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The pandemic, fires and education

The pandemic, fires and education

10 Aug 2021

I am completely confused about what to think, let alone deciding on what to write about.

Such unbelievable incidents take place in our homeland lately, instead of focusing my mind on productive activities, I find myself brooding over feelings of worry, frustration and grief.

I do worry about the pandemic, because I really do not think that this country, or you, or I can handle one more lockdown. Despite the vaccine, the number of daily cases is around 25 thousand at the moment. 

I work in education and food & beverages industries, and both these industries are seriously concerned about their employees and their consumers. One regular question we are faced with every day is: “Will the restaurants shut down again?”; and the other one is, “Will schools begin face-to-face education in September?”

The schools are desperate, the parents are desperate, the kids are desperate. Nobody wants to waste another year. Most importantly, I don’t know how they can manage to force the youth to “stay at home one more year” who are already deeply concerned about their own future and still not vaccinated (because as far as I’m aware they’re still not approved for vaccine).

MSA students, on the other hand, are a group that would like to complete their vocational education as soon as possible and start working immediately, instead of studying at the university for four years. If there’s another lockdown, I really cannot imagine what kind of an impact it would have on them, both financially and psychologically. 

Recently, the Minister of Education changed.

Hopefully, obscurities will be eliminated in quick and smart ways.

And the other topic is a disaster.

In some parts of our country, the forests are on fire, and in other parts there’s flood.

It’s like we wake up to a new disaster each and every day. When the forest fires first began I was sorry for the trees, but then things got out of hand and people, their homes, their works, their lives, their dreams and of course all the habitants of that region (which we weren’t even aware of their existence) the actual residents of the wild life… Tears fill in my eyes as I write about it…

We are baffled about what to grieve over, or how we can help. From the first day of the disaster, from the moment we heard about the fires, we quickly scanned all the channels as a team, asking “What can we do?”

The first thing we came up with was to support TEMA and HAYTAP as much as we can, and so we did. We still continue to support. But…

Oğuz Gürsel who I admire utterly, when faced with a challenge years ago, said: “I do all that I can, but there’s nothing much I actually can do.” Right now, that is exactly what the situation is.

One idea in my mind is, how we can help the youth who live in the region and who are effected by the fires. Let’s hold that thought, and those who are in charge, please come and find me. Please.

We are missing out on a significant period

Let’s get to the point, I would actually like to talk about.

Our forests are on fire, everywhere’s flooded, there’s the pandemic, and we are missing out on a significant period, which effects millions of young lives.    

Candidates who took the national university exam (YKS), will have to complete their selection process between the 5th-20th of August, and decide on the profession that they will pursue, perhaps, for the next 25-30 years of their lives. 

Naturally, they can easily ‘Google’ technical instructions on how to make preferences, but guiding a person on how to decide what to choose, differs from one person to another. So who guides these kids? How would they guide them? How many of them have access to a consultant or to a mentor? These are all big question marks in our heads. How many of them can sit down and talk to their parents about this and get to a mutual understanding without falling into the traps of intergenerational differences? 

Yesterday, I listened to an advertisement of one of the universities regarding scholarship, on the radio. The ad says: “We will grant you this much scholarship if you scored this, or that much if you scored that…” As far as I can remember, scholarships were granted to those who are really passionate about studying on that particular topic, but lack financial means. They used to evaluate how fervent and successful that individual is. When did it turn into a calling out, a topic of advertisement? It feels weird.

I can hear the questions:

How am I to select something in the midst of this chaos?

What profession do I want to pursue for the coming 25-30 years?

What would make me happy?

and more importantly…

After spending four years of my life, will I be able to get a job?

I can understand all the concerns and I cannot help, but I can give a tiny tip for those who have no clues about where to begin:

If you don’t know what you want to do, it might be a good starting point to focus on what you do not want to do. You can narrow down your list of choices as such.

While you are narrowing down, do not take into consideration your limited knowledge, take a wider perspective and ask yourselves questions like: “What kind of a work-day do I imagine?” “Do I want to work in an office, or in the field, or a physical occupation?” Which topics am I interested in right now?” (what do you follow on social media, or on the internet…etc?) “Can I adapt the topics I am interested in into a vocation?” 

Will you make your preferences to pursue your dreams, or with concern of finding a job? If you set sail considering the second one, that would be a mistake, four years later nothing will be the same.

It’s never too late, if your choices are the wrong ones and you’ve realized that, change them immediately.

Let’s say you got into a university, one that you want or not. Don’t ever take it as “God’s will, so I have to study this topic for four years.” Just put that thought aside, immediately.

Since it is not properly promoted in schools, you may have a narrow knowledge of the department/profession you have listed. Do a research on both how your day will go and the possible career paths. 

For example, we at MSA conduct a very serious preliminary interview with the student candidates. Since we know very well the requirements of the education and profession they aspire to, we try to prevent young people from making mistakes. We can anticipate the person who would leave their education half way, and if necessary, we direct them towards a different path, and we even discourage them, if need be.

Whether the subject you take at the university is the one you want or not, you should definitely search and find an internship for your spare time. Do it by inserting acquaintances, or by lying at the door of that specific job you want, but do it. Understand the context of the job, observe and question those working on the job. The best way to understand if that is the right job for you, is to practice it. The university does not and cannot give you this opportunity. So it is all up to you.

Again, from the candidates who apply to MSA for culinary education we see that those who have some work experience in the industry, whether as a waiter or in the kitchen for three or four months, and have seen how a restaurant works, are all much more focused, clear and they really know what they are getting into as they start their education. There is always a huge difference between the candidates who have no experience and the candidates with even the slightest experience performance wise during their education. That’s why, if during the interview we understand that the candidate is ‘not sure’ whether they’d like to work in a professional kitchen, or has very limited knowledge about the profession, we direct them towards the workshops or explain to them that some work experience in a restaurant for three or four months would be most beneficial.

Another suggestion on the same subject would be for those who are currently studying at the university: My dear friends, you can take elective courses from other departments on the subjects you are interested in. That’s another way to understand whether you really have an interest on a certain topic.

Let’s say you’re stuck in a two or four-year program studying a subject you don’t like. If you feel which way you would prefer to steer as a result of the few internships you did like I mentioned above, then don’t wait to complete the program. Just steer towards what you want, don’t be afraid.

Please, when considering ‘education’ do not only take in account the education of a university, look into other education systems/models. It’s never too late. Do not pursue the imposed frames, pursue content and practices that would give you results.

Read about new generation occupations and ruminate on them. Most of these may not exist within the current education system, but you can consider your education as a foundation and build on it by getting further training from other sources (offline or online). 

For example: You are studying economics. You have to get a heavy statistics education. In addition you are interested in coding. You can combine these two and go towards being a data analyst or work in cyber security. They are both new generation occupations and there’s a huge need.

For example: Let’s say you are studying law. If you specialize in environmental law, you can become an ‘Environmental Lawyer’. There are several offline trainings outside the university on this topic.

And one more example: Climate crisis, as we all know. ‘Oceonography’, ‘marine biology’, ‘renewable energy’, ‘clean car engineer‘, ‘environmental lawyer’, ‘geoscientist’. Youngsters are utterly sensitive about climate. You can turn this into a profession rather than doing some volunteer work.

As I mentioned above, look into new generation vocations. Your generation has many powerful research tools compared to the previous generations. 

And another important point I’d like to draw attention to is getting support from families.

Our kids are very precious, please do not damage their self-confidence. We have to make them feel like they can move the earth and sky if they do what they love, and that they would be successful at anything they are passionate about.

Before I forget! I believe that as parents we have already learned that we shouldn’t try to impose our own dreams on our kids. Please do not confuse your own desires with your children’s, and do not confuse the world your children live in with the world you were in. Listen to them, guide them and please, just support them.  

My dear young friends…

Please do not allow things like the pandemic, disasters and order of the day get to you. We are all upset with what’s happening around us, but you have a long life ahead of you and you will have the opportunity to correct all these wrongs in the future. Do not miss out on that opportunity!

Do not remain stuck within the existing system, raise your head up high, take a look around the world and see what’s going on.

Instead of beginning to study a subject you despise, take one year off and explore something you are curious about, work as an intern or find yourself a job… Then take the academic path and start studying… Yes, this is the exact opposite of the system that’s been fed to us, but you will get much better results compared to the first alternative, under any circumstances.

Four years is a lot of time to waste —especially for this generation, in this day and age. The pandemic displayed this fact to us bluntly.

Anything you want is possible. Just want it. Please want it.

The author applauds: Mete Gazoz.

Way to go! Hail to you, to your coach and to your family!

Do not ever change your stance, because your success and your modest ways form an amazing duo.

If you are curious about my opinions on the Olympic games, please read the piece I wrote for Diken’s February issue: Is Gaining International Success is a Possibility for Turkish Athletes?

The morning I wrote this article, Busenaz Sürmeli won the gold medal. I haven’t listened to her speech, yet, but I’m sure this is the result of her hard work and her commitment. I congratulate all our athletes from the heart, whether they won a medal or not, but had the courage to compete in that arena.