My name is Gregory Campbell and I am a winner of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant for the 2011 – 2012 academic year in Turkey, with a renewal of this grant for the for the 2012 – 2013 academic year.
I graduated from Pittsburg State University in May, 2011 with a master's degree in Music Performance. I became interested in going to Turkey during my time at PSU. Several of my colleagues, friends, and even my private lessons teacher were Turkish. After having many conversation with them about their country and culture, I had a strong desire to go to Turkey.
At about this time, in August of 2010, I got an email about the Fulbright program from the International Office. After looking into the program, I decided to apply for an English Teaching grant in Turkey. It was a very rigorous application process, with strict deadlines in the fall, and at times the waiting without hearing any news was unbearable. However, I endured, and was notified at the end June, 2011 that I had won the award and I would be going to Turkey in September of that same year.
From the moment I stepped off the plane, my time in Turkey has been a great experience. My host city is Balikesir and it is here that I have met so many wonderful people. I taught English at Balikesir University in many different departments. I also taught a faculty conversation course. Everyone in Balikesir Unversity from the president of the university to the sanitation workers have been more than welcoming and helpful to me. In the city center, I have become something of a celebrity being that I am one of the few African Americans many of the shop keepers and children have ever met. It is a common thing for some to stop me on the street to ask me to take a picture with them. During my first month in Balikesir, as I would take leisurely strolls through my neighborhood, I would be followed by 10 to 12 children, just curious about me.
Fortunately, the director of my department encouraged me to travel to see the country and set my schedule so that I would have three to four day weekends. I spent that extra time exploring well-known cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa, and Antalya. In addition, I spent some time in smaller cities, like Ayvalik, Kusadasi and Akyaka which have very beautiful beaches, especially if you dine on them while the sun is setting.
It was during these times of traveling that I truly became a cultural ambassador. There was always a Turk asking me what country I came from, why was I in Turkey, and what I think about Turkey. To my surprise there was a large number of English speaking Europeans from Germany, Russia, Poland, England, and Greece and it was always such a joy to converse with some of them. I also gained a wealth of invaluable knowledge from these experiences.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Fulbright Program as an English Teaching Assistant. I have been able to teach English in a university setting, to meet some wonderful people, and to learn about Turkish culture. I can truly say that I have received the absolute best that the Fulbright Program has had to offer and I strongly encourage other graduating seniors or grad students to apply. It will change your life.