...und dann kam Corona "I preferred to stay"

Gözde Merve Tezcan studies Social Work at Hacettepe University in Turkey. Since nine months she is doing an Erasmus Semester at ASH Berlin. In this interview she talks about her experiences in Berlin, studying online and her internship during the Corona Pandemic

Merve Tezcan an einem Ufer eines Sees
Merve Tezcan at Haussee in Seefeld

What are the differences between your studies in Turkey and here?

Tezcan: At ASH Berlin most of the teachers are really open minded. They encourage us to speak about different topics. The learning concept here is different to the traditional banking model of education. I personally find it more important to show the path of questioning and being reflective to students than giving them some information on some particular topics. At ASH Berlin I see that many teachers try to use that as a method of teaching.

As an Erasmus student attending classes which consist of many students from different countries I had the opportunity to see how things work in different regions since we also  talk and learn about local social policies, issues and different personal observations by different perceptions.

I also had the chance to meet people who have concerns about climate change and pollution. As far as I remember, at my university it does not really concern people much and it is not a topic which has been debated on. At ASH Berlin some students put effort to inform people about the severe situation by several ways. In my opinion it is very important for young people to be aware about such a big issue which is threatening all the species on Earth and taking some action for that catastrophic problem.

In my country people do not acknowledge environmental issues and they tend to consume more than needed, that is what I have observed.

On one hand I know that more significant steps should have been taken by people who have the power to influence politics and society but on the other hand by raising awareness among people and encourage them to take responsibilities on such an issue is also vital.

Studying at ASH Berlin and living in Berlin made me rethink about my needs and wants. I think I am more concious about my consuming now.


You are doing an internship in Berlin right now. Where and what are your tasks?

Tezcan: I make my internship in an organisation where I work with kids between the ages of 10 to 17 who have some difficulties at school and in their family life. We have a few groups, where we used to play games, do sports and cook together. By doing these activities the kids have the opportunity to learn particular rules and respect each other. While playing games they learn how to work in a group, how to follow instructions and respect other kids. Cooking together helps them to create something collectively and share it. Before Corona they used to go swimming or playing football with other social workers once a week. And while we do all these things together, we talk about school, life and the problems they face in their everyday life. In my opinion all these activities are so important for them to learn social roles and rules.


"Some of the kids  do not have a computer or internet so that they cannot attend online classes."

How did the work change with Covid-19?

Tezcan: Many things have changed of course. Firstly, we do not have the groups anymore. At least not with the same concept. Since swimming pools or other places where they can socialize and being physically active are closed, the kids are not able to do sport activities anymore. Some of them were already struggling with school before the crisis and now  - even though most of them are happy with the situation - their education has been interrupted for a long time. They do have some online classes but for kids who already have concentration problems it might be a bit more challenging to adapt this way of learning. Some of the kids  do not have a computer or internet so that they cannot attend online classes. Now we try to  help them with their homework. Even though we cannot do many activities like we used to do, we still keep doing the ones we can manage inside the building with fewer kids.

Why did you decide to stay in Berlin during the Covid-19 crisis?

Tezcan: During this pandemic crisis things were changing fast and I did not want to make a quick decision in a time relatively short for me. I was not sure how this phase was going to continue, what would happen with my internship and classes at ASH Berlin. When it became clearer that I could attend online courses instead and keep my internship in a different concept than before, I preferred to stay. I am glad with my decision since everything worked out well until now.


"Many people in Turkey are stressed about losing their job and future which makes them more concerned than Corona itself."

How do people in Turkey deal with the crisis right now?

Tezcan: It is a bit difficult for me to answer this question since I was here from the beginning when the Covid-19 crises erupted. I think in Turkey the crisis was handled in a more stricter manner than Berlin. Government tends to take decisions for the sake of the public health and prevention although some people find these decisions limiting. There is also a debate if preventions are enough to stop the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government tries to support companies to pay the salary of their employees. 60 percent of the salaries are paid by government but yet most people's income has been decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people in Turkey are stressed about losing their job and future which makes them more concerned than Corona itself.
In Turkey, families tend to consist of many members who share the same home including elderly people. People prefer to take care of their eldery instead of putting them in the nursing home. I think in such families, where many people stay home constantly, quarantine conditions became extra difficult.

How do you experience the crisis here in Berlin?

Tezcan: The crisis changed my life like it changed everybodys. First of all my German course was cancelled. Then all the courses I planned to attend turned online. I still struggle with that way of learning since I am a person who likes to learn in a classroom environment by interaction with the instructor and other students. Learning online in that way was like a whole new experience for me. Now I realize how valuable the connection and interaction with other people is. I still try my best to get maximum benefit of online classes and I know they are better than having nothing.

I also try to be extra careful on my internship. I have quite big responsibility working with kids. Mostly they follow the rules. But I think for a kid it is a bit more difficult to understand what really is going on and why we are doing everything we do. Explaining things which are in a way abstract for kids like viruses and a pandemic is complicated.

How do you experience the online semester so far?

Tezcan: In my opinion everybody tries their best during this crisis and with online learning. It is a brand new thing for many teachers and students. Yet as far as I have observed, teachers put tremendous effort to upload inputs on Moodle and they are really helpful whenever I have a problem or question. We sometimes reflect together on the crisis, how it has changed our lives and affected our journey of learning and teaching.

What do you do in your free time?

Tezcan: When I have some time, I try to learn German, which is my biggest activity now. Or I go to open areas - Berlin has a lot of beautiful parks and lakes - take walks, read and think. I am also interested in cinema and I had the chance to see many movies on my list during these days.