramas usually involve a bunch of changes in love, head aches, nausea, sickness and eventually… death.
    Other movies are less predictable.

  9. They seem pretty similar to a lot of people I know over here, but the broccoli soup sounds pretty strange…
    Also, do they speak any other languages?

  10. I find it hard to believe that there are no female bullies at their school…
    Also, it’s really cool to see our shared interests (such as The Hunger Games!). They seem pretty cool from the very little we know about them! It’s interesting to see how people from different cultures can share common interests.

  11. I think its funny that they think English sounds cold and dispassionate. Watching movies and TV shows, the actors sound anything but. I think everyone learning a new language thinks they sound awkward speaking it, which is often true anyway. I sound especially awkward speaking Mandarin, a class we just started recently.
    I have never heard Metallica music. I assume its heavy metal? Not the kind of thing I would listen to. Also our school has no bullies.

  12. They seem like us. We just dont have any bullies in our school (as far as i know). A lot of people like the hunger games here too. I dont have breakfast before school either. I feel sick if I eat before school. Its too early for me. I like math.

  13. Thanks for the post! It was really interesting to see how similar and different eighth graders in Turkey are from us. İkra seemed more like me. I like math also, and I don’t use Facebook. A big difference between our school and that one is that ACCESS doesn’t have any bullies.Thanks again!
    -Anandi 🙂

  14. WOW! I wish you posted interviews every week- that was so cool!
    I can’t believe how similar Turkish girls are like to our classmates in Portland. It was interesting to hear their contrasting opinions 🙂 I can definitely understand though, how they’d see Americans as, because we are portrayed ‘rude’ and ‘disrespectful’ sometimes in movies!
    I ❤ THG!!

    ps- Good luck on the finals 🙂


  15. From what they said, I think us Americans need to work on our hospitality. I would agree with my friends that their answers would be similar to many answers of students in America. I don’t use MySpace (and don’t really no what it is), and don’t plan to.

  16. their school seems really different. do you know how big their school was? they said there were so many bullies they couldn’t count them, was that because they have a really big school or because their school has a lot of bullies? thank you for posting the blog posts! they were really fun to read and to learn about turkey!

  17. Elamur and İkra are beautiful names, what do they mean? Are these common girl names in Turkey? I am really surprised they like Metallica. I saw them in concert in the 90’s. I taught with a Turkish teacher, whose mother is the lead singer of a death metal band in the United States. Which is cool, because most metal bands are still male dominated.

    There are bullies at ACCESS, but the students don’t always know who they are if it doesn’t happen at their grade level. Its happens at most schools, if you don’t know it is happening at your school doesn’t mean it isn’t happening to your classmates.

    Thank the girls for sharing their ideas with my students and allowing you to post them in such a public way.

  18. ACCESS is a special school where the “bully” thing is a little different from most public schools. There might be a few students who feel like they are being left out or something, but nobody notices, because it doesn’t make much of a difference in their lives. However, it is still a lot better than most schools, where there are labels for just about everyone – people talking about others about each other behind their backs, excluding, laughing at, etc. Some may just do it because they want to fit in, but with everyone having that kind of mindset, the ideas of a single person infects the whole school. The main difference is that there are many more people to get to know in big schools unlike at ACCESS. This makes it hard to get to know everyone well before automatically judging them based on a single detail. With less people to get to know, ACCESS gives a more friendly community and less potential for forms of bullying, but it cannot be completely eliminated unless the school consists of like 2 or 3 people. Mutations don’t happen in all, but the more the people, the more to be bullies or be marked as “abnormal”.

  19. I was surprised when they said that all of the bullies in their school were guys, because in my experiences, girls can be at least as vicious, if not more vicious, than guys. I’d also have to agree that compared to many European culture, American culture can be very… cold. We have an ‘every man for themselves’ kind of society, and that’s not always a good thing.

  20. It’s sad that Elamur gave up guitar; Something that I hope never to do. Kids there seem like kids here, as other people have been saying.

  21. Yeah, these kids sound real similar to us. Except I love school! Especially social studies. 😉 They sound like they’re pretty happy with their school. Do you think they are? Also, I wish I could be interviewed… I love interviews! They seem really friendly. I wonder if they were chosen because of that, or if everyone is more or less friendly at that school. Probably not the uncountable hordes of bullies. =)

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