My Fulbright Fellowship in 1974-75 to Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey was the first time that I traveled abroad. Owing to limited funds, my wife and I traveled via bus from Munich, Germany, to Istanbul. We went through the former Yugoslavia without any problems. However, we were pulled off the bus in Bulgaria to be interrogated. This is not the sort of experience one wants to have on your first trip abroad! After being held in a windowless room for several hours, we were allowed to leave. Much to our surprise, the bus waited for us. We arrived in Istanbul late in the evening long after we were expected. Our first experience of exceptional Turkish hospitality was a greeting by the Department Chairman and his faculty who were waiting for us at the bus station!
Istanbul traffic was an interesting cultural experience. It was a mixture of dolmuşes (shared taxis), commercial vehicles, and horse-drawn wagons, with very few private cars. Traffic lights in Istanbul had no influence whatsoever on the traffic flow. We observed particularly chaotic two-way traffic on a busy street that we later learned was a one-way street. When the traffic got too congested, dolmuş drivers pulled onto the sidewalk and honked their horns for pedestrians to get out of the way.
At night, many of the ancient wooden houses were lit with the golden glow of kerosene lamps. At that time, Istanbul just put its first black-and-white TV station into operation. It was interesting to observe the men in the teahouses with their eyes fixed on the TV while playing backgammon. We quickly adjusted to this radically different culture and fell in love with it. We soon were able to get along in Turkish thanks to the language instruction provided by the Fulbright program.
My assignment in Turkey was to teach a graduate-level course through an interpreter. I found that teaching through an interpreter requires organizing one’s lecture much more carefully. This experience greatly improved my teaching when I returned to the U.S.
My experience in Turkey was so transformative that I wanted to do something to help Turkey that would have a long-lasting impact. Hence, I set up an informal program for bidirectional exchange of students and faculty. I helped arrange admission and financial support for many Turkish students to pursue Ph.D. studies at the University of Colorado and other U.S. universities. I have returned to Turkey several times to offer workshops and to collaborate on research in which capacity I have co-authored two peer-reviewed technical papers and served as co-inventor on two patents with my Turkish colleagues. These patents address a national need in Turkey to reduce the boron concentration in water obtained via desalination from the Mediterranean Sea.
I also was awarded Fulbright Fellowships to Aachen Technical University in Germany and Oxford University in England, both of which were very rewarding. However, my first international experience, made possible by a Fulbright Fellowship to Turkey, opened my eyes to the world. Our way of saying “Thank You” to the Fulbright Program is to promote the mission of the Fulbright Alumni Association, “To continue and extend the Fulbright tradition of education, advocacy and service” by being a member of the Fulbright Association’s 1946 Society.
William Krantz – Fulbright to Turkey 1974-75