BMCC’s International Students

August 28, 2006

International students add yet another layer of diversity at BMCC, where minorities already comprise the majority of students at every level. An open cultural exchange is just one of the advantages of having so many foreign students milling about the College. Some international students here at BMCC are luckier than others, however. Those who’ve organized well and found the right leadership are members of active social clubs within the Student Government Association. Clubs like the Caribbean Students Club and the Dominican Students Association create a support system for students living in a foreign country without family and friends from their homelands. In addition to regional-specific clubs, there are a few others, such as The Student Global Alliance, which are open to all students, even American-born ones.


Even though Kansu Baydede (BMCC, ’06) and Murad Abishov (BMCC, ’07) do not share the same nationality, they’re part of the same informal club based on a cultural connection. Kansu is Turkish while Murad is Azerbaijani. Both speak Turkish.

Without strong student leadership, BMCC’S Turkish Club dissolved over a year ago, but friendships remained strong. With the more informal club that emerged in its place, overlapping nationalities have created new hope for establishing another club in the future—possibly one that accepts students like Murad.

Kansu Baydede
Turkish International Student, BMCC ’06

Born in Ankora, Kansu’s family moved to Istanbul when his father’s business relocated him. He left Turkey in 2001 with his childhood friend Serhat. They came to New York City when they were 18-years-old. Kansu’s aunt already lived in Brooklyn, so the two lived with her for a year, until she moved back to Turkey. Kansu stayed.

“I’m lucky to have inherited her apartment,” Kansu admitted. “It was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. Taking in a whole new culture at 18 is not easy to do alone. If she hadn’t been here, it would’ve been much more difficult. I don’t know how the others who come here alone do it.”

In Turkey, most students live with their families while they study. They stay home until they marry. For that reason, most of the Turkish students who move to the states are male, though there are female Turkish students at BMCC too.

The informal club is made up of approximately fifteen regular members. Like a mini version of the school run ones, they do as all club members do: meet, drink, eat, go out. They love to cook dishes from back home.

“My aunt used to cook once a week for all my friends. I learned from her. Now I cook all the time for my friends,” Kansu said. “I make dolma with peppers and tomatoes and dough with meat-fillings. My mom was visiting for New Year’s and she made so much food, there was still some left in my freezer for months! I shared it with friends.”

Kansu is finishing his four-year degree at Baruch, where he plans to major in either advertising or business. His English is nearly perfect because studied the language in Turkey, knowing he’d be moving here to finish his education.

“Not my aunt, though,” Kansu explained. “She lived here for ten years and she wouldn’t learn English. Some of my Turkish friends only speak English now, but most of us try to speak Turkish too—just to practice.”

According to Kansu roughly half of his friends studying abroad want to live in the U.S permanently. When asked if he wants to stay in New York after graduating, Kansu didn’t hesitate to say no.

“It’s not the same as being home. It can never be,” he explained. “Besides, I have a girl I love back home named Duygu. I miss her.”

Murad Abishov
Azerbaijani International Student, BMCC ‘07

After the official Turkish Club disbanded, Murad still continued to spend most of his time with Turkish students at BMCC. He’s very much a part of the new informal club, which meets regularly at Kansu’s apartment for food and conversation.

“I’m not Turkish but Azerbaijani. We speak Turkish too, just a little differently. The food is the same, though,” he explained, “and we call Turkey ‘the brother country.’”

When asked why he doesn’t belong to any other clubs, Murad said he didn’t have the time. “Plus,” he added, “the other clubs don’t interest me. I was asked to join the Muslim Club, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Religion has become very political. For me, it’s very personal. I follow the rules but I’m not very strict about them. I just try to be good to others and myself.”

Murad, who came to live in Minnesota as a high school exchange student, speaks Russian, Turkish, and Azeri Turkish. He’s still working hard to perfect his English, however.

“I got into City College, failed the ACT reading test so I came to BMCC to brush up on my English. I’ve been taking ESL classes, and this semester is my last remedial course. I hope to eventually return to City College, where I want to study International Relations.”

Murad likes living with his older brother, who studies Eastern History and Economics at Pace University. His mother and father take turns coming to the U.S to visit the two of them. Murad does, however, occasionally feel homesick despite the frequent visits and the personal freedom he enjoys here.

“I like being alone and making my own decisions,” Murad said. “When I lived at home it wasn’t fun. Even with my exchange family, there were many rules I had to follow but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss Azerbaijan.”

Like Kansu, Murad plans to return to his homeland after graduation.

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