Meet Kemal, my 9-year-old friend who spent a year living in the States

Today’s guest blogger is the son of dear friends.  Kemal is a 9-year-old “almost typical” Turkish boy.  He’s typical in most ways but one, he spent a year living in the United States, learning the English language, going to school, and making new friends.  Reading this, it will be obvious that he had a little help from his Mom.  But I can promise you, this is true Kemal!  He is an exciting and adventurous kid whose grasp of the English language is just tremendous!  I particularly love that he speaks with a Philly accent!  I will have to film his next interview, so that you can enjoy his accent too!

I am 9 years old. I live in Ankara, Turkey. I spent a year in Philadelphia, PA. But before that I stayed in Pullman, WA for a year. I was a year old. I was 7 years old when we moved to Philadelphia. We moved to Philadelphia because my mom was a visiting researcher in Villanova University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“I could live in Lancaster, PA!”

I did not speak English that well before I went to U.S.A. But I was aware of the fact that my Turkish would not work there and I had to learn the language well and fast. It seemed impossible at the beginning but my parents and the family which we stayed together had had made some arrangements.

For example, I was in many summer activities. I was in all kinds of sports camps and I did not understand most of the explanations but I could feel the difference in my comprehension every day. I watched cartoons and movies, played with the kids in the neighborhood. I spent most of my time with the children of the host family. They were  awesome.

“Tired of Eating!!!”

When the school started I was not exactly ready for the first grade in terms of my speaking level of English but my school was very supportive. My English as second language teacher Mrs. Schwartz was helping me tremendously. She helped throughout the school year and she was terrific. She respects different cultures and she organizes international activities.

Waiting for the School Bus

I was so lucky to have Mrs. Jennifer Natow and Miss. Megan Wagner as my class teachers. They helped me to cope with my lectures. My Aunt Nicole was the best of all. She constantly taught me English at home and encouraged me to read books. Believe or not I was one of the best students in Read for Donald in the entire school. Without my teachers and friends learning English would be very difficult.

I forgot to tell you. I attended to Radnor Elementary School (RES), which is the greatest school I have ever been. The school was just perfect and I loved everything about it. I think I liked the system as a whole. Learning was a part of life and fun. Homework was always given except weekends. We always had time to play after school, which means homework was not a burden at all.

I will tell you one of homework assignments: Help grownups in raking the leaves. Another homework was publishing our first story book. We had 15 minute reading assignment every day.  There was a library hour in which we learned about books and checked out a book every week. Many nice programs were adopted by RES, such as, Read for Donald, jump rope for heart, 5 mile run, winter carnival, which make parents, students, teachers and school administration together. The cafeteria was serving healthy food, the school bus was always on time. There were different after school classes. I was in art class. I loved it. I learned what being creative means.

Science Fair at RES

I had many friends there. I think it was easy for me to make friends. We stayed in a house on a street with many kids. Moreover, the host family had twin boys who are two years older than me and they introduced me to their friends. I had Juan Pablo as my best friend. We are the same age and we lived on the same street. Juan Pablo and I played every day and we organized imaginary international baseball league together. I was so happy when I was with him. I miss him so much and you know he promised me to come to Turkey for a visit.

Play Date with Friends

The biggest difference was living with a host family. It was so fun to live with another family having their own routines. I am so thankful to Duran Family since they shared their house and lives with us, I mean me, my mother and my brother. My Aunt Nicole was a very special person and I love her so much. She made me realize my love for music and books. She took me places like creeks, parks, walking trails, and Nifty Fifty. I was so happy when she was around me.

Carving my Pumpkin

My favorite thing in USA was my school. I will never forget RES and my teachers and my friends. My least favorite thing was living far from my relatives in Turkey, but I didn’t miss them so much since we used Skype.

We moved back to Ankara since my mother was affiliated with Villanova University for a year. It was hard to come back to Turkey. I think I really liked living in Philadelphia and when I went to another school I missed RES even more. The education system in Turkey and the USA is so different and I still try to understand why learning is something that you can never do it right. Teachers are different too. But I can tell I make many friends here too and I enjoy playing with them.

My favorite trip to Washington DC

I have many stories to tell. This is one of them. It was a month after we went to the States. In a hot summer day, everybody was at home. Ahmet, Nazim and I were watching TV for some time and my Aunt Nicole told Ahmet and Nazim several times to turn the volume down. I did not understand that much English, but I noticed she was getting angry. She reminded several times and twins did not respond. Finally I screamed and said “Destroy the TV!” Everybody laughed and said that I was learning English.

A big thanks to Kemal!  I for one really enjoyed the story, especially about the TV!  Children never cease to amaze me.  They make things look so easy, like learning a new language and making new friends.  Kemal is an inspiration to me.  Perhaps he can help me with learning Turkish!

14 thoughts on “Meet Kemal, my 9-year-old friend who spent a year living in the States

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    1. Hello Alan,
      I really enjoyed all of this about blogging. I hope Mrs. Theresa will teach me how to make it. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Hello,
      I did not know I would enjoy writing this much. Thanks to you all for the nice comments.

  1. Hi Kemal, what a wonderful adventure you had! I have a 8,5 year old bilingual son, Mark Can, and I can relate so much of what you say to him! Keep traveling, so enjoyed reading your adventure 🙂
    Ozlem (from Surrey, England)

    1. Hello Ozlem,
      Thanks for your comment on my story. Yes I will continue to travel around the world since I think it is so much fun. I would love to meet Can if he visits Turkey.

  2. Hi Kemal, you almost made me cry! We sound like really great people when you describe us! I miss you a lot and wish we could go to the creek right now!
    NIcole Teyze

    1. Hi Nicole & everyone that commented on Kemal’s post! I am so happy to have Kemal for a friend and I hope to have him back on the blog writing more great stories once he’s finished vacation! I am sure when he has a chance, he will respond to you all personally!

      1. Dear Mrs. Theresa,
        Thanks for this opportunity. I loved it. I want to learn blogging and if you can advise me I would be grateful.

      2. Hi Kemal, I really loved working with you on this one! Once we are both back from our summer vacations, I would be happy to help you write your own blog! And you know, you are always welcome to write for my blog again too! Love to you and your family!

    2. My Dear Nicole Teyze,
      I never forget the times we spent together. I remember chatting with Metin Amca (Uncle) while walking Katara. I miss you all and yes Duran’s are real and they are great. Thanks for responding to my story.

  3. Kemal,

    What a beautiful and inspiring post! I’m so glad that Terry had you as a guest on her blog and that you enjoyed your time in the US. Your English and writing style is really impressive; I must say it’s better than most adults here!

    PS-I visited Turkey 5 years ago and it remains one of my favorite places in the world.


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