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Vincentian refuses to chicken out – beats Turkey challenge

Vincentian refuses to chicken out – beats Turkey challenge


Pursuing studies in a foreign country will more than likely bring with it a certain degree of challenges — something that Shebby-Ann Dennie can bear testimony to.{{more}}

The young lass, who recently graduated from the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Turkey with a degree in Business Administration, sat down with SEARCHLIGHT and shared her experience, which she described as “the most enlightening, intriguing, beneficial experiences in my life.”

The Queen’s Drive resident recounted being sceptical about the Government scholarship to Turkey, mostly because it was from a country that was unfamiliar to her, and the requirement of having to learn a foreign language made her apprehensive.

“However, I looked beyond the surface and thought about the long-term benefit of such an opportunity and decided to pursue it. There is a lot to share, but I would share what I would say were the most significant and meaningful ones to me,” Dennie said.

During her journey, which began some five years ago, Dennie said she was faced with tremendous difficulties, especially the language barrier in her first year, since Turkey’s native language is Turkish.

“It was a language that I never heard before and upon hearing it, I thought to myself “Shebby what have you gotten yourself into,” she chuckled.

That was only the beginning of Dennie’s rocky sojourn.

She said she was faced with adverse weather conditions, learning to adjust to a different time zone, different culture and food.

“Many people think that because Turkey is in the Middle East that the weather is predominantly hot, but on the contrary, it is quite the opposite. They have extreme weather conditions… At times I really thought it was just two extremes, either it’s freezing cold or blazing hot. The winter was such torture for me and being a true island girl, I was made for flip-flops and shorts,” Dennie chimed.

She also added that Turkey bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran made it a scary experience at times.

“Given the common concept we have of the Middle East, just knowing you are in such a region made it scary and would make you dubious of everything around you,” she said.

“While Turkey… is 99 per cent Muslim, and the culture is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed, even with the one per cent for all other religions, I was blessed to find a church where I was able to attend and worship for the five years I spent there.”

Then came the issue of her skin colour. Dennie said she was fully unaware that her colour would turn out to be something of an attraction to locals.

“It was not until I got to Turkey that I realized that I was “black.” It’s something they never let you forget. The stares, the ridiculous questions I could never get used to. They would ask why is your skin like this? How come your teeth are white and you are this colour? Why did you paint your skin this way?” Dennie added.

“Some would even go further to touch you without your permission and rub your skin as if they were trying to see if it will fade away… It got even worse after having some knowledge of the language and actually being able to understand what they say to you. They call you names, laugh at you and would even go as far as throwing things at you. To an extent, I understood their amazement in seeing someone of colour, since it’s not a common thing for them especially in certain areas.”

She said there were times when she felt like giving up and returning home, but because of her resolve to be successful, “recognising the unique opportunity I had, coupled with the encouragement from my family” and the prayers of her church, Dennie said she was able to complete her sojourn in the foreign land.

“Turkey was more or less a stepping stone for me; it bought so many things and people into my life that positively contributed towards the person I am today. Being a student, Turkey completely opened my eyes to the world. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity not just to learn about and meet the natives of that particular country, but also people from different nationalities around the world. The opportunity to learn about their country and culture and teach them about mine was very rewarding,” she stated.

“There are many things we take for granted at home that hold major value to people on the outside.”

It was not all rough sailing for Dennie, who indicated that things got a lot better as the time progressed.

During her stay, she was afforded the opportunity to participate in two Student Exchange Programs with two other universities in Europe, namely the Kaunas Technical University in Lithuania and Graz Technical University in Austria.

While there, Dennie had the opportunity to travel to Milan, Rome, Paris, Egypt, Scotland and London. Dennie, who now describes herself as a “travel addict,” says her experiences made her journey more interesting and valuable.

“The purpose of sharing and giving insight about my adventure is to encourage others, especially young people, to capitalise on these scholarships that the Government offers. The important thing is to go out and see what is beyond the Caribbean Sea. Don’t be afraid of going to a place you know nothing about. The unknown is always scary, but a lot of great things happen in the unknown,” Dennie urged, stating that her “Turkish adventure” was on one the greatest decisions she has ever made.

“I say this with no reservations; I think my degree is unlike any other. Simply because it’s not just a degree, but rather an irreplaceable lifetime accomplishment. Now that I have completed my journey, I feel prepared for any other challenge life may present and what I may have faced in Turkey, cannot even be compared to the wins, in other words, every challenged faced was worth it.”

The petite Dennie said she is prepared to take all the knowledge from her Middle Eastern experience and apply it to any opportunity that presents itself to contribute towards the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dennie expressed gratitude and appreciation to Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves for taking the initiative to go out and find opportunities for Vincentians.

“His desire and drive for the education revolution here is commendable. And it is because of his passion to see our people excel through education… I was able to attain my undergraduate degree.”

Dennie started off at a language institution, Tomer, Ankara University where she learned the Turkish language and received a certificate at the end.