The Daily Aztec

SDSU from the perspective of a Turkish student

by Jimmy Janszen, Staff Columnist

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San Diego State is an incredibly diverse campus. The school was even ranked No. 18 in the nation for campus diversity, according to U.S. News & World Report.  With students from so many different backgrounds at SDSU, it’s no surprise that international students feel comfortable at such a culturally diverse university.

Aerospace and civil engineer sophomore Burak Atak now feels at home at SDSU since coming from his native country of Turkey.

“I love the weather here, and I knew I wanted to be in San Diego,” Atak said. “I never get homesick anymore. I haven’t even been back home in over a year.”

Shortly after arriving at SDSU in 2014, Atak was quickly drawn to Greek life due to its large social network.

“I adjusted pretty well,” he said. “I found my peers through my fraternity who really want to be successful in life, while also still wanting to have fun in college.”

During his time in San Diego, Atak has thoroughly embraced Southern California culture. In his attire of choice, a tank top and shorts, he enjoys the sun more than many native San Diegans and goes to the beach whenever he can find the time.

When he’s not soaking up rays or hanging out with his fraternity brothers, Atak can be found studying.

“School’s hard especially with my two majors, but I’ve managed my time well,” Atak said. “Initially, I thought I might fail some of my classes. I expected to have a really hard time with engineering classes, but I’ve done well so far.”

Adjusting to SDSU and U.S. culture has come easily for Atak, but it there is a stark difference between the countries. Atak said that religion is one of the main societal differences.

“Turkey is a Muslim country and the U.S. is a Christian country,” he said. “Different holidays are celebrated in each country. For example, over in Turkey, we don’t celebrate Christmas.”

The differences are not just cultural, they’re also geopolitical. Turkey is at the center of the largest European migration since World War II. Because Atak’s home country borders Syria, many millions of refugees have been displaced in Turkey. There are currently over 2 million Syrians that have taken refuge in the country and 1 million who have sought asylum since the beginning of the crisis, according to UNHCR. The situation has caused a lot of political controversy about whether other European countries should provide asylum to them. Atak believes that Turkey is noble for allowing refugees to seek asylum there.

“The refugees have no other choice than to leave Syria,” he said. “They are escaping a war. I feel like Turkey is doing the right thing because a lot of other Middle Eastern countries won’t open up their borders.”

A common goal among the Syrian refugees is to travel farther west into countries such as Germany or the U.K., but many European countries aren’t so quick to accept the influx of refugees.

Countries such as Spain and Poland have been severely resistant to accepting asylum seekers.

“The countries that don’t open their borders are not standing up for human rights,” Atak said. “Turkey is doing what is morally and ethically right.”

Doing the right thing and enjoying life is how Atak lives day to day.

From being in a fraternity to taking on a double major, he has learned a lot from what SDSU has to offer.

Atak aspires to work as a civil or aerospace engineer after he graduates and would prefer to work in the United States.

But, he is in no rush to leave SDSU.

“The best thing I have learned at SDSU so far has been: Be the greatest version of yourself,” Atak said. “My fraternity taught me that one.”

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