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February 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Alum Finds Inspiration and Puts Skills to Work in Turkey

Lydia Deakin in Turkey

Lydia Deakin in Turkey

By Dawn Bikowski

The cries of a street vendor, riding through the early morning street on a bicycle cart, peddling a Turkish bread ring covered in sesame seeds, mingled with the early morning call to prayer from a nearby mosque frequently serves as Lydia Deakin’s wake-up alarm.

To get to work, she hops on a bus that weaves between honking taxis and minibuses (and the occasional horse and cart) that takes her to campus—which is a tiny oasis of rose gardens and fountains, nestled amid the hubbub of city life.

To go home, she often chooses the scenic route, taking the local ferry across the bay.

A few months ago, Deakin was finishing up her M.A. in Applied Linguistics here at Ohio University, enjoying the calm and quiet of Athens. Now, she lives in the bustling city of Izmir, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, thanks to her position as an English Language Fellow, a fellowship run by English Language Programs, and funded by the U.S. Department of State.

“I don’t think that high school me, living in a suburb of Dayton with my British parents, or even undergraduate me, studying photojournalism and French at OHIO, would ever have imagined that I would end up studying linguistics and ultimately living in Turkey and teaching at a university there—what a life changing experience!”

#OHIOEducation + #dreamjob = #LoveMyLife

Now, she teaches future English teachers in the English Language Teaching department of Dokuz Eylül’s Education Faculty.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to grow, both professionally and personally,” Deakin notes, saying that her goal is to teach not just language skills, but also innovative teaching strategies.

“I really want to inspire these young teachers to see new ways of educating students by encouraging creative language use, real-world communication skills, and interaction in the classroom.” Whether it’s in class or in their conversation club, Deakin loves to see them engaging with the language creatively or critically. “It’s so rewarding to see them getting over their fear of being wrong or being judged and actually creating something or doing something new.”

Lydia Deakin's Students in Class 2015-2

Lydia Deakin inspires these future English teachers to be creative in language use and real-world communication skills

Much of Deakin’s own inspiration comes from the courses that she took as an M.A. student at OHIO and from her experience teaching academic writing in the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP).

“I am incredibly grateful to have had such wonderful teachers while studying at Ohio University, as well as several semesters of teaching experience under my belt as a TA with ELIP. This preparation really did prepare me, probably more than I would have imagined, to face the challenges of teaching in a new and very foreign teaching context,” she says.

It’s All About the People

When she’s not teaching, Deakin spends her time getting to know this beautiful country and meeting its people, including spending time in local villages and learning the Turkish language.

Lydia with Turkey Family 2015-2

Lydia Deakin enjoys Turkish food and culture with a family in Izmir

Or, sometimes she meets a few of her students for coffee, where they inevitably bombard her with questions about life in the United States.

“Once a week we meet for Speaking Club, where about 30 students gather for an hour and a half to chat about everything and anything in English with no grades, rules, or expectations—an activity that is completely new for them,” she shared.

Then on Fridays, a small group of them meets in a nearby café for Creative Writing Club meetings, where the students learn about creative writing techniques and share their own work for friendly critique over a steaming cup of Turkish tea. For many students, Deakin is the first native English speaker they have ever met, and the first real face to attach to the tag of “American.”

Eager to experience all of the unique things that her new home has to offer, Deakin has been to a Turkish rock concert, wandered through the ancient city of Hieropolis, soaked her feet in the hot springs of Pamukkale, eaten balık ekmek (fried fish and bread) and midye (stuffed mussels) by the seaside, and been shopping in the bustling old-style market in Kemeraltı in downtown Izmir.

“Turkey is full of new sights, sounds, smells, and flavors, as well as the most warm and welcoming people. I am very fortunate to get to experience this,” Deakin adds with a warm smile.

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