The Way I See It: From Istanbul to Houston

Last month nine Global Engagement Certificate (GEC) students from Koç University took a 13-hour flight to Houston from Istanbul. They came to Houston to expand their partnership with Rice’s Gateway Study of Leadership (GSL) Program. Nazlı Özkul, a senior studying law and international relations at Koç University, shares her experience.

Welcoming trip in Houston

On Saturday, we met with GSL students and had brunch in Rice Village. It was very nice to see the GSL students after their visit to Istanbul last fall. Our visit to Houston really strengthened the relations between GSL and GEC students, helped create a long-standing partnership and allowed more time to learn the research methodology and process of the Turning Points project.

Gateway/KOC students meet with President Leebron

Gateway/KOC students meet with President Leebron

The GSL fellows prepared a great itinerary for us. We visited the Menil Collection and had coffee at Siphon Café. Seeing the surrealist pieces by American artists was a unique experience for us. To understand the art and art history is a way to understand a new city. The surrealist art we saw at the Menil Collection was an opportunity to compare European artists and American artists. We had a walking tour and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. All we can say about the food is that it was amazing! The atmosphere in the Mexican restaurant was cozy and warm, and I could not help but think to myself at that moment that the similarities we share with these people are so much bigger than our differences. Although Houston and Istanbul may sound very different in many ways, bringing people from these two cities together is easier than it would seem. After having amazing food and frozen margaritas, we took the shuttle to Discovery Green and then visited Rice University campus for a college party.

GSL retreat

On Sunday we went to McMurtry College for a retreat. In the retreat program, we met with the rest of the GSL fellows who weren’t in the group that visited Istanbul. All of the GSL team was welcoming, and we had a nice chat in the ice-breaking session. Giray Ozseker (a McMurtry College senior) and Bradley Hamilton (a Duncan College sophomore) presented the coding process of the research. It was great to see that GSL students are really confident and competent in the area they are working on.

In the second session of the retreat, we focused on the Turning Points and the organizational framework of the GSL team. I found the organizational framework of GSL very professional and also a model for our GEC team at Koç University. We took many notes to bring back to Istanbul and to develop this program partnership.

Inspirational speech of President Leebron

On Monday, we met with Rice University President David Leebron and had a meeting with other GSL fellows. President Leebron’s speech was welcoming and his interest in the Koç University partnership was sincere. He mentioned the importance of listening as a leadership skill. President Leebron’s speech was inspirational and very relative to our research partnership with the GSL group. He noted that Rice University tries to create an engine for opportunities and our research partnership with GSL fellows and that it is an important step to create opportunities for a bigger community.

Visit to NASA

On our last day in Houston, we visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Our visit was both informative and fun. We started our day by taking the tram tour around the center, which gave us the opportunity to see the control room of Apollo missions with its original devices. Back in the main building we had a lively information session about the International Space Station. It was accompanied by an animated show about living in space and how astronauts at the International Space Station spend their time. In the Starship Gallery, the space-flight artifacts amazed us; the Apollo 17 command module was the most mesmerizing one. We were able to touch a rock from the moon. We closed our tour by visiting the historical Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft and the replica of the space shuttle Independence.

We as a group of the Global Engagement Certificate students from Koç University are lucky to be a part of the partnership with GSL fellows. We found an opportunity to enjoy our interesting and beautiful Houston visit but also have had an active role in shaping the future of an organization.

We are so grateful to our Koç University Dean of Students Bilgen Bilgin and GEC coordinator Mert Çetinkaya and also to Alex Wyatt and Ipek Martinez from the Gateway Study of Leadership team, who made this trip possible.

The GEC students from Koç University feel excited and enthusiastic about the GSL program, and after our trip to Houston, we feel more confident and determined to develop this program at Koç University. As President Leebron said, “We are living in one world!” Things we work on today affect a bigger global community than we think of; thus, we appreciate sustaining this international partnership in research. We are looking forward to seeing our GSL friends someday soon, and we can’t wait to host them in Istanbul again.

Nazlı Özkul is a senior studying law and international relations at Koç University.


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