Dr. Ayseli Usluata is a faculty member in Communication at Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey. She has received Fulbright awards at two different stages of her life, which are described here as part of a continuing series documenting Fulbrights and their impacts.
As a last year student at middle school in Istanbul our class was given a test, and then my parents were informed that I was one of the two girls in the country who won an award to study at the American College for Girls. It was a Fulbright award.
Years later, after graduating from the English Philology Department at Istanbul University for my Masters degree, once more I received a Fulbright award, this time to study at the University of Kansas. Prof. Moore and his family agreed to accommodate me in their home, and the following year I shared an apartment with a Chinese friend, Donna. While studying in the American Literature department I took some Philosophy courses as well. With Prof. Wolfe I translated Turkish author Sait Faik’s stories and poems into English, which were published in Kansas magazines (Smoky Hill Review and Prairie Schooner, in 1965-66).
During the summers I worked with Prof. Samson as his assistant mentoring students with bright ideas. At the end of the two years (in 1964) before going back to Turkey, the Foreign Students’ Office assigned me to represent both KU and Turkey at the Williamsburg International Assembly to discuss “American Reflections and Projections” (Schlessinger was the Director). I met Alfred Friendly who introduced me to his family, and they hosted me for the weekend. Mrs. Friendly visited Turkey later on.
Upon my return to Turkey, I taught English at the Preparatory School of Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara. After two years I proposed “Translation” as a new Freshman elective course open to all departments. The course became very popular among Engineering students and I added 3 more sections. Then I moved to Istanbul and started translating books by well-known authors, including Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Jacob Bronowski, and C. P. Snow.
I started teaching English at Boğaziçi University. Due to my interest in communication I started sending my research papers to international associations such as ABC (Association for Business Communication), IAMCR, SIETAR, ECA, GCA, IABC, moving into leadership roles, such as becoming a board member. Every year I presented one or two papers at international conferences.
At one of these events, I complained about news misrepresentations of Turkey — following the rule “bad news is good news”. I talked with colleagues at different conferences emphasizing the importance of interpersonal communication to understand the cultures of different countries, and we decided to have our students communicate through the Internet, including using e-mail. I first started with a German friend from Karlsruhe University; the whole semester students from our two universities exchanged e-mail messages about their culture, daily lives, etc. This international exchange expanded in following semesters to include Canadian, Swedish and American students. It was very successful, to the point where some of the students visited each other later on. With colleagues, I presented conference papers discussing the results and recommendations. This went on until I retired, when I started teaching at Yeditepe University. On a visit to Nebraska-Lincoln University, I met Dr. Charles Braithwaite who talked about his Global Classroom project (to improve students’ practical experience with intercultural communication) and expanded from e-mail exchanges to video conferencing between students, and from discrete teaching to joint video-conferencing. This collaboration has continued every semester since 2000.