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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[COFFEE WITH CLARA] Ep. 3 Mehmet Arey reflects on immigrating from Turkey

Join Clara McKoy as she grabs a cup of coffee with sophomore Mehmet Arey to discuss his immigration story.

McKoy: Hi, you’re listening to the third episode of Coffee with Clara. I’m your host, Clara McKoy, and today I’m chatting with sophomore Mehmet Arey about his immigration to the US from Turkey. Enjoy the episode.

McKoy: To start, can you just introduce yourself and say your name, grade, and pronouns?

Arey: I am Mehmet—or Stuart Mehmet—Arey, I am he/him, and I am currently a sophomore.

McKoy: What are you drinking today?

Arey: Hot chocolate.

McKoy: Awesome. And I’m drinking a malted mocha. First just tell me a little bit about yourself.

Arey: I am technically somebody who has repeated ninth grade due to education system differences. Because in Turkey, they’re not very strict about grade levels. If you can keep up with the grade level, you can be in it when you’re younger than everybody else. I remember having somebody who’s currently an 11th-grader be the same as age as current ninth graders at the school.

McKoy: Oh, wow, cool. And how old are you?

Arey: I have turned 16 recently.

McKoy: So when did you move to the US?

Arey: Last summer, during at the time the peak of Turkey’s—I guess—economic crisis.

McKoy: And where did you live previously?

Arey: In Istanbul, in, as I like to call it, the heart of Istanbul, which is called ⎯⎯ very close to a few shopping centers, very close to the Bosphorus.

McKoy: So you’ve lived in Turkey your whole life. And tell me a little bit about your family, where are they from?

Arey: My father is a US citizen and my mother is from Cartes, or the north east of Turkey.

McKoy: Got it. And where have both of your parents lived in the past?

Arey: My mother has lived in Turkey until we moved here. My father lived here in the US, went to Gabon for the Peace Corps teaching physics and French there, then went to Turkey to teach there.

McKoy: And your dad works at the school, correct? Mr. Arey, right? And okay, so just in general, how would you describe your move to the US? What was that like, as a 14 year old?

Arey: So it wasn’t such a cultural shock as most people would expect because I had been here during summer break, and had family living here so is was very easy. I guess a big difference was that there isn’t as good as cheese here.

McKoy: So you notice a lot of differences in food is what I’m hearing. Tell me more about that.

Arey: There’s more fast food chains here. The biggest difference is the that the cheese is not as good even though there are multicultural markets we go to. I just like eating cheese. Its not as good here.

Mckoy: Really? Okay, I’m a big cheese person. So I’d be really curious to try to the cheese in Turkey.

Arey: There’s this place we go called the ——. It’s just Turkish farmers cheese, which is mass produced, so not the best cheese in the world but I like it.

McKoy: Where’s that located?

Arey: It comes from Turkey. I’m not sure where the factorie is I haven’t searched it.

McKoy: Interesting. Would you say that food plays a big part in your your culture?

Arey: In Turkey it does because there’s a ton of foods, especially drinks. There’s a drink called —— which I like, it’s just like seasoned yogurt. That doesn’t make it sound appealing at all, but it’s great.

McKoy: Okay, interesting. So you mentioned that you have family that lives in the US and you would spend time here like growing up during the summers. Where in the US does that family live?

Arey: Currently they live in Minnesota, but I know my grandparents lived in Florida before this.

McKoy: Do they live in the the Twin Cities?

Arey: No they live in Rochester.

McKoy: So tell me a little bit about what it was like to spend time here when you were still living in Turkey.

Arey: It was a big experience because first of all, it was like a break so I didn’t have to go to school, you just have fun. And we visited Florida, the marshlands there. The mosquitoes were horrible. Then there’s a cabin in Atlana city. And yeah, there was a cabin there we hung out in. And Iowa, because my father has friends there and a property. So I’d hang out there and swim in the creek.

McKoy: How much family do you have the lives in the US?

Arey: Just my father’s side of the family, so my aunt’s family and my grandparents.

McKoy: How would you describe your first couple months living in the US after you moved here?

Arey: The timezone difference was big, but I adapted very fast by joining cross country which allowed me to meet my friends. And yeah, I’ve gotten into running even more than in Turkey because here they allow much more sports to happen … soccer, basketball,

McKoy: So you talked about how food is a big cultural difference between the US and Turkey. What other cultural differences when you say exist?

Arey: Driving age and drinking age. In Turkey you can do both at 18. Here you can drive while 16 and drink at 21, if I’m not mistaken.

McKoy: Yeah, that’s right.

Arey: So it just feels weird being able to have a learner’s permit at this young age.

McKoy: Yeah.

Arey: So I just prefer biking around if I can, rather than getting hours on the drive thing. I have had a driver’s permit or learner’s permit for almost a year and only 15 hours.

McKoy: Really, so you don’t really enjoy driving ?

Arey: No.

McKoy: Why not?

Arey: It’s just intimidating. And also coming from Europe … the European side of Istanbul, you didn’t have fast speed limits, plus cities were very walkable. So just having fast roads and all that stuff can intimidate me.

McKoy: Yeah, that makes sense. Are there other cultural differences that you notice?

People here are much more outspoken, especially about politics. In Turkey, if you spoke about it, people will be confused and tell you to be quiet because you don’t talk about politics in public here.

— Mehmet Arey

Arey: People here are much more outspoken, especially about politics. In Turkey, if you spoke about it, people will be confused and tell you to be quiet because you don’t talk about politics in public here. I just hear people making comments about things in the car, I hear people say curses about a different party because of the other side. Like the idea of seeing as bad and worse or like two sides are crazy. You just have to accept that.

McKoy: Interesting, do you enjoy that people talk about politics more in the US, or or what are your thoughts on it?

Arey: It’s fine if we speak in private or I’m just with my friends, but I just don’t feel comfortable speaking about it when other people I don’t know can hear me?

McKoy: Interesting. Why not?

Arey: I just grew up knowing that is not a normal thing. So just hearing people speak in public just doesn’t feel right.

McKoy: Okay. Why in Turkey, do you think that it’s not acceptable to talk about politics in public?

Arey: If I’m not mistaken, Turkey has one of the most oppressive literature’s like, I think in 2018 they had the most arrested news writers.

McKoy: Wow.

Arey: I like 200 something.

McKoy: Wow.

Arey: So yeah, very oppressed. And also, it turns out, they are very oppressive towards transgender people. It turns out that’s how most Islamic countries are.

McKoy: How do you think growing up in Turkey is different than growing up in the US?

Arey: Well, I was very lucky. So I don’t have much to say about that. I was lucky enough to grow up in like a forested area in Istanbul, so I just played around, biked, just did tons of outdoors activities. From what I’ve seen from other friends who live in much more constrained areas … there are a ton of parks, like small tiny parks, just to go play around so that I did that. Yeah, there’s a ton of video games and a ton of soccer. Because I mainly grew up in Robert College, one of the most prestigious schools in Istanbul, I think I just was able to grow up around in the forest and just most kids in Istanbul couldn’t have that because most people lived in apartments.

McKoy: Emotionally, how was the move for you?

Arey: Well, I think I have been emotionally weakened here, or like, more open because in Turkey you have this exam called the LGS, similar to a high school entrance exam, which is just more or less an AP exam for middle schoolers to enter schools. I got very stressed about that. And I have finally been able to move on from it after moving to the US, but I feel like moving to US was able to help me break that. And also it allowed me to get rid of all the biases my classmates had of me because I was a lifer at my old school. So can being able to come here with a new constructive personality that fits me better and it helps me fit in.

McKoy: So you feel like you’re more able to …

Arey: … express myself.

McKoy: Do you plan on staying in the US or do you plan on going back to Turkey at any point in your life?

Arey: I plan on staying in the US, but I haven’t decided on like a college to go to so I may move to a different country to go to college. I remember when the US dollar was three I think when I was born, it’s currently 28 per lira, which has happened in like the last four years. And it’s just the economic crisis. Plus, there’s more education opportunities in the West. And if we live in the US, I think that gives me the opportunity to go to college. And from what I’ve heard my parents moved here for me and my brother to get better education opportunities.

McKoy: And how do you feel about that? Are you happy that you moved here?

Arey: I feel happy because I’ve met new friends and just seen the new culture which I heard all about on social media and never knew.

McKoy: Well, thank you so much for your time Mehmet.

Arey: You’re welcome.

McKoy: It was really nice to meet you and chat with you.

Thank you for listening to Coffee with Clara. Looking for more? Check out episodes one or two with Atari Ernst and Violet Benson, and stay tuned for next month’s episode.

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About the Contributor
Clara McKoy, Director of The Rubicon Online
My name is Clara McKoy (she/her). I’m the director of The Rubicon Online. At school, I’m involved in Community Action and Service Club and Senior Class Leadership Council. I love to chat about podcasts, music, and food. I can be reached at [email protected].

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