Nearly 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) from home, three Paraguayan students will complete five months of study in Turkey at the end of the month.
Gregorio Ramon Ayala Aquino, 20, Alma Celeste Mena Benegas, 19, and Maria Cecilia Nunez Campuzano, 24, applied to the Presidency For Turks Abroad And Related Communities (YTB) for a scholarship from Paraguay and, now, continue their education in Turkey's Black Sea province of Samsun and the central province of Konya.
As the first ever batch of Paraguayan students, they told Anadolu Agency that as soon as the opportunity emerged to study abroad in Turkey, they did not hesitate at the chance to grab it.
They chose Turkey because of its historical and cultural richness, and academic opportunities.
"Turkey is a country with extraordinary wealth in terms of history, culture and development, with a highly respected higher education," Selcuk University student Mena said, who studies chemistry in Konya. "This country deserves to be discovered and admired deeply by Paraguayan students, they will not regret it.”
Alma Celeste Mena Benegas
Nunez, a radio, television and cinema master student at Selcuk University, said Turkey met her expectations she had before she arrived.
"Before coming to Turkey I read a lot about the country and its culture. I heard that it is a very hospitable and safe country," she said. "When I arrived I found exactly the same."
Maria Cecilia Nunez Campuzano
Turkey, Paraguay same in hospitality
Although the young Paraguayans said there are differences in culture, including religion and cuisine, the nations share "certain similarities" when it comes to hospitality.
"The culture is totally different from my country. For example in Paraguay people are mostly Catholic, while here Muslim. But I think the Turkish hospitality is like the Paraguayan, which fascinates me," Ayala said -- who is working on a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration at Ondokuz Mayıs University in Samsun.
Gregorio Ramon Ayala Aquino
Mena said that Turkey and its language had influences in Paraguay because of the many Turkish television series there a few years ago, which led to the "deep admiration of Paraguayans for the beauties in landscapes and culture that Turkey has."
They said they are used to local tastes and are enjoying them, especially dishes served with yogurt, and ayran -- a traditional salty drink made of yogurt and water.
In a short span of time, all three can already speak Turkish at an intermediate level.
"This February, five months of our arrival in the country were completed, we are still learning the language with a few weeks to go to the B2 level of the language," Mena said.
Saying the language education they take in their university is "extremely effective," she emphasized that in five months they have reached a level where they can explain themselves and have conversations with Turkish peers and other international students around them.
They also praised the "very effective and accessible" public transportation system in Turkey.
The students explained the paperwork process for international students who want to be a part of a similar experience. Students should fill an application form for the scholarship program on the YTB's website with necessary documents, they said. "And the process takes nearly five or six months before the shortlist is announced."
In 2019, 146,000 foreign students applied to scholarships to receive higher education in Turkey.
Turkey Scholarships, a YTB project, is not just about the financial aid provided to foreign students for they are also settled in their desired university programs, making the scholarship more comprehensive and different than other scholarships.
The international students can benefit from the social, cultural and academic activities of Turkish higher education institutions, and receive professional education.
Applications can be submitted free of charge at "www.turkiyeburslari.gov.tr."
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