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Posts Tagged ‘British Council stories’
Does everything happen for a reason?
merve oflaz

by one of my students Tulya Elif B.

There are films that change your life. There are songs that give you a very strong heart beat and there are books that spiritualize you. There are also some days or events that change your whole life.

My story begins on a nice snowy day in Istanbul of the 1990s…

It was the day when I first entered the doors of the British Council at Istiklal Street in Beyoglu. I was a fifteen year old prep student with the strangest hair style ever. My mum who has supported me all the time took me there after my English teacher had advised me to become a member of the British Council Library. I can still remember the smell of the books, the cosy atmosphere and the friendly people working there. The hardcover books were really big and thick with many unknown words. I enjoyed walking through the library aisles looking through the reference books, atlases and novels. Unfortunately I was only able to read the leveled readers as an elementary level student. I was considering myself lucky if a reader was in a plastic bag because that meant the reader had a ‘cassette’ (a flat rectangular device that is used to record sound. (Hard to find one of these nowadays. Oopsie I think I became a little old:) ) These bags were soft and transparent with hard white handles. If the readers and cassettes were heavy, the handle could nearly cut my hand but I never thought of putting it in my rucksack. It was kind of a pride (but not a prejudice:) for me to carry them with a serious look in my eyes saying “I’m learning English.” My favourite section in the library was the great classical novels and poems. I didn’t understand a word in them but I was making a secret oath deep inside my heart to become a real reader of those books one day. I spent hours and days in that library. Looking through newspapers and magazines, choosing the books sitting on the stool by the shelves, reading and listening to cassettes by the bay window, the best liked seat of the library. That place was like the front seat at a theatre because you could watch the busy people walking along Istiklal Street and the little red and white tram ringing its bell.

Days chased days and I became a university student. I was studying English Language Teaching and drowning in homework and projects so once again the British Council Library had been my loyal assistant. Now the library had this huge catalogue, a machine looked like a mixture of a computer and an Atari. It was easier to search the books and materials through by using this thing. Besides I could understand and enjoy the books on any shelves. It was nice not to be limited with the leveled readers. There was also a video club (still no VCDs or DVDs) which was a bit expensive for me but we were allowed to watch them in the special area they provided in the library.

It was just after I had become an English teacher. I learnt that there were seminars about drama techniques and teaching young learners at the British Council. I did my best to attend these seminars given by Laura Woodward and Gulfem Aslan (They were both my heroines and idols, actually they still are) and tried to improve my teaching style.

All these live memories rushed into my mind and filled my heart with a bit of gratitude and a sip of nostalgia at the end of the 2nd International Conference on Language Education, Eclipsing Expectations at Sabancı University. As I was leaving with a bitter feeling and thinking “If only it hadn’t finished so quickly…” (but that’s another story to be mentioned in another blog post), I saw Raymond Kerr ( sitting there in the foyer outside the conference hall. I walked out saying bye to him but then I went back and shaking hands I thanked the British Council for providing me such a nice award after the Blogathon, the blog competition. As a silver award winner, getting a ticket to that conference was a real pleasure for me.  Then, I handed him my card and kindly invited him to my blog. I said “My real award is this blog I started. The Blogathon that brought a lot of teachers together gave me the real inspiration and courage.” He was surprised and asked again if I was serious or not. Then he offered me to share this experience with others through a blog post. “Why not?” I thought. And here I am.

Thank you British Council for changing my life sooo many times. The very first day I entered in that library made me walk in doors of time. Does everything happen for a reason? Yes, I believe that there was a reason that made me go there.


Here are some callouts appeared just above my head during the Blogathon:

  • Fantasies about my blogathon t-shirt: feeling a relationship emerged between the number 120 t-shirt and me.
  • The wonderful (!) word limit: Cookie for me !!! “What if I omit this word and add a comma? Mmm, is a comma considered as a word? Gosh! Why is this limited with 250 words but not between 250 or 300?”
  • Happy as a kid: The excitement I had whenever I see a comment in my inbox.
  • Me, the magician: Ordering the inbox with a bossy manner. “Inbox, Inbox! I order you to be bold.” (so I could see that I had mail.)
  • Super disturbing: The anger I felt if it was one of those spam or forwarded e-mails.
  • Sense the presence of the blogathon spirit all the time: Approaching every little situation in and outside the classroom as a potential blog post.
  • I admit: The anger and panic during the technical problem in the process of readers’ voting. (Luckily we were all officially evaluated by the professional team of the British Council.)
  • I am available: Making myself available even at lunch and break times to read posts and comment on them.
  • Feeling flattered: Cooperation and support of all fellow bloggers and other readers. Post and comments from famous bloggers.
  • A bump in the road: Facebook and Twitter. I did not have any chance to share my posts on social network because I deactivated my accounts for some reason then. (Fortunately, they are active right now.)
  • Trusting my instincts: The day I decided to start my own blog. Apparently it worked out:)

Never forget! Everything happens for a reason :)

This post was first published here.