Why did you decide to immigrate?
Well, mostly because of the educational opportunities here, for me and my younger brother, are better than the ones we had in Turkey. It’s a bit ironic though that I am now in art school. Students here go abroad to study art. I guess this can be thought of as my ‘abroad’.
Did you intend to join the professions? Become a doctor or an engineer or something?
Yes I thought I would be a nurse or something.
You still could be a nurse though, if you wanted to be one?
No, I’ve pretty much given up on that dream though I still could, in theory.
What about freedom of religious expression? From what I recall there are enormous restrictions on expression of faith in Turkey, attending prayers, wearing scarves or fez hats and the military steps in whenever the democratic government tries to relax those rules? Did that play a part in your decision to immigrate? Did you face any of that?
Not that I remember, no. I was pretty sheltered as a child, so I don’t know much about what goes on in Turkish politics. And I am not all that religious.
How do you find life in the United States?
Jobs are tough. I’m still in college so it’s nothing too serious, but it’s still hard to find one I think. I work at a bagel shop for now.
What about racism or the anti-Muslim sentiment?
Well the Muslim sentiment … I was raised Muslim, I belong to a Muslim family, but I don’t look like the typical Muslim, like the American stereotype. I don’t look physically different from many other Americans of European ethnicity.
But I know many religious people of that faith that are good, kind, people and I see them get bashed so much since coming here and especially 9/11, you know and that’s a thing I really dislike about America.
What about when people find out that you’re from Turkey, do you get any harassment then?
No I don’t get harassed. I don’t live near a lot of racist people (laughs). New Jersey is a very cosmopolitan area; lots of people from different backgrounds coexist there peacefully.
Are there a lot of Turkish people in New Jersey?
What about Muslims from other ethnicities?
There’s a pretty decent amount in New York. Turks and others. I don’t live far from NYC, so yeah they’re nearby.
Do you meet up with them at community centres or Mosques or Turkish restaurants?
Turkish restaurants yeah, there are a lot of those in New York. I don’t really practice the faith, so that’s not something I really talk about a lot.
Did you experience culture shock when you came over, or are American cities much the same as Turkish ones?
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