Spending March Break with your parents is extra special when you are an international exchange student and they have come all the way from Turkey to visit you.
Sarp Senyuva is a Grade 11 student at Northumberland Regional High School, enjoying his second year in Pictou County and his second year making the varsity basketball team. He hoped to go home to the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya at Christmas, but could not get his flights to line up with his Christmas break. Instead, his parents Alev and Tamer decided to come to Pictou County for a month.
The Senyuvas chose to come in late February, so they could catch the end of the basketball season and spend the break with their son.
“We were sadly not able to see him playing basketball with his team, but we are enjoying our visit,” said Tamer Senyuva, referring to the loss of winter sports due to the dispute between the NSTU and the province.
Sarp was excited to have his parents coming and with the help of his host family, made arrangements for their stay.
“Right now it just feels normal having them here,” said Sarp.
It was Sarp’s decision to leave home to study internationally, a decision his parents fully supported, even though they still find it difficult to be separated from their only child.
“It was his decision, not ours. Since he was 10, we have tried to show him different places, different ideas,” said his mother Alev, her eyes filling with tears at the memory of their first parting.
She, a retired lawyer, and Tamer, a tour guide, want their son to have a liberal education.
“I wanted my son to grow up to think, to question, to know life,” said Tamer, who learned English in school but is more proficient in German.
Sarp had previously attended private school, but even in private schools, Alev acknowledged there is no separation between church and state, adding religion is not considered a personal choice as it once was.
The Senyuvas have enjoyed getting to know Carol and Glynn Alderson, Sarp’s house parents for the past one and 1/2 years, and his house mate Yixie (Tom) Tang, another NRHS student whose home is in Nanjing, China.
After the Aldersons had the Senyuvas for supper, the Turkish couple decided to return the invitation.
“It was a Turkish meal but made with Canadian ingredients,” laughed Alev.
The Senyuvas knew Pictou County was quite different from Turkey, but what surprised them most has been the lack of public transportation.
“We had to rent a car at very high cost. For students and people without cars, life must be difficult,” said Tamer.
Both have found people to be friendly and welcoming.
“We see it is very peaceful, very democratic and safe, so a good place to study,” said Alev.
Eleven years ago, the Aldersons agreed to be house parents “as a favour” for one term and they have now hosted 25 international students. They have met a few parents, though only briefly and usually at graduation time.
“We’ve enjoyed getting to spend some time with Sarp’s parents, getting to know each other,” said Carol.
Glynn pointed out they raised two sons so most often are matched with male students.
‘’There is a real effort to put students with families they will be comfortable with. Glynn likes sports, so we’re usually matched with guys who are interested in sports and that works for us,” said Carol.
Sarp and Tom, who made the junior varsity team at NRHS, have become good friends though they admit it took a little time to get comfortable with each other.
“We both like basketball and Glynn will always drive us to the Wellness Centre, so we’re very lucky,” said Sarp.
Both are inclined to joke when asked what has been toughest for them.
“The first day, getting on the bus, not sure where it was taking me,” Sarp laughed, adding he knew people were speaking English all around him but could not catch a single word.
Everything is different, Tom said, joking that he no longer eats rice every day.
“He’s lucky if he gets it once a week with us,” agreed Carol.
The Senyuvas clearly enjoy the banter between the boys and their house parents.
“This makes it so much easier for us,” said Tamer, spreading his hands to include everyone around the dinner table. “From one part of the world, a family sent their son and another family opened their home and hearts.”
Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org