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Reflecting on Ireland - A perspective from our Turkish European Solidarity Corps Volunteer, Özer

Pictured: Özer Gökmen with Kildare Youth Theatre’s Artistic Director Peter Hussey

Özer Gökmen is one of our European Solidarity Corps (ESC) Volunteers, from Turkey. He arrived in Ireland in late December 2021. The text below is a candid personal reflection of his time so far in Ireland. To read more about our ESC programme and what Özer will do in Ireland, click here.

Coming to Ireland was not easy. Due to the pandemic, we waited more than three months for our visas. Even after we bought our plane tickets, I had a hard time believing that this long wait was over. From the moment we came to Ireland and met Peter, I realized that we were on a new and exciting journey. I am writing these lines now, on a lightly rainy Irish afternoon, on the bed that Oğuzhan left me on his way to London, while looking out the window.

I have always been successful in adapting to my environment. I think that interacting with the culture in which one lives in is the key feature of one’s own happiness. The situation has not been different since we came to Ireland. I must say that Irish people are also very helpful in this regard. Quite warm and helpful people; everywhere we went, they greeted us with a very friendly smile. Since our arrival Peter has taken us to many places around Newbridge. St Brigid’s Well, the Curragh, Kilkenny Castle, Naas (and its awesome ball) are the first ones to come to my mind.

In addition to all these remarkable places, I cannot pass without mentioning something. Dear John, a former student of Peter’s, and his family hosted us for dinner. After an hour’s drive through the harsh Irish weather, we had a wonderful meal at the farmhouse on a warm winter balcony. We talked about “tea”, which has an undeniable importance in Irish and Turkish culture. We were both surprised when we realized how similar the training John received at LAMDA was with the one I received in Turkey. It was exciting. Later, John gave us a tour of the farm. This was the biggest ranch I’ve ever been to. As I left, I remember thinking back to John’s father’s words about 33 years ago when they demolished their old house and built this house of the same design in its place. I enjoy facing the fact that things around me are older than me.

Due to the pandemic, I could not continue my work on the stage for a long time in a regular basis. Just four days after my arrival, I attended a workshop directed by Jerry Iwu as part of the Dréimire (means “stairs” in Irish) project within Crooked House. It was a study of voice-body exercises about the monologues of people who will audition for acting training. The feeling of being back in the field after months of waiting for a visa was great. Even when I got home, I could feel my rising energy.

During my temporary stay in Oğuzhan’s house before moving to the family I will live with, I also made a new friend that I never expected; Keitumetse! A PhD student from Botswana working on adult education in Ireland. We had conversations with him about his culture, being abroad to study, scholarships and values. He is quite friendly and kind. I am happy to know him.

This week spent in Ireland made me rethink many things about what I want to do in life. I found myself thinking about what I went through while I was in Turkey, what I would experience here and what I wanted to experience in my life in the long run. Habits of people, concepts built by cultures, our economic reality and our ideals… Being able to turn the education we receive into a profession and feeling that we can get one step closer to where we want to be in life every day.

Ireland started well for me,

I hope it will be an adventure where I can get a little closer to myself with each passing day.

Özer

You can read more about Özer and all our other ESC volunteers on our People page.

Touched by this story, or you want to find out more, our volunteers can be contacted by email at volunteers[at]crookedhouse[dot]ie.

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