Building a ‘colourful life’ in ‘the best human pool ever’
“The best human pool ever,” is Zeynep’s answer when asked what is a good thing about Turkish psychology education. This has to do with the diversity of people in Turkey: “There are many different cultures, religious beliefs, races, languages etc. Moreover, especially the history of this country makes its people to be prone to have and thus wonder more about psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD,” she explains. Zeynep Basgoze (35) has worked as an assistant professor at the Psychology Department of Baskent University in Ankara since 2014, teaching classes in experimental and cognitive psychology. She studied philosophy at Bogazici University in Istanbul and came to Ankara to study Cognitive Sciences at Middle East Technical University, where she also acquired her PhD.
Upsides of psychology in Turkey
Turkey seems to have an amazing potential for students of psychology. Not only the people are diverse, so are the options for graduate students. Various Master’s Degrees are available to study after a 4-year-long psychology study, such as clinical, experimental, social, forensic, cognitive, family, development, industrial & organization, sport, traffic & transport and experimental-social psychology. “Even if you don’t continue studying in a graduate level, you can still work as a psychologist in state departments (…), in kinder-gardens, in private sector, etc.”, explains Zeynep. According to Zeynep, it is quite easy to get into psychology education in Turkey; given that you acquire a certain score in the general college entrance exam to get into college. Also, even if internships are not mandatory in psychology education, most departments encourage and help students in conducting an internship.
Downsides of psychology in Turkey
However, the downside of psychology in Turkey is that the Turkish government does not recognize the status of psychologists as professionals: there is no law of occupation for psychologists. Zeynep: “Even if you get your PhD, say in the clinical area, you cannot open your own practice without cooperating with a psychiatrist.” According to Zeynep, it is definitely a point of improvement for the Turkish government to recognize psychologists by law. When it comes to psychology education, many private colleges are opening psychology departments without sufficient (variation in) academic staff, leading to great variation in quality of schooling. Zeynep: “These departments are opened just with the purpose of making money, rather than giving a proper education. I think all psychology departments should be asked to be accredited by the Turkish Psychology Association.” Another consequence is that many psychology departments tend to specialize in only one sub-field of psychology, which leads to poor variation in options for students to discover which field has their interest.
Work ethics of psychologists in Turkey and abroad
As for the work ethics, psychologists in Turkey tend to stay connected. Zeynep: “Almost any psychologist knows the others, especially if they work within the same sub-field. I mean, not only knowing them from their work, but actually knowing them in person. I find it very interesting that they are like a big family, who fight all time, yet stay and work together.” This connectedness among Turkish psychologists fits Zeynep’s description of Turkish people, with openness for teamwork and “happily working with others while making them laugh almost all the time.” When studying abroad as a visiting scholar at the Center for Magnetic resonance Research in Minnesota, US, Zeynep definitely could feel the difference between US- and Turkish work ethics: “I was so amazed that my colleagues in the US were incredibly hardworking, never vesting time with unnecessary chit-chat; therefore, very successful, but also very social, and always encouraging,” though not everybody would agree with Zeynep on this: “Many Turkish people who study abroad complain about how “cold” foreigners can be, since they are very much used to famous Turkish warmth. It’s a bit of a personal preference really. I was totally okay with a bit “cold”, and I even felt freer that way.”
Advice from a professional
Last but not least, Zeynep provides a word of wisdom to all psychology students: “The tools you will acquire along a good-quality psychology education is immense. Psychology is directly about life. You should use these ‘tools’ to build a sturdily founded, colourful ‘life’. It’s totally on your hands. Never forget that you actually can learn anything anytime. The brain is so plastic, so flexible that whenever you train it, it will become whatever you want it to become. Also, while studying or working, this cliché, but very true sentence should always echo in your brains: “Never give up, never surrender!””
* In case you are interested in studying in Turkey, Zeynep advices to check if the college education is at least 30% in English, because not all psychology departments in Turkey provide classes in English.