From İstanbul to Jena

During my volunteering  I have been responsible for social media management, I have done my own projects like Turkish Day, I have done activities with children like comic workshop. We have gone hiking, sledging, ice skating, swimming and climbing in holidays. We have played table tennis, basketball, football, card/table games and we have cooked together. Cleaning our place has been also my daily task. I have had role in daily/future organizations and preparation. I have joined school projects like social adaptation on cultural facts and done activities based on kids` wishes.

I have worked as a social media specialist and website manager for five years in Turkey. It means I know how to manage a social media account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and also I can develop a strategy, do special projects like an advertisement on digital media, analyze and consult to customers. So it`s what I bring to my project.

Before I came to my project, we had a Skype interview with my Tutor. He told me all details about my project and he asked questions about my skills and what I can bring to them. So I said him that beside my other tasks, I can manage their social media accounts and give them advices. He liked this idea and he said they need this for digital marketing.

I like to take responsibilities and bring my own knowledge even if I can`t communicate in my mother tongue. I like challenges in general so that I have started to manage the social media accounts of Freizeitladen. When I have needed to write sentences in German, I have used translation program and made my colleagues check these. I haven`t let my language barrier stop me. It has been a win-win situation that they have had a social media manager and I had found a new space to improve my German.

I`m used work with a team but I`m not used to work with third language and I`m used to work on computer and cellphone almost all day long. I have worked in a publishing house that based on children and youth literature for three years and also I have written a children book that will be published on October. Despite this it is the first time I have started to work physically active way, face to face with children and also in a foreign country. Firstly it was interesting and different for me because I haven`t felt like it`s a real job. I have done activities and played with the children everyday and since my childhood I didn`t do these kind of things and I have had fun a lot. And also my colleagues are so helpful about my language situation and everything. Later I have seen the big picture that working in here doesn’t mean that we play all day long and do cool stuffs. We have to organize everything, supply equipments, do paperworks and also deal with accidents, hard situations. What I want to say is when I have worked at my project, I have never felt alone. We`re used to do everything together with a well – organized program. And also we`re kind, sensitive and supportive to each other.

Firstly I have learnt that when you`re working with children you should do your organizations based on their wishes and what they like. You can come up with your ideas and suggest them but you can`t force them to enjoy and you should be flexible about these. They can lose their interest or they prefer to do any other thing. So you should prepare yourself for all situations, be patient and creative with your back up plans. You need to use practical intelligence and be spontaneous sometimes. If something doesn`t work, don`t insist to do what you imagine or plan but also don`t give it up. You should just try to make it much better and suitable for them.

For example, I have done four projects during EVS. One of them has been „Turkish Night“ for young and adult people at Polaris. One of them have been „Turkish Day“ for children at my project (Kinder Akademie) and one more „Turkish Day“ for children and their parents at Klex. One of them has been „Vegan Kitchen“ for young and adult people at Polaris. Before organizing projects we have done brain storming with my partners and made a list what we can do and what we need for each project. During this period what I have learnt is you can`t do the same things for all of them. You should consider all dynamics and differences. Everything is so important like time limit, budget, target audience, amount of people, region etc. After thinking about these, you can start searching, picking and creating materials. Otherwise, even if you think that it`s the best project ever, it might not work as well as you imagine. And also you should follow your project from the beginning till the end. In addition to have feedbacks after each project make me improve the new ones.

Before organizing my project, I have decided to use different, enjoyable, interactive methods to introduce, show and teach something about my own culture. It`s because they can reach anything they want to learn on the Internet so I have needed to create special and entertaining activities. I have prepared games to tell fun facts about Turkish people, touristic places, Turkish words. I have prepared a test called „How much Turkish are you?“ and made two groups to do a competition. I have shown videos and photos about the correct answers and made the winners drink traditional Turkish drinks. I have prepared and an auction game and we have made fake plane tickets to show videos of touristic places in Turkey. We have played a circle game to teach them some simple Turkish words. We have also played Turkish children street games with kids. While we have been doing live music, the participants also have eaten Turkish traditional desserts, drink Turkish tea and coffee. We taught them some Turkish traditional dances. Beside these we have made a „Question Box“ and suggested them to put all their questions inside of it. While we have been eating our Turkish dishes which we cooked, we have opened the box and we have started to discuss and talk about all kind of questions they have had. And also we have shown them a board called „Get To Know More“ and it has been full of our advices about Turkish writers, directors, artists, singers, celebrities, performers etc.

I have had chance to do these projects not only in Freizeitladen but also in other children/youth centres because of my network and my good relations with people. For example, one of the volunteer who works in Polaris knows that I`m vegan. So she has invited me to do a project about vegan dishes. I have cooked with them and introduced them Turkish vegan dishes. And also an other volunteer who works in Klex said me that she wants to show different nationalities in her project and I have organized a day about Turkey in her project.

I have also done an interview with a local newspaper in Winzerla. I have told about volunteering, Freizeitladen, how to find a project, my experiences and life in Jena as a foreigner. My aim has been to give information, inspire young and local people:

I haven`t used my mother tongue for communication in my project and I have spoken English but I have been trying to teach them some Turkish words. I have prepared a Turkish word list for my project and we translated them in German and English. Me and children, who are in my project have put these words everywhere together, it has also helped me to learn German words. (For example kitchen, table, window etc.) I have sometimes played „True/False“ game with them and they have searched everywhere to find correct answer. And also we have played circle games with 3-4 different Turkish words at some special days for example „Turkischer Abend“.

I don`t know German so I have taken German Course for one month on September but it wasn`t enough to understand conversations, speak, read and write. I can speak English so I have communicated in English so far. The problems about this are children who are used to come to my project are not good at English, all team meetings are in German. So I could play, cook or do any activities with children, I could understand and help their basic needs but I couldn`t talk with them, I couldn`t have deep conversations with them. I have also found a way to have conversations with children, I have sometimes used „Google Translate“ and it has helped us to have small talks. According to this I have learnt new German words and also they learnt some new English words.

My tutor (Johan) has been so helpful about my language barrier. He has been used to give me a short summary in English after team meetings. Beside this, he has made all my colleagues talk German with me even if I don`t understand everything. It`s one of the good way to learn a language according to his pedagogical opinion. So I have started to use some German words since this moment and force myself to understand more and they taught me some German words everyday because I had to learn. At the same time, I have started to use an application to learn German by myself. It hasn`t been enough for German which is one of the hard language because the grammer is totally different than my mother tongue, it has too many exceptions and details like „Artikel“ compare to English. So I have needed to learn German properly and I have found a strategy how to do it. I have searched language courses in Jena and I have saved money for this. I have just finished German A.1.1 and I`ll take A.1.2. soon. I can talk with simple sentences, I can understand the frame of conversations, I know and understand more words now. So my German is growing day by day.

Beside to my working life, I can communicate with my friends and I can find someone who can speak English in general in daily life but also it`s important to learn German for knowing the culture more and deeply. On the other hand, being able to do my private business just by myself feels great.

Beside working life fortunately I have found chance to observe the elections of Germany.  I have learnt a lot about Germany during this period. And also I can compare democracy in Turkey, Germany and European Union. Politics and travelling had made me learn more about cities, regions and culture of Germany.

In addition to them I have been participant and worked voluntarily at „Leipzig Christopher Street Day 2019“. It has been a great opportunity for me to meet, work and have fun with LGBTQ community in Germany. I could observe the difference between Turkey and Germany. Beside these it has given me huge inspiration and new ideas to work on this in future again.

Even more I have found chance to talk/discuss about stereotypes in all nationalities about each other or German people during seminars and international trainings. It was a nice process that all of us have some stereotypes before coming here and then we have had experiences about them. At present, we can understand that how many of them are true, what we learn, what we didn`t know and how we feel.

When we come to my social and private life in Germany, I have had new friends from Turkey and also from other countries so quickly. We`re used to go local festivals /events, travelling, workshops, hiking, swimming, biking, parks, bbq, „Kitchen on the Run“ and also just meet after work especially with my Turkish community.

Beside this, at the second month of my volunteering I have met with my girlfriend and we are so in love. And now she`s my wife. After finishing my volunteering, I`ll move to Leipzig and we`ll start our new life together.  It`s the epic hit about my all experiences in here.