Making exchange students feel at home - ESN section in the spotlight
Making exchange students feel at home and turning a team into a family are ESN Marmara's areas of expertise.
Since the Turkish use the phrase “çok güzel”, which means “very good” in English, a lot in their daily routine, it is not surprising that the very first Turkish words that international students learn are “çok güzel”. However, the surprising part is when they start to say it in regards to the section and the people in it. That is how “ESN Marmara çok güzel” became its slogan. Forming a slogan from students' feedback is a dream come true. Our question is: how did ESN Marmara achieve that?
ESN Marmara is a section based in Marmara University which, with its 17 faculties and 11 institutions, is one of the top universities in Turkey. ESN Marmara was established in 2008 but only started properly functioning in 2009. In the early years of its foundation, the members were made up of just the Business Administration Faculty. However, since 2015, the section has started to grow and accept members from many other faculties and this diversification brought a fresh start to ESN Marmara.
They now have 37 active members including six Board members (President, Vice President, Local Representative, Treasurer, Communication Manager, and Secretary), and two members of the Board of Audit. The section also has five committees: Event, Finance (FICO), Communication (ComCom), Social Inclusion (SIT), and Research and Development (R&D). The latter is a new and dynamic team that identifies and solves the problems within the section and explores ways to improve its events, activities, and projects.
ESN Marmara's priority is to become a family with strong bonds. To achieve that, they have several types of internal events: presentations, informal meetings, 'Family Day', and 'Alumni Talks'. ESN Marmara starts the 'Family Day' with breakfast so that members have the chance to catch up with each other. After that, team building games and activities are held. 'Alumni Talks' are internal events wherein alumni share their experiences and pass the ESN vision onto the newest members. Through such a good bond with their alumni, they formed a group called the 'Alumni Council' which actively helps the board and its members. These activities help members to get closer and become friends, and result in meetings that have nothing to do with ESN - just friends spending time together.
One of ESN Marmara's main goals is to help Erasmus students to feel at home. They begin the semester with the 'Welcome Week'. This is when both exchange students and ESN members get to know each other and build friendships that will last forever. ESN Marmara takes care of balancing out both daytime and nighttime activities. 'Chill-out' is a beloved daytime activity that involves lying on the grass, fresh air, and lots of laughter. Responsible Party elements are used in traditional nighttime activities, such as Pub Crawls and Pub Evenings. The highlight event is the City Game, which helps to introduce Kadıköy, the entertainment centre of the Asian side of Istanbul, where most exchange students are accommodated and spend most of their time. Teams get a map of Kadiköy and mission sheets. This truly amazing event helps exchange students in getting to know the culture and their surroundings better, develop their teamwork skills, and experience ESN causes such as Culture and Social Inclusion. When it comes to the cause of Culture, ESN Marmara makes sure that every station in the game is of historical and social importance, which is explained throughout. The cause of Social Inclusion is integrated into the missions of the game. For example, one of the key symbols of Istanbul are street animals, especially cats. So one of the game missions is to feed every cat encountered by the teams. Both ESN members and exchange students enjoyed the event and it won an eventSTAR award during the National Platform Izmir '19.
ESN Marmara helps students to explore the country (via trips to other cities such as Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Bolu), experience the educational side of Erasmus+ (for instance with erasMUSEUM as a way to support the culture cause of ESN and to let exchange students know the local community better, as well as raising awareness about the world and local current problems), and get involved socially (via helping immigrant children, feeding street animals, giving out 'sharing is caring' soup to homeless people, etc.).
Throughout their history, they participated in many national platforms and events. In the past year alone, they attended ESN Unplugged, SPM Trakya, ESN101 Istanbul, COMM101, NP Izmir, Extraordinary NP Yeditepe, NP Samsun, AGM Thessaloniki and SEEP Bakü. The enthusiasm of trying to achieve great things on an international level has driven them to apply for organising a CNR meeting. The team is super excited to be the host of the last CNR before the very last AGM. To find out what is waiting for you in Istanbul while enjoying CNR Marmara, you can check out their teaser!
The section's members are very active in ESN Turkey (there are currently eight members) and ESN International (five members). ESN Marmara has very strong bonds with ESN sections all around the country. It resulted in organising, on average, two-section cooperation events per week: Beach Day with three ESN Sections, Welcome Boat Party with nine ESN Sections, Princes’ Island Trip with two ESN Sections, Beer Pong Tournament with four ESN Sections and UV Party with five ESN Sections. These were the cooperation events prepared just for the first month of the semester! In addition to these, both the Ephesus & Pamukkale Trip and the Cappadocia Trip have been organised as section cooperation events for years. This has enabled them to achieve great participation numbers and provide exchange students with a chance to meet people from not only Marmara University but from other universities around Turkey as well.
ESN Marmara is doing their best to make the exchange one of the best moments of a student’s life. They have a family spirit within their team and manage to make every incoming student feel like a part of this big loving family too. They care deeply for their students and organise very diverse events so that everyone can find something to engage in, yet they also never stop improving and adding fresh ideas to their events. The team is actively promoting ESN causes and has managed to build a vast network with ESN sections all around the country. Taking into account all of these facts, it is no surprise that students have given the section such positive feedback. ESN Marmara çok güzel, indeed!