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Halil Ibrahim Karakaya

Master’s in Cultural Sociology, graduated in 2020

coming from Turkey, currently working in Brno in a multinational company

Interviewed by Nicolas Gonzales Navas and Michaela Nespěchalová, October 2023

How was your experience at Brno and Masaryk University?

My overall experience was great. In 2016, I was here for Erasmus, and then I decided to return because I loved the city, the university, and the old friends I made. I promised myself that I would return one day for a master's degree. We had a friend group, and we all promised to come here again, but I was the only one who could do it. The city was also a great attraction.

The professors here are really helpful. They are not only professors but also like friends, you know? During my studies, we had many courses, not only in the classroom but also outside. For example, one class was in the Art Museum, and another was in the Roman Museum. We had a lesson with Radim Marada, and he decided to take us to the streets, walking all around the city to discover the buildings. I learned many things not only from the school but also from the city.

Do you remember any professor that was meaningful to you?

I would say Werner Binder because he loves to talk and teach. When he starts talking, it's like there's no boundary for him, and that's a good thing. As students, we didn't get stuck in the classroom. We crossed beyond the classroom and learned many things, not only about the class itself but also about life in general. Sometimes, we went out for a beer with Werner after class and discussed university topics or current situations from a sociological point of view.

Why did you choose cultural sociology? What attracted you?

Well, I studied advertising in my bachelor's, and I wanted to do something other than work precisely in that field. In this world, I would like to understand society because sometimes I feel like I am outside of it. I don't feel that I belong anywhere, and sociology helps to understand everything around the world. It's essential for all countries, politicians, and societies. I was always curious about sociology and decided to pursue it in my master's.

Studying society is sometimes hard, but in the end, you are released. Afterward, you gain a deep understanding of social phenomena, and that helps you comprehend the reasons behind the actions. You're always trying to understand everything, searching for meaning behind what people say and do in this society.

Do you think there's something that you learned during the master's that changed your life?

Well, when I started studying here because in Turkey, the professor drew a clear line in the class, and you couldn't step over it. I thought there would be a typical classroom setup when I came here. The teacher would discuss the course, and after that, the professor will finish the class. I thought it would be like this, but when I experienced it, it was so different. It's not like traditional studying. In the first 30 minutes, the professor talks about the lessons and everything in the class. After that, they allow us to speak more about the course and encourage freedom of speech. We could discuss everything, not just the class, but everything. I mean, there are no borders, lines, or strict rules for discussing a topic. That's the best part of the university. It's not just a building; it's also a school of life. You must form your own opinions and discuss them with your colleagues.

What are your plans for the future?

I've already started writing my draft for the PhD, and I plan to apply in the next semester. I'm saving some money for it as well. Currently, I'm working on some academic papers to publish before I submit my application. I've already discussed the topic and everything with Werner Binder, so I hope to continue my studies at Masaryk University.

Do you have any advice for the upcoming students?

Well, before starting, they should put everything behind them. They should begin by opening a new page, an empty blank page, and they should be the ones writing, not just copying what they are being told. The university will bring many new ideas, and it's important to be open to learning different perspectives about life. Also, I recommend that they enjoy the spaces that the university offers. Sometimes I just go to the university canteen and read my book. I really miss that feeling of being at the faculty. I still go to it even though I'm not a student anymore because the buildings are always open, and anybody can go there.

Knowing that you come from Turkey, what did you enjoy the most about Brno? How was the experience?

I grew up in Istanbul, which has a population of 20 million people, and it's a really chaotic city. After coming here, I found peace; it's calm, and nobody is in a rush. No one is running around the city trying to catch something. Everybody is calm, and I feel everything will be fine. This quietness itself and incredible architecture, along with excellent transportation, is what I enjoy the most. There are many cafes and bars to hang out, and there are also many international students here. When you walk the streets, you can hear many people speaking English around you, plus many other languages from all over the world.

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