“509 Theresa”

While many things are the same everywhere, there is a big difference between here and the States related to education and jobs.  In the States, one takes the SAT exam, and with that score, applies to universities of their choosing.  Once in school, they select their major course of study, usually at any time.  Of course, the sooner the better, because if you wait too long you may have to stay longer than four years to complete the degree.  Along the way, you can change your major at any time, and of course, add the necessary courses if needed, extending your stay.  But hey, these are supposed to be the best years of your life, right?  So why not make them longer?!

Once graduated, the search for a career can be a long and grueling process.  But in the States, it is just as likely for one to go into the field they studied as not.  For example, a trained lawyer may end up selling a product related to the law, or training lawyers to use their products.

In Turkey, one takes an exam and selects a few universities, but the university is then selected for them.  They also select their major immediately.  If they want to change majors, I am told they need to take another exam and start all over again.  It’s rarely done.

It’s just as difficult here in Turkey to get a job as it is everywhere else.  But it is less likely for a Turk to get a job in another field than they studied.  And I find that it may also be looked down upon.  “Come on, you are a lawyer and you want to do marketing?  Reeeeaaaaalllllyyyyy?” (Inferred that there may just be something wrong upstairs!)

Another difference, Turks rarely work while studying.  Their school workload is rather heavy.  But I am assuming, parents support them regardless of the studies.

In the States, it is the chosen few who do not have to work their way through college.  Most work at least in the summer at whatever job — landscaping, waitressing, office work.  It’s not just necessary for us to have a little spending money, it is also a huge life lesson.  Americans don’t often recognize that.  But things we learn along the way, like how to cope with co-workers, are really useful in our professional lives.

I have worked in many fields in my life.  I cooked, waitressed, and tended bar in restaurants.  I worked in the courthouse in the Bail Agency and with the Public Defenders.  I served manual laborers from a food truck.  I cared for mentally handicapped in their home.  I answered phones at law offices.  I sold accessories to women in a department store at the mall.

But the absolute best job I ever had was selling trees and shrubs to landscapers at Waterloo Gardens.  It was a huge family run store.  We grew our own plants in addition to those we sold.  We had a wonderful gift shop with high-end items.  We created mazes for children.  We decorated at Christmas like no body else could!

Waterloo - where I learned that a proper Christmas tree has about 3000 lights, has a light on the tip of every branch, and takes about 8 hours to do!

Waterloo – where I learned that a proper Christmas tree has about 3000 lights, has a light on the tip of every branch, and takes about 8 hours to do!

Wholesale!  Loved it!  I did this job towards the end of law school and for a good bit afterwards.  I worked full-time in sales and worked for sole-practitioners writing briefs on the side.

Who wouldn’t love a job that made you thin sheerly by the physical manual labor — pushing and pulling, lifting and moving, raking and tagging.  I was a dark tan from the burning sun.  Absolutely loved the days when it poured rain as I worked even harder because it was so much fun.  It was at Waterloo that I finally learned to love the snow.

I met some of the greatest people ever there.  A boss who thanked me for my work at the end of each day.  A great group of guys in wholesale who never failed to make me laugh!

The landscapers were 95% male.  They worked hard and were tired.  They spent little time with their loved ones during high season.  It quickly became my job to flirt with each and every one.  And they ordered using the proper botanical names – in Latin!  Hell, I flirted with the women too!

Who wouldn’t love a job when on any given day, you would walk into a plot of plants in full bloom!  Literally 6 or 7 huge beds of rhododendron blooming the same morning!  Maple trees turning bright orange and burning red at the same time!

Waterloo - where my passion for Passion Flowers began!

Waterloo – where my passion for Passion Flowers began!

And I did it all for minimum wage, because I wanted to.  I didn’t want to leave this job to practice law.  Crazy?  Not by my standards.  Although I eventually did leave.

Young people in Turkey are missing out on these wonderful experiences.

Today I learned that Waterloo is closing after 71 years.  The end of an era.  I want to thank them for the memories.  And a special thanks to Wholesale, “507” Kevin & Richard, best bosses ever, and to “509”, all the others in Nursery and Wholesale. (Who wouldn’t love a job where you got to use walkie talkies and code numbers?!)  We had great times, save the passing of one of our own at a young age.  I hope to see you all again one day!

Waterloo Gardens, Exton – Photo courtesy of the Daily Local News.
Click the photo for the full story at DLN.

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6 thoughts on ““509 Theresa”

  1. “Another difference, Turks rarely work while studying. Their school workload is rather heavy. But I am assuming, parents support them regardless of the studies.”

    Turks do work while studying, unless they happen to have an scholarship [TUBITAK, for instance, offers really good scholarships, also many private universities such as Bilkent grant good scholarships to a fair percentage of their students] and/or got a loan. Few are fully supported by their parents, although some families send some money. Still, most can’t afford supporting their children while they are in college. Most of my classmates do work, either as waiters/waitress, giving private lessons, working on a shop, a bank, etc. There are even students who work as dolmus drivers.

    Studying in Turkey is cheaper than in the States. In many universities Turkish students don’t even pay tuition fees. But supporting yourself in cities like Ankara or Istanbul, or even in smaller ones such as Eskisehir, is very expensive and definitely students will have to have some extra income if they want to make ends meet.

    • Hello Reyhan. It’s interesting how your experience is completely different from my research. I have asked hundreds of Turks if they worked during school. Other than internships, I haven’t gotten a positive response. I believe my husband has had a small handful of students who work. So I will have to stand by my “rarely” unless you can show me some numbers.

      Scholarships, grants, and loans are also very common in the States as is support by parents. And I agree that education in Turkey is waaaay cheaper. I sense you think I was being disrepectful, and I regret that. To me, there is another thing that plays into the support by parents here. In the States, we can wait to leave home! Our parents often feel the same way! LOL. But in Turkey, families are much closer in this sense. I even know families who have moved to the city where their child goes to school. And parents who consider moving to the States while their kids go to school there. So while Turkish dorms are completely full, I do believe more live at home with their parents. Of course, I have no data on that. Do you?

      Always good to hear from you, and would definitely love to hear from you sometime when you actually agree with me!

  2. Interesting post! Glad to see you back writing! 🙂 I also worked all through college with at one point even having 3 part-time jobs to pay my rent/bills and still go to school full-time. In my mid-20s, I also worked in a greenhouse/farm in Kansas during the spring/summer season just to make a little extra money. I loved it!

    • Thanks for sharing Joy. I went to law school at night, one less class per semester works out to one more year of school. Four evenings and Saturday! In my first year, I worked a 45-hour full-time job in a law firm and three part-time jobs! Loved it too!

  3. I would like to continue this interesting thread with the case of China, my home country, if you don’t mind.

    In most cases, students take the National College Entrance Exam and use that score to apply to a limited numbers of colleges. While they are applying to colleges, they also have to decide their major because every major admits only a certain number of students. Once they are admitted, they have only one opportunity to change their major in their second year. However, only a few could succeed due to limited vacancies available to them. The majority of college students can expect to graduate after the 4th year. (except for architecture-majored ones)

    There are 7 million college graduates in 2013 (nearly equal to the population of Ankara), the highest number in record. Considering this big number and the downward economy, it is very common that students to land a job irrelevant to their major.

    The tuition fee is around 5000 RMB (816$) per academic year (way too cheaper than the US hah), which is affordable to most of families. And students are advised to concentrate on their school work. (It is deemed rather shameful to stay longer in college.) So doing part-time is not common in China.

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