Inga Raudsepp – Bursa, Turkey
Duration of project: 8 months
Type of Exchange: Business Development internship
I did my internship in Bursa (About 3 mln population; clean, safe, near the mountains, an industrial hub), Turkey. The company was Laspar Sealing Solutions Ltd. They offer tailored rubber and silicon sealing solutions for an extremely wide variety of products e.g. water boilers, washing machines, helicopters, military machinery, ships etc.
The reason I chose Turkey as my internship country was simple. I specifically wanted to learn more about Turkey. I realized that I knew almost nothing about the country and I wanted to change that. I also needed to get away for a while. I wanted to take a break and put things into perspective in my personal life.
I had studied law and business studies, but my internship was in an entirely different field. I wanted to have a teaching experience so I was hoping to teach English to the company’s employees through AIESEC educational trainee-ship program. It was supposed to last about 8 months. What actually happened is that they put me straight into their sales department from the first day. Apparently their plans had changed but I was given no notification of the changes before my arrival.
Instead of quitting, I learned to accept the volatility of the business world. But I felt sad over not being able to teach English. However, I chose to stay in that company and deal with it. I even started teaching some of my colleagues on my own initiative. I believe that an Estonian company would have immediately notified me of such change in plans before my arrival. I experienced that the Turkish company culture is more hierarchical than, for example, in Estonia or in Finland. The owners and the managers are treated with more respect. Sometimes even with a certain degree of humility.
The hardest thing i had to deal with was firstly my boss. Apparently he had problems with almost everybody in the company. He was the owner’s son, so he felt like he needed to please his father. That must have been stressful for him. Secondly, I had to pay more rent than initially agreed. I felt that I could no longer trust my landlords, so I moved to a new apartment with the help of most WONDERFUL ladies from work. The Turkish kindness is not a myth. It does exist.
I was in the office from 7.30 AM to 6 PM. Home at 6.30 PM. So most of my time in Turkey was spent in the office. I did not experience as much I would have loved to.
I was taken to work by the company’s bus every morning. It is very common in Turkey. The bus stopped near my house. They had different buses for their office workers and factory workers. Even car owners used these company buses. It is convenient not having to deal with the busy morning traffic. At work, were were served tea many times a day by the wonderful tea lady. Of course, we were still allowed to go to the kitchenette to take more tea or coffee. What bothered me about the work place was the lack of a convenient place to take breaks. My office chair and desk were the only resting places. It became a little claustrophobic as I grew really tired of seeing my desk for almost 12 hours a day. I believe that a good relaxing work environment helps with the creativity and keeps people healthy and happy.
I became friends with almost all the ladies in the office. They were the ones who helped me to find a new apartment when I needed to move. I also visited their homes and went to eat out with them. Once I got lost looking for a bank and the local police drove me straight to the bank doors. That was neat.
When I needed to escape the intensity of my everyday life in Bursa, I took a break and went for a coffee in Starbucks. It offered me some cozy downtime in a more familiar environment. My brain needed a break to „digest“ all these cultural experiences I had had. It was especially nice to visit Starbucks during December because they had „normal“ Christmas decorations there. Namely, Turkey does not celebrate Christmas (Although Ikea had Western Christmas decorations.). Turkish people have their own Muslim holiday Byram the date of which varies each year. When I was in Turkey, it was celebrated in November. This holiday centers around family, food and relaxing. And the shops are filled with holiday candies. A bit like our Christmas. I am not going to describe the religious meaning of the holiday as I am not an expert in that field.
What i remember most is the kindness and warmth of the people I met. The beauty of the nearby snow-covered mountain tops. The tea. The beautiful golden autumn weather in Bursa. The weekend walks in the beautiful city center. The delicious and cheap roasted chestnuts sold in many street corners. The curiosity of local people towards foreigners (Because it is not a tourist city.). The homes I visited. The sunlight. The Turkish pop music. They have some great local artists. I always assumed I would not like Turkish music based on some of their performances at the Eurovision song contest. However, I was wrong. Those interested in what I am talking about, can look up songs (and videos!): „Bos Yere“ by Sila, „Zaferlerim“ by Demir Demirkan, „Bir Çaresi Bulunur“ by Sertab Erener (Tears falling every time I watch the video.), „Anason“ by Zakkum. I was very pleasantly surprised how beautiful Turkish language sounds in songs and how nice and touching some of the music videos are.
And I will always remember the hard-working ladies at work. They had extremely long work days but still managed to raise a family. However, the Turkish family connections are much stronger than in Estonia. Therefore, the grandparents help the young. And sisters help each other. For example, one day a colleague of mine (She has degree in material sciences) came to work, looking quite tired. She told me that she had helped her sister with ironing till late at night. Her sister had just recently got married and had a lot of house work to do.
From this experience I learned a lot. I learned that I am stronger than I think. I became more confident. People are usually pleasantly surprised when they hear about my experience. I recommend this experience to students whole heartedly. There are so many reasons why people should spend some time in a foreign country. For example, it teaches you tolerance. At the same time, it makes you appreciate your home country. But it is also helping you to find new solutions to the problems back home. Go ahead and book your flights. Good luck!