This year I had to say goodbye to a school, which has been more like home to me, and to many people, who have been more like a large family, at the end of five unforgettable years. Now I am a recent graduate of Sabanci University, heading for one of the most prestigious universities in the world—Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a research assistant. Ready for this new challenge in my life, I am looking back at my memories at Sabancı, to see what really brought me here on the way. And I believe I was very lucky to have taken the very first steps at the School of Languages (SL) in 2004.
I say “lucky” in particular, because I was actually accepted as a freshman at the end of ELAE. Nevertheless I was not feeling self confident enough to start an English medium university education and somehow I thought I would miss a lot if I skipped this experience at SL. So I made an official request to the administration, and thanks to their understanding of my wish to improve my second language prior to university courses, I was accepted as an upper level class student for one semester.
Here, I would like to share some of my experience with those who consider being a student at SL or with the lucky ones who already are. First of all, SL is a great transition period from high school to university life. Classes are small and naturally friendships are as intimate as in high school -which is quite rare for a regular university student. Teacher-student interaction and feedback are in the utmost level, both in and out of the classroom; I remember sitting in our teachers’ offices, asking for advice for our personal issues, or even just chatting… Apart from all these, SL facilities are great to improve a second language with audio and video practices. We took our laptops with us every day, and worked on many web-based, interactive exercises as a class. Obviously this did not only help to make progress in our English, but also taught us a lot about how to participate in a group work, to do research on the internet, to find information in an appropriate and fast way. These skills are clearly invaluable for a student at the beginning of his/her university life. Without any hesitation, I can say that getting used to this kind of learning at an early stage was my most important key to the success.
One should know beforehand that second language education at SL is quite different from the traditional style of teaching we all got in our previous schools. The emphasis is not on grammar which is based heavily on memorizing; it is rather on reading and understanding fast, speaking fluently and writing almost perfect. I had some friends who directly started with freshman year and sadly who constantly complained about their heavy schedule for courses which required excessive reading, writing and discussion in English. It is true that Sabancı University is quite challenging -and also encouraging- in its multidisciplinary education. So even if you are an engineering or science student, you will be expected to read, write and discuss a lot in social courses. I may have majored in Materials Science and Engineering, but I definitely enjoyed every single course from humanities, social and political sciences, literature or cultural studies and I never remember a day of complaint because of too much work.
One can still claim that this much of social course load is unnecessary for an engineering/science student, but this is actually completely wrong if you want to continue your education at first class institutions or work at internationally renowned companies. They all look for individuals who can not only communicate very well in the area, but also who can discuss and influence others’ ideas. All these merits are possible with a very good command of English. Let me give an example from my own experience: When applying to graduate schools all over the world, I needed to write many “statement of purpose” letters, to take many interviews via the internet and even needed to go to the USA to be interviewed by the professors at MIT in person. If SL had not given me a chance to learn and practice English with its unique style of teaching, I do not think I would have been offered a dual degree at MIT with full scholarship, accepted by two different departments I have applied: Materials Science & Engineering and Technology & Policy.
Looking back, I guess the longest and most challenging assignment at SL was learning how to teach and improve yourself. Having accomplished this, I was ready for a university life which expected quite a lot from a student. This is why I feel lucky to have taken the first steps at SL and now I am deeply grateful to all my teachers for what they gave me and to my friends for what they shared with me at the School of Languages in 2004.
Enjoy being at SL!