For an international student, bureaucracy sometime becomes a backstop for education. Well, this is my story dealing with YÖK (Yükseköğretim Kurulu) or Higher Education Council of Turkey. My experience is quite rare actually because I’ve never met any other students –Indonesian or other nationality- shared the same problem. Let me cut the crap and straight to the story!
It was one sunny afternoon on May 26, 2017, when I received an email to ask me coming to the Graduate office of my university. I was about to lay down on my bed because I just arrived from campus attending a seminar. Then, placing a call to the institute secretary was my option. I mean, I fell tired and going back to campus was a burdensome. But, I smelled something fishy after she answered my why question with “it’s better if you just come here and we can talk”. Without wasting any second, I grabbed my bag and went out.
Long story shorted, I sat in her office and heard the most shocking news.
“Amdya, did you remember that we enlist every international students to YÖK?”
“Yes. I did. It is compulsory, as far as I can remember. Do I have a problem?”
“Your university in Indonesia is not on YÖK’s list. We’ve just received the letter.”
“You can’t continue your master in Turkey.”
“What do you mean? I’m granted a scholarship from TUBITAK and I’m accepted in this university. How can you say that I can’t continue my education?”
“Every international students’ universities outside Turkey should be in the list of YÖK. If not, there is nothing you can do.”
“Wait! I have three other friends from the same university and the same program with me back in Indonesia. They have no problem with YÖK at all and now they are still enlisted as a student in three different university in Turkey. And, now me? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“To be honest, there is nothing you can do.” In Turkish: yapacak bir şey yok. When this words came out from any other Turks, please never lose hope.
“What option do I have?” I knew that complaining to her would just cost me another time to be wasted.
“You can finish one semester here and get a transcript for that as a guest student or you can finish the two semesters also as a guest student. But if you don’t want, we can give you a student certificate explaining you’re here for a semester. The thing is, there will be no diploma for you.”
“It doesn’t make any sense. Please hand me the letter, I’m going to Ankara now.”
Then, she printed it.
“I hope the best for you.”
That was when my journey began. I explained everything with my husband (at the time he was my very close one and he was in Ankara). He arranged me tickets and picked me up. With all those sadness, I went to YÖK office in Ankara. I asked to meet the one who signed the letter but apparently it was signed by the general secretary and there was no way for me to meet him. Thus, we went through all the process to set a schedule to meet him which was never happened.
Gaining information here and there, the officers asked us to fill the petition (in Turkish: dilekçe) to manually register myself to be able to enlisted under YÖK. This process was compulsory for foreign master student. But, later we realized that that was not the problem. The problem was my previous university in Indonesia, Hasanuddin University, was not on the list of YÖK.
The day was very hard for me, and for him too. We decided to go back tomorrow to see how far we’ve progressed and what else we could do. The next day, there was a new positive way out. I could manually enlist Hasanuddin University to the YÖK list. I took all the information from the authorized personnel and started to contact anyone in Hasanuddin University, including my lecturer and international office staff, to initiate the process. Indonesian Embassy in Ankara was our next destination, hoping that we could get any help from there. But, apparently they couldn’t do much. They promised us to follow up and speed up the process once we started initial step.
Fortunately, the international office staff of Hasanuddin University gave a fast response and was ready for the whole process. It was also because of my lecturer’s help who went to the rectorate office explaining my condition. Unfortunately, it would take a long time. The letter should be prepared by Hasanuddin University, sent to and legalized in Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Indonesian Embassy in Turkey, then sent to and legalized in Turkish Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before sent to YÖK for the approval.
Then, I ensured that I was in the right track by confirming it to my institute secretary and the upcoming news was shocking again. She said that I just had time until the next registration term in September, meant that I just had three months left to complete the progress before September. Being desperate, I contacted all my professors, including my advisor, explaining my recent condition and insisting that this would be over soon. In my deepest heart, I fell that I won’t be able to have it done by the mentioned time.
Still, I had no other choice than do what I should do that time. Thus, I prepared for the worst case scenario: say goodbye to Istanbul before even 2 years. But I didn’t want to get back to Indonesia with a shameful face. Even I explained to the world my problem was, there will be no warm welcome or soothe words to burn my spirit again. So, I searched any other opportunity that I could get in other country: being a scholarship hunter again. Thankfully, one of my professor was ready to equip me with a good recommendation and with that, I thought I was ready for the hunting session.
One day after I went back to Istanbul, my husband went to YÖK office to ensure the progress and ask some queries. Then, this extraordinary drama happened. One of the officers, perhaps she was irritated by my husband’s queries, asked my husband to enter her room and look up at her computer saying “just search her university here in the list.”
And you know what my husband found?
HASANUDDIN UNIVERSITY MAKASSAR was on the list.
My university was there.
Unbelievable. It was insane. Really! I couldn’t think more. A human error. Really?
If I was there, seeing that list, screening it, I would’ve asked “Are you blind? Are you illiterate? Is it a prank? Like, Seriously?” I would’ve been a drama queen. Definitely.
This institution, the Higher level of education of this country, almost sent me home only because one of its employee couldn’t read properly. Should I buy him a glasses or should I teach him to read?
Luckily, because my husband is a very kind (or unable to get angry?), he didn’t throw something to the computer (or to the employee). Instead, he said to her nicely (I could imagine) that my university was there and that HASANUDDIN UNIVERSITY MAKASSAR was my university.
Long story shorted, she then prepared a letter to correct the decision. My husband also asked her to call Bilgi University institute secretary to confirm this mistake.
Yes, I’ve been released since the day I heard this bad news. For the first time I could smile and sleep well.
I was waiting my advisor when my husband called me explaining all these dramas. Nothing I did but crying, yes… I barely realized that I was crying when he phoned me. It was a pain relieve. It was a grateful tears.
But on top of everything, it was a question: why they were so incompetent? Didn’t they realize that they almost send me back home only for a human error? The YÖK was the higher council for the education. How could those people ‘easily’ do their job? I was afraid that I wasn’t the only one. I was frightened what would happen if I didn’t fight for this. I was wondering what would happen if this ‘yapacak bir şey yok’ stuck in my head and I followed it innocently because I thought I wouldn’t be able to win against the YÖK, let alone the bureaucracy.
Those thought came up after I almost gave up.
This story, indeed, was a gift for me. A very precious gift that made me learn a lot: that I should never give up even the universe forced you to do so. It made me believe that there will be a guardian angel that God sent for you to get through all of these. I was very grateful for every single particular events.
This is why I’ve told you that for me Turkey is full of surprise. No wonder I was in love-hate relationship with it. I have a lot of reasons thou. So, just bear with me if you still wonder what happened during my engaged time in Istanbul.