Kathryn (Kat) Robison is an alumna of the 2015 CLS Turkish program in Ankara, Turkey. She is from Raleigh, North Carolina, and is currently a Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama. (Her college basketball team loyalty is split between UNC and her alma mater, the University of Arizona.) When she’s not insanely busy with her coursework, she enjoys hiking, writing poetry, yoga, traveling, and working on a space news podcast called “Talking Space.”

Why Turkish?

I studied Turkish as an undergraduate at The University of Arizona, and even though my graduate institutions did not offer it, I wanted to continue to study Turkish both to increase my fluency and to apply my language skills to my graduate studies in political science. I’m interested in how smaller nations use space programs to gain legitimacy on an international level, and how citizens influence their nation’s space policy; once I complete my Ph.D., I hope to obtain a tenure-track position in my field at a university or college and continue to study this question in the Turkish context.

In a word…

Since I love space in general, my favorite Turkish word has to be takım yıldız – “constellation” – or maybe Aşk ve Gurur (“Pride and Prejudice”), the first novel I purchased in Turkish.

Like a walk in the park

Ankara has really fantastic public parks, and many of them are lit up at night and are filled with families walking together; the family unit is so important in Turkey, and almost all of life revolves around the family. I absolutely think taking a stroll with your host family in the park closest to you is a wonderful way to spend time with your host family and getting to know the rhythms of Turkish life.

Warm (and humid) memories

I loved spending time exploring my host city with my language partner, Hülya. She was very proud of Ankara and very happy to introduce me to her culture. We had so much fun exploring together! Once, we took shelter from a storm in a neighborhood called Hammamönü and worked on my Turkish over smoothies; she was trying to help me correctly pronounce hâlâ (“still”) in Turkish, which is very similar to the word hala (“aunt”). I was struggling so much and she found it really hilarious, so in revenge, I taught her an English word that is really hard for Turkish speakers to pronounce. I still have the video that I took of her trying to correctly say “humid,” and I watch it anytime I’m missing her. We still chat frequently over WhatsApp; it’s a fantastic way to practice my Turkish, since Hülya doesn’t speak English.

The CLS experience

Since Turkish is not offered at my home institution, without CLS I would not have been able to achieve the level of comfort I now have with the language. I also really enjoyed getting to know the Turkish culture through living with a host family, which is a unique and rewarding experience.

Words of wisdom

It’s really important to be flexible! CLS is a very challenging program which can be exhausting, but learning to be flexible can be very helpful when you are exhausted and dealing with any number of issues that can come up when you’re in a foreign country.