Interview with Firat Akkan, SOM ‘18
From Izmir, Turkey
By Claire Kalikman
Q: Why did you decide to leave your country for Yale?
A: I wanted to get my MBA abroad. I’m a lawyer, but I want a career change. So I wanted a two-year program, which mainly exists in the US. In Europe most programs are only one year.
Q: What’s been the hardest cultural adjustment?
A: Salutations. In the US men greet each other with a sort of handshake and clap on the back. I’m not used to that. Also some people say “guy” or “bro” to greet each other, and a lot of international students aren’t sure how to use those terms during their first weeks in the US- when they’re appropriate, or when they’re too cheesy.
Q: What do you miss most about your country?
A: Food. Easy answer. There are some Turkish restaurants but it’s never the same.
Q: What’s the most unexpected thing about living in the United States?
A: There are no street cats. In Istanbul, cats are famously everywhere. To me, the city is dead because there are no animals walking about.
Q: What’s one aspect of your country the United States should adopt?
A: Respect for the flag. In the United States you can put designs of the flag on underwear. We don’t have clothes depicting the Turkish flag. We wouldn’t do things like that out of respect. Especially because on the Turkish flag, red represents the blood of our martyrs. We have lots of regulations that protect the Turkish flag. Also, every family has a flag, but you only take it out for special occasions, such as the Turkish version of the Fourth of July, or if something bad happens. The flag carries more importance and respect in my mind.
Q: What’s something your country could learn from the United States?
A: I think the US has a very entrepreneurial culture. In the United States it is common to fail, but you can still find a good job after. In Turkey, if you fail a startup, you’re a failure. That also impedes economic progress and development.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about your country?
A: Turkey is not from Turkey.
We have a unique language – Turkish. Some people think it’s similar to Arabic. But it does not have roots in Arabic, Greek, or even Persian. Many countries speak Turkic languages, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
Claire is a rising Sophomore in Morse College. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.