Ceren Gökçe has changed not only her career with the Jean Monnet Scholarship Program, but also her life. Before she received her education abroad with the Jean Monnet scholarship program, she was working at a company organizing fairs and events abroad; with the Jean Monnet scholarship program, she rebuilt her life entirely and changed her career, the city she lived in and her view of life. Pursuing the motto “Life consists of endless possibilities” Ceren Gökçe has successfully become part of a life opening to the European Union when, in her own words, she was about to be part of the office furniture.
How has your career taken shape so far?
My biggest inspiration is the writer who said “Life consists of endless possibilities”. We only have one life. But that shouldn’t limit what we can become in that life. So many things can fit into one’s life and the world offers us so many different opportunities that it would be a waste not to make use of our potential. That is why working for someone else, starting and ending my career at the same workplace and limiting myself to one field have always seemed too restrictive for me. It is important to push your boundaries, to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone when you get used to the comfort in order to achieve self-realization. I say “to have the courage” because it is so hard to do. In Turkey, the conditions under which we live are self-evident, we are conditioned to find stable jobs, buy a house and a car, and make lifelong savings so we can provide a better life for our children. But the world is so colourful, exciting and enriching for those who can learn to see it. I studied what I wanted to study. I wanted to work in a field with an international environment so I changed cities. After working in a department that organized fairs, fashion shows and various other organizations abroad, I took part in a European Union project that my institution was responsible for. I worked in the entity formed after the project. After getting the Jean Monnet scholarship and completing the program, I returned to Turkey and worked in the international education field. I worked on a project on youth employment and regional development run by an international institution. Then I had to change cities again in order to work at the establishment that I wanted to work for. Now I work as managerial staff at an international organization project. My next goal is to lead a project on environment, protectionism and sustainability.
When did you use the Jean Monnet scholarship program?
I graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature at Hacettepe University. I worked in various departments at my first work place for almost seven years. But in the last few years, I started to feel as if I was becoming a part of the office furniture. My job and the corporate training I was attending seemed inadequate for me to improve myself. When this started to turn into a vicious circle, I applied for the Jean Monnet scholarship for the 2008-2009 academic year. “I applied” doesn’t do justice to this process, I need to tell you about an obstacle I encountered in the application process. My Bachelor’s degree was an obstacle for me to apply for the scholarship. In order to get the scholarship, I needed to document that I was working on a EU-related subject, and moreover, I needed to apply in the field that I was working on. This meant that I needed to switch to a completely different academic department and pick a department in line with the regional development project which we had been carrying out for three years. I got the scholarship and did my Master’s on Economic Development. In an environment, where my classmates were economists of the World Bank and international development experts in the United Nations, I had to start with learning who Keynes was. They were the hardest and the most fun days of my life. I learnt a lot, met people whom I wouldn’t be able to meet anywhere else and conducted projects with people from different sectors and from all around the world. Jean Monnet scholarship directed my career towards what I wanted it to be and gave me a push.
Which university did you attend via Jean Monnet scholarship program? What did you study as a Jean Monnet scholar?
I used my scholarship to study MSC Industry, Trade and Development at the Institute of Development Policy Management, University of Manchester. I studied business clusters as a regional development model and specifically the situation of the development policy, local governments and the social capital of the business clusters in Turkey.
How has Jean Monnet scholarship program affected your career after you returned to Turkey?
Having finished my master’s with a Jean Monnet scholarship enabled me -upon my return to Turkey – to find a job with favourable conditions in a short time. I experienced some disappointments such as the institution taking a lot of time to contact the returning scholar, the lack of network between the scholars, not providing career opportunities for the scholars within the framework of the European Union General Secretary and/or guiding them and not making use of the scholars’ experience. However, it can’t be denied that the situation encourages scholars to create their own opportunities.
How has the Jean Monnet scholarship program changed your view of the European Union?
Multiculturalism, freedom and flexibility in academic and professional environments, and established coexisting culture provided an impressive experience. The opportunity to travel around Europe during the scholarship period provided an opportunity to discover that Europe is as colourful as and more connected among its members than it seems.
What would you like to advise to Jean Monnet scholarship applicants?
I would advise the applicants to make the right choice in the country and the program they want to study, and if possible, to connect with previous Jean Monnet scholars, the academicians and students in the department they will apply and to learn about the program content and career opportunities it will create, which might enable them in both choosing the right career path upon their return and turning this experience into an opportunity by using their time efficiently.