Name: Carolyn Stransky’15
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Varsity sport(s) participate in: Volleyball
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2013 - Istanbul, Turkey
Describe your favorite place in your host city/country and why.
I constantly find myself reminiscing about sunny afternoons on the Galata Bridge. The Galata Bridge is known as the vital link between the two sides of European Istanbul. Every day, dozens of local men form a row along the top level of this bridge and fish over the edge. The lower deck–directly under the walkway-is home to restaurants, bars, and teahouses with waterfront seating ideal for boat watching.
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
Looking back, one of my proudest moments was when I was finally able to communicate with the local shop clerk. The shop was on my commute to school so I would drop by in the mornings before class. He didn’t know any English, but I was enrolled in a beginner’s Turkish course and I quickly made it a goal to be able to carry a conversation. We grew close throughout the six months I was living there – or at least as close as a middle aged Kurdish shop clerk and a 20-year-old American student who only spoke about five minutes a day of broken Turkish could. Funny enough I actually started tearing up when I said goodbye to him.
How has your study abroad experience affected your athletic experience or your identity as an athlete back at Beloit?
To say the least, my semester in Istanbul was an emotional roller coaster. I had my heart broken, got lost (both literally and figuratively), lived under a different set of cultural values, and ultimately developed a new perspective. Because of those experiences, though, I believe that I am better able to control my emotions and trust my instincts.
I was able to notice a difference as soon as I stepped on the court the following August. I felt more calm and at ease than I usually did with the anticipation of a killer preseason and this translated through to my actions on the court. I was voted into one of the captain positions by my teammates and I know that I was better able to handle the pressure because of the personal growth I experienced while living in Turkey.
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
Upon arriving in Turkey, I realized that being an athlete shaped the way I interpreted situations and how I was able to handle challenges. One of those challenges being the hierarchy regarding gender and traditional gender roles that often constricted social relations. Turkish culture is still predominantly run by the notion that men are inherently better than women. As a woman living in Turkey, it was easy to feel very small. Throughout my entire life I’ve found confidence and self-assurance through athletics. The fact that I was able to not only identify as an athlete, but also have the ability to keep up during a pick-up game or understand the fundamentals of whatever sport we were watching helped level the social playing field.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
If studying abroad is something that you want to pursue, do not let athletics stand in your way. Beloit does an amazing job of affording all of its students with great opportunities to study off-campus so take advantage of them. You may miss a season, but what you learn from living in a new culture can never be taught through a couple months of any sport.