Hoşgeldiniz, Eda

Eda Altunbas Joins the Senior Class From Türkiye


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Freshly baked falafel, rich hummus, rows of dolma, and aromas of Turkish cuisine filled the Harris Center on Friday, October 28. Senior Eda Altunbas along with the American Field Service (AFS) Committee invited the Parker Upper School into the Harris Center to share a meal, and learn more about Altunbas.

Altunbas first traveled to America on August 8 from Izmir, Türkiye. Altunbas came to America through the AFS/YES program. The U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program was established in October 2002 as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. This program allows high school students who live in countries with significant Muslim populations to experience American life and education through living with a host family in the United States.

The Parker community has been committed to fostering intercultural exchange at Parker for more than 30 years. Parker has hosted students from a range of countries including Thailand, Morocco, Germany, and, this year, Türkiye.

On October 28, Altunbas hosted a Morning Exercise for the Parker community where she shared information about her life in Türkiye and Turkish culture, as well as debunking common myths about Türkiye. Altunbas will have another Morning Exercise at the end of the school year where she will reflect on her year at Parker.

The AFS committee and Upper School French Teacher Lorin Pritikin, the faculty liaison, work to ensure that Eda is acclimated to the Parker community and supported by all. Pritikin additionally always serves as the advisor to the exchange student. “Within the first week that the student comes off the plane, the AFS heads try to meet them to be a welcome committee,” Pritikin said, “Once they are here, I do everything from helping choose their schedule, to finding out what their interests are, and sending them a program of studies booklet, so they can sit with their host family, see all of the amazing things that we have to offer, and then craft a schedule.”

Senior Caroline Skok, an AFS Committee head, has enjoyed getting to know Altunbas. “She has helped me to understand what Parker feels like to someone who is completely new to this environment, and how we can make Eda feel more comfortable,” Skok said. “I have also enjoyed learning about Eda’s culture back home and how it differs from ours.”

In addition to the support that Altunbas is receiving from Pritikin and the AFS committee, Altunbas is supported by her host family. Altunbas is living with fresh- man Donovan Clarke and his family for the duration of this school year. “I love my host mom, Lisa, and my host brother, Donovan,” Altunbas said, “They are both such nice, supportive people, and they always make sure that I’m comfortable.”

Altunbas has also found a community on the volleyball team. Altunbas played volleyball in Türkiye, and was excited to play for the Parker team. “The best part system are different,” Altunbas said, “The first weeks were really tiring for me, but now I am adapting to it.”

“The homework was especially hard because homework is different in Turkey,” Altunbas said, “We don’t have homework, but we have hard quizzes–like a test that affects our grade.” Altunbas also stated that a difference between the two education systems is the relationship that students have with their teachers: students in Türkiye have a more formal relationship with their teachers.

Altunbas believes that the kindness of the Parker community makes her transition easier. “During lessons there are so many words that I do not know, and my classmates never get sick of me asking the meaning, and they always try to explain to me, which I find so sweet,” Altunbas said.

Pritikin has admired the way in which Altunbas connects with her peers. “As her advisor, I have been particularly impressed with her enthusiasm for connecting with students– in and outside the classroom– her kindness, her humor, her intellectual pursuits, and her tremendous courage,” Pritikin said.