New program immerses Syrian students in Turkish

Syrian university students are offered a new way to learn Turkish and learn about Turkey, the country where they are currently studying, with a new project initiated by the state-run Turks Abroad and Related Communities Directorate that oversees the affairs of international students. Touring Turkey, students both learn the Turkish language and interact with locals.

Hundreds of students benefited from the "Advanced Turkish Education Project" co-funded by the European Union, since it was launched a few years ago. Students visit historical and cultural sites across the country in the next leg of the project, which was initially confined to Turkish courses in refugee camps. This year, students traveled to Cappadocia, an ancient region in central Turkey famed for volcanic rock formations and historic underground cities, as well as to Bursa, a city dotted with Ottoman-era landmarks. Project coordinator Mehmet Nedim Aslan told Anadolu Agency that learning Turkish is key for adaptation of Syrians into education in the country and they organized tours to different cities every year so that students can "practice" what they are taught. This year, 1,600 students participated in the tours where students are also introduced to Turkish culture, from ancient handicrafts to traditions. Aslan says students significantly improved their Turkish skills in a short time thanks to the program. "They even make Turkish jokes," he adds.

Muhammad al-Gazali is a freshman at Uludağ University in Bursa. He studies architecture while learning Turkish at the same time. "I will return home to Syria after completing my studies. I will rebuild the places destroyed in the war," he explains his plans. Al-Gazali says the program helped them greatly and they now speak Turkish fluently among themselves.

Striving to address the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrians forced to drop out of school, Turkey took its struggle to reach out to children not attending school beyond the borders.