There is a period in everyone's life which dramatically marks their life. The period of doing a PhD is surely a great example of this phenomenon. It marks one's life not because during this time one goes through all sorts of emotions, but because it shapes and - to a greater extent, determines one's life after getting it!
Sponsored by the Turkish Government, I carried out my Master's and PhD studies in Mathematics Education in CSSME during the period of 2000-2005. I considered myself fortunate because, as part of my sponsorship, the Ministry of Education in Turkey were to assign me to one of the underdeveloped rural universities upon completion of my PhD. So after finishing in late 2005 I returned to Turkey and in April 2006 I began work as a lecturer in the Mathematics Education department in a university situated in the eastern part of Turkey.
This appointment involved a massive transition from being a PhD student to becoming a university lecturer in only five months. In the sheltered life of Leeds, we always had our supervisors by our side to consult with and ask for guidance. But, all of a sudden, I found myself being a university lecturer and having both teaching and research responsibilities. This transition was exciting, daunting, sometimes frustrating and yet fulfilling and promising. In short, the transition was "a welcome to the real world" as the saying goes.
One particular aspect of this "real world" life was the teaching. Quite contrary to the solitary and research-oriented life during the PhD period, my new life, working with the students and other colleagues in the department, was dynamic and vibrant. Teaching for the first time required quite a lot of preparation and hard work - something I'm sure applies to all of you who have begun teaching for the first time!
One aspect with which I found difficulty when I first arrived in the UK was the language. My ‘unique' version of English sometimes meant only I could understand what I was talking about! After five years of studying everything in English, it appeared that I still had a language problem but this time, I was using some English words whilst teaching my Mathematics courses. This caused amusement amongst my students and, in the end-of semester evaluation form, some complained that they wanted their Mathematics Education lecturer to teach them in Turkish, not in English!
When not teaching I am expected to conduct research only this time without the help of a supervisor! My experience in Leeds has been very helpful, and I feel that it has expanded my horizon with regards to doing research in both actual and potential areas. I am fortunate to be still in touch with my supervisor in Leeds to ask for his advice on new research areas and also to write papers together.
Yet another aspect of life in the ‘real world' is to adapt to life back home after 5 years of experience in Leeds. Life in Leeds was, by and large, very simple and many of us found ourselves living within the ‘sacred triangle' of Home, the School of Education and Morrisons supermarket, especially during the writing-up process! Margaret Taylor was doing quite a lot of work to turn this ‘sacred triangle' more into a polygon by organising some social events. And I had the pleasure of attending the most memorable and unforgettable Lake District and Peak District weekend events, and Christmas and Farewell Parties! Well appreciated and missed!
Contrary to life in Leeds, life in Turkey is hectic and necessarily ‘polygonal'. It took me some time to get used to this many-sided life here! Adapting was not limited to home life only; some time was required to get used to the rituals and conventions existing amongst academics in the university, too. We have a hierarchical system amongst the academics here; sometimes your title speaks louder than you do! This means you don't have a Professor like Phil Scott to crack a joke with!
I have learnt how to behave and, as well-put by the RED character in the Shawshank Redemption Movie, "I am institutionalised". I must admit, however, that this institutionalisation still carries a very strong imprint from the less formal institutionalisation in the Leeds School of Education. I would like to pass on my regards and greetings to all of you friends who, in one way or another, have been institutionalised in/by the School of Education and I wish you all the best in your post-Masters or Post-PhD lives.
Find out more about studying for a PhD at the School of Education.