In this article, I will mention about Erasmus+ program, which can be done within the framework of the "Cooperative Education Program" of our university, and which enables us, the students of TOBB ETÜ, to attend cooperative education in Erasmus countries. I aim to convey this information to you through an experienced friend, who has already had an Erasmus+ experience.

For this purpose, we contacted Yunus Emre Yaşadı, who attended cooperative education in Spain in the spring semester of 2016-2017. Yunus Emre was kind enough to accept our interview proposal, and we had the chance to make a delightful interview with him. First of all, I would like to give some background information on Yunus Emre. Yunus Emre is a 4th-grader at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature, and he also does double-major at the Department of Psychology. He attended cooperative education at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature in the company, named "My Language Skills", in Valencia, Spain.

  • First of all, I would like to ask how you decided to attend cooperative education in abroad?

I attended my first cooperative education at Yıldız Technical University in İstanbul. Erasmus was the second cooperative education experience for me. I have always though that each university student should experience Erasmus+ for once in their lives. It was my belief that putting the theoretical knowledge we learn into practice in abroad instead of a company based in Turkey would pay off as an exceptional experience. I also thought that this experience could serve as a preliminary ride for me if I would decide to work in abroad in the future.  Since the number of students at our university is small, the university offers us a lot of Erasmus opportunities. So, I thought why not apply with such opportunity at hand and with my grade point average at the required level.

  • What does a TOBB ETU student have to do to apply for Erasmus +? Could you tell us a bit about this process?

First of all, you can apply to Erasmus + every semester if you have quotas allocated from your department. Of course, you need to meet certain prerequisites. One of those is that you should have made a score, any score at TOEFL ITP  exam. I mean, your score is not required to have exceeded 500. Secondly, you must have a certain level of grade point average. It is, of course, to have high scores; but, what is more important is that you have higher scores than the other applicants. After the ranking pf the applicants with respect to their scores, usually a few high-ranking students are awarded a grant. The number of grant recipients varies from one department to the other Once your application is accepted, the school contacts the company. You do not do anything throughout this process, and the school handles it entirely. Then, the company sends you the "Learning Agreement" and the "Acceptance Letter", which are the actual Erasmus documents. As I said, the school contacts the company in order for the delivery of those documents to you. Once these documents are received, then there is only one thing you need to do as a student, which is to apply for the visa. As is known, the visa process is fairly standard, You carry out your visa transactions depending on the type of the passport you hold.

  • Following that process, you were entitled to receive the grant and to attend Erasmus cooperative education program, and went to Spain. What was your first week in Spain like? How was your adaptation process?

In fact, my first week was very challenging since I went there without arranging my accommodation. It would be fair to suggest that the only trouble a student attending cooperative education through Erasmus would encounter is the accommodation issue. Because, people rent out their apartments for not shorter periods than 6 months. Since the period of my cooperative education was 3.5 months and since it was not easy to communicate in English with people in Spain, I had problem in finding accommodation. Though, I was able to resolve that issue shortly thanks to the assistance of my supervisor at the company. Then, everything got much easier. I started to find the adaptation process exciting both because the second foreign language I had studied at school was Spanish and because Spain had always been a country, where I wanted to travel. 

The Department of Turkish Language and Literature, being Yunus Emre's department, has a relatively smaller population of students than the other departments at the university. Therefore, the number of countries, for which vacant quota is offered for participation to Erasmus+ program, is fairly low. He says to have turned this situation to his advantage.

“There are around 25 students in our department, on which account both the number of students, who apply for Erasmus+, and the number of available countries are low. Therefore, my high grade point average served as an advantage for me."

  • Could you please tell us a bit about the cooperative education? How was your communication with the company, where you did your internship, your co-workers and your supervisor?

I attended cooperative education at a small company, named "My Language Skills", where only interns worked, in Valencia, Spain. The company planned to establish a website on second foreign languages. Each of students from various countries worked on the sections that involved their mother tongue. My job was authoring the grammar section of the website at each level for Turkish. In addition to that, I assisted to the correction of spelling and logical mistakes in the introduction in English for the website. For  3.5 months, I worked in the same environment with people for a number of countries. My supervisor was Spanish. I have had no problems with any of my co-workers or my supervisor; in fact, we have had really fun time together.

  • Even though Europe is near to our country; there was a different culture and there were different people where you went. How do you interpret this experience from your personal point of view?

First of all, I can say that I am glad I have done it, because I have no regrets about it at all. Before all, you try to establish your own set-up in a different country. And you gain self-confidence as you put things on track. There certainly were times when I encountered difficulties on account of cultural differences. However, I have also met people from a number of nations. While the things I have learned about them and their cultures surprised me in some cases, I have also found out that what mattered was doing something together.

Yunus Emre concludes his words, saying, “Do not be afraid of applying for Erasmus; try to improve your English and have confidence in yourselves about attending cooperative education in abroad.” .

Being happy for Yunus Emre's having made his dream come true, I depart dreaming about attending my next cooperative education through Erasmus+. It is my hope that this article will be inspiring for everybody, who want to do Erasmus+.

Interview Credit: Türkan Bozkurt – Department of Mathematics