Being away from home for the first time at the age of 13 was a bit unsettling. Fortunately I was surrounded with other boarding students who were in similar circumstances. This made it easier to adjust to my new school.
All middle school graduates who did not speak English attended a two-year “prep school” before starting high school. All high school prep students were in one class (about 25). These two years enabled us to immerse ourselves into the English language, beef up our quantitative skills and adjust to life at RC. Outside my classes I worked at the school’s library and, later, at the alumni office to earn some pocket money. I enjoyed the weekends a lot because the school’s soccer field and the two gyms were quite free to use when the boarders from Istanbul went home. This strengthened the bonds among the “boarders from Anatolia.” We would walk down the hill to Bebek, take the tram (2.5 kuruş with a student pass) or the bus to see a movie or two. I would write home often and during the breaks (winter, spring and summer) take the train to go back home to Isparta.
RC also had a middle school. When we finished the prep school we were blended with those coming from the middle school as high school freshman. What had been a four year high school when I was in prep school had been reduced to three years (to parallel the norm in public schools in Turkey). Outside classes I enjoyed intramural sports (was not good enough for varsity level), developed an interest in creative writing, theater and journalism and actively participated in Turkish folk dancing.
On 27 May 1960 there was a military coup in Turkey. There was widespread celebration throughout the country. I was in Isparta then and along with other young people participated actively in the demonstrations.
Following the coup Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Cemal Gursel became Turkey’s president. When he paid a visit to Robert College the year following the coup, as the editor of College News, I remember trolling him around the campus, asking questions to get a quote or two. I found only a faded image of what we printed in the next issue of College News and a scanned copy of a photo (which Dogan Silay sent me) as reminders of that day.
I have fond memories of my time at RC. I had a good education, gained good friends, pursued my interests and grew as a person in the process. I learned how to stand on my two feet and live independently. For these I am grateful for the support I received from the friends I made at RC and the nurturing culture that existed at the school.