When they came to the Rice University Intensive English Program, Erhan and Reyhan were newly married. Besides getting used to their new life as a married couple, they were both trying to adjust to life in Houston and dealing with the stress of preparing to take the TOEFL and GRE exams. For both of them, the main reason behind attending our Intensive English Program was to eventually be accepted at Rice University for graduate studies. This was the right move, since it gave them the opportunity to make connections with the right people in Rice University’s Departments of Earth Science and Religion, respectively. The young couple wanted to pursue graduate degrees from Rice because it is one of the best ranked universities in the U.S. Erhan had a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Turkey and had received a full scholarship from the Turkish Petroleum Corporation to continue his education in the U.S. Reyhan came to Houston with a B.A. and an M.A. in Religion, both obtained in Turkey. Today, Erhan has an M.S. in Subsurface Geoscience from Rice University and is working as a processing geophysicist at Turkish Petroleum. Reyhan is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Religion Department at, you guessed it, Rice University. She is about to complete her doctoral dissertation. They are both very proud of their Rice education.
Joining the Intensive English Program at Rice gave them the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. The program also helped them “overcome the difficulties of cultural shock”. For instance, the differences in the attitudes regarding personal space were disconcerting at first. The new student orientation they took before starting their English classes really helped them understand the American culture. Their teachers encouraged them to participate and even joined them in countless cultural and recreational activities, both on- and off-campus. They were introduced to students and families from Houston who were native English speakers, to practice and sharpen their language skills. Regarding the city, Erhan says, “Houston is a multicultural and always dynamic city that is great for a student to live in. It is also a dream place for an earth scientist, being the energy capital of the world. As a geophysicist, I had the great chance to work with some of the major oil companies in the world. Being a Rice graduate, people from the energy industry always showed me respect.” Erhan did several internships with oil companies as well as with Rice’s Earth Science Department. He feels that the experience he gained from living, studying and working in Houston is something no amount of money could buy.
Living in Houston has been an unforgettable experience for Reyhan. “Adjusting to a new country, language and culture was not as hard as I had thought it would be. However, building a social life was not an easy process. Houston’s multicultural quality conveniently enabled me to fit into this new environment.” What she loves most about Houston is the harmony of people with different ethnicities, languages and cultural backgrounds. She never felt like a foreigner here. On the contrary, she felt like a welcome part of Houston’s community. These days Reyhan lives in Turkey, where she is conducting field research, but the Ph.D. dissertation she is working on brings her to Houston often.
Once they were well on their way to attaining their academic and professional goals, Erhan and Reyhan had a son, who is now almost two years old. Someday, Erhan would like to be part of a group that discovers a major oil or gas field in Turkey. Reyhan wants to become an associate professor of religion at a prestigious university in Turkey. And speaking of future plans, the couple has some advice for students who plan to study in the U.S.: “Never ever hesitate to come to the U.S., especially Houston and Rice University. We are sure that you will find more than you expect. You will have friends from everywhere in the world. You will have the best education and experience and you will never regret it. We came to Houston as husband and wife, but then our family has become bigger with a son and a lot of good friends, both in Houston and all over the world.”
Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director