Penticton exchange opens new world to student

Penticton Secondary School hosts an exchange student from Turkey.

Turkey native Melike Korur

Turkey native Melike Korur

Even more important than the language skills Turkish exchange student Melike Korur has gained since arriving in Penticton last August is a newfound sense of self-sufficiency.

“I have a servant in my house (in Turkey), so I’ve never done my own… housework.” the 16-year-old said with a laugh Monday as she shared highlights of her eight-month stay through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Her odyssey here ends in July.

Korur, a Grade 11 student at Penticton Secondary, hails from Izmir,  a “small city” of four million people on the west coast of Turkey just kilometers from some of the Greek islands.

“Sometimes I miss the city life,” Korur said, “but I feel safer in Penticton.”

She also misses her family, which includes a teenaged brother and insurance-broker parents, plus her country’s food, about which she has educated some of her local hosts.

“In her opinion, most of the Greek food we have is actually Turkish food, and we don’t know what we’re talking about,” said Sandra Krauer, who acts as the teen’s Rotary-appointed counsellor. “And I think she’s probably right.”

The local realtor helped the girl set up a bank account, select school courses and get acquainted with local Rotarians and host families. Although Krauer had previously counselled six other female exchange students, she was unsure where to begin with Korur, because she knew only to prepare for a Turkish Muslim, a group not well-represented in this region.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Krauer related, but her ward has proven to be “a very, very modern Muslim child.”

Korur, who now speaks four languages and aspires to be a judge in her professional life, is also keenly interested in political affairs in her home country, a trait she says is common to most Turks who closely follow the happenings around them there and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the moment, she’s keeping a close eye on tensions in Syria, where the government has put a bloody clamp-down on a 13-month civil uprising of people opposed to its rule. Some refugees have taken shelter in Turkey, into which the violence spilled over this week.

While she doesn’t fear for her home and family, which are far removed from the hostilities, “It’s my country,” Korur said. “It’s just sad.”

She will keep a wary eye on the situation this week as she moves on to her third of three Penticton host families.

Krauer, who had the girl at her home for short stretches between families, said she’d love to see more such people step forward here as hosts, especially those with teenagers of their own.

“It’s been delightful,” Krauer said.

Local Rotary clubs are currently hosting one other exchange student, a boy from Brazil, while three Penticton teens are abroad through the exchange program.