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Transforming Lives: Tamaulipas to Turkey

11 April 2013

WHEN EDUARDO LUNA TOLD HIS PARENTS that he wanted to study abroad in Turkey, they were a bit apprehensive.

“Their only experience with any Turkish culture was ‘Midnight Express,’” said the senior government major. “So, needless to say, they were very worried.”

If Luna was going to study abroad, he decided he wasn’t going to take the easy way out. He wanted to go somewhere exciting, different, and off the beaten path.

“The best advice I have ever been given,” he said, “is, ‘go to all the crazy places when you're young. Save Paris and London for when you’re old.’”

But Luna’s voyage to the distinctly Eurasian, East-meets-West country did not end up anything like the notorious 1978 film, which portrayed the true story of one traveller’s unfortunate stint in a Turkish prison. Far from it, he said. Indeed, the experience was more liberating than anything else. For Luna, the summer he spent in Turkey not only enriched his college education, it also changed his life.

Hailing from the Tamaulipas region in Mexico, Luna grew up in Matamoros, a border city across the river from Brownsville, Texas. Yet growing up in one culture, attending college in another, and living abroad in what seemed at the surface to be a wildly different culture taught Luna one thing – how similar we all really are.

While in Turkey, Luna became close friends with several Turkish students. Despite some language barriers, he quickly realized how similar their personalities were to his friends back in Mexico.

His roommate was Turkish and his classes were a mix of Turkish and American students. He spent the weekends hanging out with his Turkish friends, learning their customs, and reveling in how much they had in common.

“The way I joked around with all the guys was very reminiscent of the way I acted around my Mexican friends,” he said. “I was most definitely not expecting that.”

Between seeing the sights of Capadoccia and Ankara, and the immersion into Turkish customs and way of life, Luna left learning the most important lesson of them all.

“Studying abroad challenges you,” he said. “It's not easy. It's not meant to be easy.

“It definitely made me realize just how similar many cultures are worldwide. It also opened my eyes to how similar we all are regardless of culture or ethnicity. It was definitely a very personal and deeply moving experience for me.”

By Forrest Burnson
Photographs courtesy of Eduardo Luna

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