Could you tell us a little about yourself? How has your career been shaped so far?
I was born in 1981 in Istanbul. I graduated from Haydarpaşa High School followed by Boğaziçi University. While studying in the Sociology and International Relations double major programmes at Boğaziçi, Türkiye was making serious reforms on its way to EU membership. Thinking that the importance of this field will increase in the future, I started to take related elective courses. I took part in the University’s Centre for European Studies Student Forum. I worked part-time on a research programme carried out by the Centre focusing the effects of EU integration. While I was a student, I worked in various NGOs on project basis.
Following my master’s degree with a Jean Monnet Scholarship in the 2004–2005 academic year, I started to work as an information specialist within the scope of the communication programme of the European Union in Türkiye, at a Dutch-based consultancy firm.
Since 2009, I have been working as a Programme Manager in charge of social policies at the Delegation of the European Union to Türkiye. I support the design and use of EU funds in line with Türkiye’s needs and priorities regarding EU membership perspective. In this context, I closely follow the reforms in education, employment and social policies in Türkiye, and develop projects to improve living conditions for all segments of society. I contribute to studies and programmes that can be beneficial to people and society.
Could you give some information about the university you studied with the Jean Monnet Scholarship and the subject you are working on?
I did my master’s degree in the European Economics and Public Policy Programme at University College Dublin (UCD) in Dublin, Ireland during the 2004–2005 academic year. UCD is one of Ireland’s two oldest universities and the programme I pursued was within the University’s Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence.
Although the programme is focused on economics, I also took courses in areas such as law, international relations, public policy and business. Within the scope of the programme, I attended academic study visits to the European University Institute in Florence, Italy for two weeks and to Leuven, Belgium for another two weeks. During these visits, we met with researchers working in the field of European integration as well as attending meetings with policy makers and executives at institutions in Brussels. It was a unique experience and opportunity for me to see how things work in the European Union. Inspired by the political developments of that period, I wrote my master’s thesis on “Europeanisation of Turkish Foreign Policy in the 1999-2004 period”. I completed the programme with an honours degree.
What are the effects of the education you have completed thanks to the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme on your view of the European Union?
Thanks to the master’s Programme I attended, I gained in-depth knowledge about the functioning, policies and dynamics of the EU. I understood better how EU policies affect and concern both member and neighbouring countries. I also understood the value of EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the rule of law principle for its citizens. Here is my conclusion: As long as Türkiye is not a member of the EU, it will not have a say in the decisions taken, but it will be directly or indirectly affected by those decisions. Therefore, my faith in the benefits of being a member country has increased.
In terms of social and humanitarian aspects, I observed the convenience of individuals having the opportunity to move freely within the EU and the fact that countries defend common values and rights. Even in a country like Ireland, which is on the edge of Europe and has historical ties with the United States and Britain, I saw the positive effects of the EU project and its anchor position.
On the other hand, I met students from many countries and shared the same classroom and dormitory environment. There were times when I felt happy because we shared common human values and on the other hand times where I experienced situations with attitudes based on prejudices which made me say this cannot be truly possible. I observed that I could continue the tradition of freely discussing different ideas that I acquired at Boğaziçi University. I tried to learn a lesson from each sharing or discussion.
What would you like to recommend to Jean Monnet scholarship candidates?
When choosing a study area, try to choose one that will contribute to the field in which you wish to work in the future. While selecting your host institution, try to understand the tradition, mission and ecosystem of the university you will attend.
Do research on the culture, social structure and living conditions of the country you are going to beforehand. During your time there, try to observe and experience the local culture as a wealth. Do not hesitate to share and explain your own culture and traditions. Because Turkish culture is little known in many parts of Europe. If you encounter negative prejudices (which you will certainly do), do not get discouraged and don’t give up. For example, the Irish are friendly people and they did not know much about Türkiye at that time. I was the first Turk that many of my friends met. My friends from Continental Europe, on the other hand, had formed a perception mostly through the Turks who were working in those countries or through historical narratives.
This is not just an academic programme. The communication network you will establish with other students and academics during your education will also be useful for the future. Check out the potential profile of the professors and other students beforehand. For example, in the programme I attended, half of the class was from Ireland and the other half consisted of students from bureaucracies in 12 new EU member states. Therefore, both the content of the programme and the composition of the class allowed me to establish a professional network. However, this may not have presented much of an advantage if I were considering an academic career.
The country, city and language spoken may also be factors that will affect your decision.
If there is a dormitory available at the university, choose to stay there. Socialising is always easier in dormitories, it will ease your adaptation to the academic and social life there.
Finally, travel at every opportunity, go to neighbouring cities and countries. Try to build friendships. Friendships established at the university continue for long years.