Turkish Cultural Club revives with dreams of creating a vibrant Turkish community to AU

Turkish Cultural Club President Bayram Furat stands outside of Ataturk Society of America in DC.

Turkish Cultural Club President Bayram Furat stands outside of Ataturk Society of America in DC.

by Naomi Eskenazi

In fall of 2017, Bayram Furat was a newly arrived freshman in search of a club that would connect him to American University’s Turkish community.

Furat researched Turkish clubs and communities at the schools he considered. When he looked into AU, all he found was an article dating back from 2011 with a small mention of the AU Turkish Club.

“One of the biggest problems I had was the confusion of whether there was a club or not,” Furat said. “And then not being able to know for sure until the club fair when there was no Turkish club representation.”

As he wandered through AU’s club involvement fair, he noticed many tables featuring numerous cultural clubs. “There was an Armenian club, Greek club, and other clubs featuring countries much smaller than Turkey but no Turkish club,” Furat said. “So I really wanted to start one but didn’t know how.”

As an SIS student, Furat made personal connections allowed the idea to come to fruition. In Furat’s SIS advising course, a peer advisor directed him to the former Turkish club president and set up a meeting to discuss the club’s potential future.

Furat learned that the club had been inactive due to Turkey’s political and civil unrest around 2016.

“I reached out to some of my Turkish friends who all wanted to help build it back up,” Furat said. “We got an advisor and four of us got together to create the club’s constitution.”

By Spring of 2018, the club was official and it has been growing every semester through increased attendance and events.

Not only does this club provide the opportunity for AU’s Turkish student population to connect, but also provides a way for non-Turkish students to understand and connect with Turkish culture.

“Some of my favorite things about the club have been finding all these different Turkish and non-Turkish people and becoming really good friends with them,” Furat said.

But restarting a club was not without its own barriers. Furat talked about some difficulties they encountered while getting the club running, specifically with AU’s financial providers for clubs.

“We ordered the Turkish coffee machine in November with two-day prime shipping. We kept going every week and they kept saying it’s not here yet,” Furat said. “They didn’t believe that we even ordered it. It wasn’t until I personally went to AUCC to ask about it when they said it got lost in the mail, and reordered a new one.”

Finally, months after the original order was placed the machine was delivered just in time for the Turkish coffee making and tasting night. The event was a success, and it featured board games, snacks, and was a perfect opportunity to get a caffeine buzz during the midterm season.

An assortment of Turkish coffee and treats.

An assortment of Turkish coffee and treats.

“The best part about the club is expressing my love for Turkish culture and showing the positive side of Turkey and getting rid of stereotypes,” Furat said. “It’s been another way of showing my interest and goals of working in Turkey in the future.”

Echoing Furat, junior Devin Kuhn discussed how the club provides a community for many Turkish students who miss family and may never gotten the opportunity to live in or visit Turkey.

“It’s really nice here to be able to speak Turkish with other people,” Kuhn added.

The club is working on its future and legacy at AU, with plans to increase outreach to incoming freshman and international students in the following semesters.
“Our club is a lot more niche compared to a lot of other schools so we always have to put in a lot more effort to get people to come,” Furat said, “But we are also planning on working with the UMD Turkish Student Organization and GW Turkish Student Association next year.”

“We're also preparing graduation stoles for our graduating seniors this year, it will hopefully be a tradition that we can do every year,” Furat said.

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AU’s Turkish Cultural Club can best be summarized by their Instagram bio:

“Our goal is to introduce Turkish culture to American University students, meet new people, and most importantly have fun!”

The club embarks on trips across the area to local Turkish restaurants, grocery stores, and host other events. Their next event will be on April 14th for Turkish brunch and there are plans to attend the annual DC Turkish Festival in the fall of 2019. You can follow them on Facebook or Instagram to remain up to date on the club’s activities.