Vandegrift to graduate first Turkish students


Derya Yilmaz (left) and Melĩna Emĩrglu (right) first Turkish students to graduate

Max Bowman, Writer

Walking into the room, I spot two close friends.  One of them, a boy, casually talks to the other, smiling and sincere. He is quite tall and his hair is dirty blond and reminiscent of a pompadour. The other, a girl, is short with long dark hair, who carries herself in a more conservative manner. Both are smiling and speaking in their native language, both are ready and more than eager to share their experiences. This year Vandegrift will graduate its first students ever from Turkey.

Derya Yilmaz is a senior who arrived at Vandegrift last year. Music, gun practice and programming are just some of his many hobbies. He begins his story by talking about how his family made it to America.

“So, I ended up here two years ago, my family and I won our green card,” Yilmaz said. “There’s more opportunity for education in the United States. We settled everything here and started a new life.”

Melĩna Emĩrglu, the girl, has been living in the states for two years. Hoping to become more fluent, she practices her English proficiency in her free time. She enjoys playing tennis and, at the moment, is trying to start up a book club for VHS.

“I first came here in my junior year –  it’s the same actually – we got the green card too.  I moved with my mom and my grandma so we are living here. I came because of my education;  everyone says the best education is in the U.S.,” Emĩrglu said.

Moving to a new state or or school can be a very jarring change for people. Imagine moving overseas to a new country with different cultures, people and even language. It can be overwhelming, but they seem to take it in stride.

“I was very excited and had kind of a bit of fear, but that fear you know, turned into some exciting fun because I feel very amazed here,” Yilmaz said. “I feel very different here, and the place and the people are very unique.”

Yilmaz was nervous to start school at Vandegrift.

“I was kind of nervous at first, but as time passed I felt very successful – and by the time I meet new people, and new teachers they made me great,” said Yilmaz.

Emĩrglu was also nervous, but much like Yilmaz, had a great experience.

“It’s so huge! You have so many students. When I came to the US I was nervous, but a little excited too,” Emĩrglu said. “I like American people because they are so nice. They always say ‘hi’ even if they don’t know each other.”

One thing they didn’t agree on, however, is the difficulty of the curriculum. Back at their old school, it would be eight classes in one day, however each was only 40 minutes and there was barely any homework assigned so it was much more relaxed. They would even get 20 minute breaks in between. A very striking contrast compared to the 90 minute classes here and the hours of homework that can be given.

“Classes are very fun,  unexpected and different; kind of a bit easy for me, because in Turkey there are eight period systems in one day, so it’s kind of a bit exhausting,” Yilmaz said, “But here you don’t notice how time passes by. It’s more fun to go to more classes and learn new things.”

However, Emĩrglu seemed to disagree

“I like the classes,  I just think it’s a little harder than Turkey because you have major responsibilities like projects and homework – you have to work hard to go to college,” Emĩrglu said. “You need to do your best, and your school periods are so long. I feel more relaxed in Turkey.”

Vandegrift is a school that opens up numerous opportunities and many paths for careers. While Derya is taking advantage of the many technical courses the school teaches, Emĩrglu is pursuing a different path. She hopes for a career in business and is currently taking advantage of the global business and accounting classes offered.

“I want to study international business or international finance management,” Emĩrglu said. “I’m going to go back to Turkey when I graduate. I want to work for Sabanci, which is the biggest and most famous company in Turkey.”

Many students from other countries will come to America to take advantage of the education and provided and go back to their old countries with their newly acquired skills. Or, maybe, they like it here so much that decide to stay.

“My career goal is to be a computer science or information technology specialist.  I want to work for Apple or Google,” Yilmaz said. “I’m currently taking computer science, helping me achieve some skills such as coding, in that type of job. I plan to live here when I graduate.”

Both seemed to really enjoy the school here along with the people, however  Emĩrglu did have one thing she would change:

“Shorter class periods,” she said with a laugh.