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Student UC Worldfest Organizer Shares Her Culture Through Celebration Featuring Food and Festivities

Before she came to study at UC, Merve Bayram studied American culture by watching American TV shows with Turkish subtitles. It turns out South Park is among the programming viewed around the world.

Date: 4/26/2010
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
When 27-year-old Fulbright Scholar Merve (pronounced Marv'-ay) Bayram arrived in Cincinnati from Samsun, Turkey, she knew absolutely no one. But on her first day in the city, she says she was sitting at a table surrounded by fellow international students from Turkey.
Merve Bayram
Merve Bayram

The Turkish Students and Scholars Association, a UC student organization of 17 graduate students and two undergraduate students, brought a feeling of home to Bayram’s welcome to Cincinnati, after she e-mailed UC’s Office of Admissions to inquire about any student organizations that represented her home country. “They guided me to the former president of the organization, and she was really helpful in introducing us to everyone,” says the graduate student, who is earning her master’s degree from UC’s nationally and internationally top-ranked School of Design. “I spent two weeks at her place before moving into my own.”

UC has more than 20 cultural and ethnic organizations that help foster a sense of community at UC while promoting the rich diversity of UC’s student population. Many of them, including the Turkish Students and Scholars Association, have spent winter and spring quarters planning their events for UC’s 15th annual spring Worldfest April 23-May 2. It’s a nine-day celebration that highlights the world of students and scholars on UC’s campus as well as the impact of UC’s reach around the world.

Bayram’s student organization will follow its Worldfest tradition by featuring a booth at the Worldfest International Festival, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, April 29, on McMicken Commons. The International Festival is the most visible Worldfest celebration as international music, food and entertainment blend together in the very heart of campus. The Turkish Students and Scholars Association will be serving up traditional Turkish food, as well as Turkish coffee. The students do all of the preparation. “Last year, we had a big cooking session at a friend’s place and this year, we’re still planning on offering a variety of food from the different regions of Turkey,” Bayram says.

The Turkish Students and Scholars Association is also hosting “Turkish Night at Worldfest” from 4-10 p.m., Saturday, May 1, in the Great Hall of Tangeman University Center (TUC). The event will include a dinner buffet of Turkish cuisine, authentic Turkish music and two films illustrating the distinct styles of Turkish cinema.

“Worldfest is an amazing opportunity for us to introduce our culture,” Bayram says. “Many people don’t even know where our country exists – or that it covers two continents – or what language we speak or what music we listen to, so this is a unique chance to share our culture,” she says.

Merve Bayram

Turkey actually forms a bridge between Asia and Europe and has been referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization.” Bayram is from the Black Sea port city of Samsun, on the northern coast of Turkey. She adds that the climate is milder than the bitter cold she has experienced during Cincinnati’s winters or the steamy Cincinnati summers.

“The first thing I thought when I came to the United States is that it’s just like it was in the movies,” she says, adding she became familiar with American slang and customs watching CNBC Europe with Turkish subtitles. She had already studied English during her earlier years in school, but says the TV programming helped with the language fluency. “It was a tradition among friends to gather in one place and watch the shows and talk about what was going to happen.”

Among the lineup were the shows “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” “South Park” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Battlestar Galactica.” She says she still likes to watch them here in Cincinnati.

She adds that her study in Cincinnati has also dispelled another stereotype regarding American culture. “There’s this outside perception that Americans are removed from the rest of the world, but I haven’t seen that here,” she says. “I’ve found that people are really interested in what’s going on in news and politics beyond the United States, and that surprised me a lot. I was also really impressed, because I see they really care.”

Bayram adds that Worldfest is open to the public, and the students want to introduce their culture to new friends at UC as well as the Cincinnati USA community. “We were expecting 200 people at “Turkish Night at Worldfest” last year, and we were thrilled when it drew 400 people. So, come on out and join us. You can walk in anytime, and there will be something going on.”

UC Worldfest Information

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