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Leap Day - Part II

Me on my 2nd birthday

Anyways, since the logistics were impossible, we agreed for an on-site zoom interview.

On leap day, early in the morning, I had a class to teach. So, despite all the desire I had for staying home to get as ready as possible for the interview, I went to school. While I was checking my emails before class, I got an email from future me that I had sent myself four years ago the last time we had a leap day. According to the letter, I had just been awarded a full scholarship to go to the United States. I was both over the moon and had an uneasy feeling since I realized that getting the scholarship was the easiest part of making my way to the land of opportunity, as traveling on a weak passport is always a path filled with unexpected challenges. Fast forward, to leap day 2024, I was about to realize another dream, bracing myself for countless unforeseen challenges. 

The zoom interview started at 4:00 pm Mersin time (8:00 am Chattanooga time). First, I had a small informative meeting with the department head. Next, I met with two professors outside the math department and interviewed for about forty five minutes. Then, I had a meeting with the dean whom I congratulated immediately after hearing the correct pronunciation of my name on her first attempt. Later on, I had an interview with the search committee. I got unprecedented questions during that interview. One of them was about my plans on how to continue being productive after becoming a full professor, another one was about my time management skills, and another one was “Can you please tell us what skills you have that are not written on your resume?”

And guess what? I got stuck. My mind went completely blank. The professor who asked the question tried to rephrase it by asking me what my hobbies were and only after then I was able to answer with a mundane “I read a lot. I go to the gym three times a week. I read a lot, both in English and Turkish. I go out with friends. Aaaand that’s all I guess.” If I had been asked the same question today, I would have talked about this blog I have been writing and also I would have mentioned my more than 6 years Duolingo streak. We all know that I am much more interesting and authentic than the above-mentioned answer, right? Anyways, after that interview with the search committee, I gave my research talk and finally I had a last meeting with the department head. We said goodbye to each other at 1:00 am Mersin time on the 1st of March. 

Just before saying goodbye, I asked Chris, the department head, when I was going to hear back from him about the result, either positive or negative. He said in one and a half weeks, which means around mid-March. I ended up waiting a little longer than expected. I received an email from Chris on March 21 which said, 'Are you available for a Zoom conversation so I can update you on the status of our search?'

Since I had to wait a little longer than expected, I understood that I was not the first choice of the search committee, and I thought Chris was kind enough to give me the bad news in person, well, on Zoom. But guess what! On March 22, during our Zoom meeting, Chris offered me a JOB, told me the details of the offer, and gave me one week to think about it. There was nothing to think about. Still, I needed time to talk with my parents.

When I arrived home, my mom was cooking, and my dad was watching TV. With bubbling excitement, I practically bounded into the kitchen and exclaimed, “I have incredible news! I've received a job offer from The United States!”

And all I got were looks, accompanied by the unspoken question, 'Is she seriously crazy enough to leave behind a 15-year career and start from scratch?' Oh, yes, I was! My parents knew me better than I did. Even if I had the opportunity to become a full professor in a couple of years, I was determined to set out and explore what lay beyond. I wanted to discover if life was simply about circling around in a small place until you grew old and became a “full professor” where your achievements were not as much celebrated as the yerli ve milli ones, or if there was another way to live in the world.

PS. Yerli ve milli means local and national and this is the official catchphrase of Mr. Erdogan, president of the Republic of Turkey, to define his own ideal citizens who vote yes to whatever he asks, whenever he asks.

May 2024, Mersin.


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