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Faculty, Students to Participate in Turkish Immersion Program

PLATTSBURGH, NY__When one greets a friend, the tradition is to kiss on each cheek. The lucky charm is a "bad eye." Its biggest city was called Constantinople prior to 1453. These are just a few of the cultural lessons to be learned about Turkey.

As part of the developing partnership the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh has with Sakarya University, five faculty members and students will have the opportunity to learn more when they travel to Turkey June 18 - 28 and participate in a 10-day culture and language immersion program hosted by the Turkish university. The five SUNY Plattsburgh participants are Dr. Patricia Higgins, associate vice president for academic affairs and distinguished service professor of anthropology; Robert Rolfs, lecturer in hotel, restaurant and tourism management; Kiera Berggren, adjunct lecturer in chemistry and a speech and language pathology graduate student; Jeremiah Ward, a junior geology major from Cadyville, N.Y.; and Ben Jolly, a junior international studies major from Morrisonville, N.Y.

Jolly said that he was interested in the trip to Sakarya University because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"It will also provide valuable experience for my program of study, international studies. In many of my classes, I have studied the Middle East and by going to Turkey, I hope to get something I can't just get in books and classroom lectures," said Jolly, who will stay in Istanbul a few days following the program and then travel to Prague and Moscow on his own before returning to the United States. "Discovering Turkey with people who live there will allow us to gain a much different experience than a tourist."

Higgins is a well-known scholar in Middle Eastern cultures and has spent time in Iran, including a year as a Fulbright scholar.

"I have been to Turkey two or three times, but never for more than a week. It has always been in transit to and from Iran," said Higgins. "If I can learn some Turkish, that would be wonderful. I hope to come away with a sense of the structure of the language and to experience the Turkish culture. I would also like to learn more about their education system, especially elementary education."

"I'm really looking forward to this," said Rolfs. "One of my pastimes is to travel. I love to go to different and new places. I really like to immerse myself in different cultures. I see the trip as a real opportunity, especially in this industry (hotel, restaurant and tourism management).  International experience is key and will benefit my students in the classroom."

Dr. Robert Golden, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said that this would be a great experience for the SUNY Plattsburgh group.

"The Turkish language and culture experience being offered by Sakarya University is a great opportunity for the five members of our campus who will be participating," said Golden. "This experience will broaden their knowledge of an important region that is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. The perspectives they will bring back to this campus will be enriching for all of us."

SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling and Dr. Mehmet Durman, rector of Sakarya University, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in December 2004 to further explore partnership programs between the two institutions, including a dual degree program that would involve undergraduate students from Sakarya spending part of their time on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. At graduation, they would receive a degree from both Sakayra and SUNY Plattsburgh.

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