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The Carletonian

The Carletonian


As the one and only Turkish student at Carleton, I’ve been like an ambassador of my country, language and culture on this campus for a long time. I was probably the first Turkish person that many people here have ever met. I was their Turkey. I was the one who could check their math about whether or not Istanbul is the capital. If there was a Turkish Student Association at Carleton, I would be the President, Vice President and Treasurer. Obviously, I didn’t come here to make Turkish friends, but, as time went on, I realized that pretty much everyone else could find comfort in their big or small communities — home away from home. Thanks to my generous friends, I was often invited to their community gatherings. And maybe because I didn’t have mine, I had a pass to all. I was invited to all — well, most — parties. 

When it came to filling out official documents, I could check the first box: White. In the scenario where that was only a skin color, sure, I was white. Because I sure wasn’t Asian — even though I live on the Asian continent, I am not that stupid to think that could mean me. Then comes the Middle Eastern. Sounds like my best shot. Coming from a predominantly Muslim country that is considered European when it comes to arts and sports contests but not otherwise, I was used to oscillating between and being all at once. So I checked them all. 

Hi, my name is Bahar. She/her. I am Turk… excuse me… uhm.. I am Caucasian. Not Asian. White. Not European. I am a white Middle Eastern. Thanks for the vaccine. 

Over the last couple years, it has become easier to come back to campus after long breaks, because I was at a point where I could call this annoyingly small and isolated place my second home. When I had hour-long flights and delays at the airports, I would comfort myself with the idea that I had a warm bed and a room that was waiting for me here. And a lot of people that I deeply cared about that I couldn’t wait to spend more time with. And I had my daily routines. Mundane but comforting. A latte from Weitz Café would do. 

What do you need to feel like you belong? To know that you belong?

The flag hanging on top of Willis. Red, blue, white. American. White. Reclaim the flag, do or don’t… Whatever. Does everything have a meaning? Do I need to read? Can I just be… here? 

I can’t. At least, not right now. With the ongoing disaster back home, I’ve been more dissociated from this place than ever before. I was, am, sad, mad… at so many things. 

I felt guilty going to bed when some other girl named Bahar, my age, was waiting under the rubble, cowering, thirsty, hungry, hanging in there with the tiniest hope that she could be saved. 

I felt guilty for caring about the headlines much more than I otherwise would just because it was about my home. I couldn’t blame anyone here for moving on with their lives. I also… am moving… on. 

Two massive earthquakes happened on February 6; the epicenter was Kahramanmaraş, Turkey. These were huge earthquakes. Aftershocks were felt from Northfield, as it was felt from everywhere else. It has shaken everyone, everything. It has shaken so many people and so many things. Including me and my belief that I could call this place a second home when it didn’t even feel like checking in about my first home. 

I asked myself: Bahar… imagine. You are the President of a small liberal arts college, leading an institution that has community members from all over the world. It’s Monday. You pick up a newspaper. Any, really. You see the news. Wouldn’t you wonder if there is a student or faculty member who is from this place? Wouldn’t you wonder if their families are safe? Then your phone rings. You forget about it. Tuesday. You pick up a newspaper. You start worrying about divestment and get distracted. Wednesday. You pick up a newspaper. You don’t have the time to read it. But you see the cover. Thursday. You don’t touch the newspaper because you think it’s the old one, because it has the same cover. And you write the President’s newsletter. 

I asked myself: Bahar… imagine. Your parents could’ve died if this happened during their visit to Gaziantep. What would you do? Email the dean? Ask for emergency funding to purchase a plane ticket back home? Wouldn’t the dean email you first? Looks like they wouldn’t. 

Thousands of lives, thousands. Nonwhite. Middle Eastern, for sure. I could do some Western math for you. Tell you how big the affected region is in “Belgiums,” how many people died in “Northfields,” and how many are homeless in “Bostons.” Would you like to buy more cookies?

Numbers. Logos. Pathos. Whatever. Climate. Divest. Invest. Whatever. 

Colors. Red. Blue. White. Shapes. Rectangles and stars. Willis. I walk by. 

I see a piece of cloth. a flag. a reminder

that I don’t belong.

Would I ever belong? 

Even if you gave me a card. 


You might find this piece aggressive. Well, if you were defensive, it could be. Words, flags, shapes. They become what you see. Want to see. 

I am sad. mad. hurt. All those things. And not by one thing or one person in particular. Not you, dear reader, especially given you read a newspaper. 

If you can’t find the words, then don’t. A look in the eye would suffice. The language would be no barrier. An email would do.

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