TRURO, N.S. – Ela Mistikoglu is only 16 years old and thousands of miles from home, but she is already aiming high in life.
An exchange student from Turkey, Mistikoglu has wasted no time since arriving in Truro last fall, racking up a Archery Nova Scotia provincial champion medal and is currently completing a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
“When I first came here it was just like in the movies,” said Mistikoglu, a student at Cobequid Educational Centre. “I watch American movies and it’s just so similar, the buses are yellow and all that stuff.”
She has adapted well to the local culture and even Nova Scotian seafood, while making friends with other exchange students from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Belgium and Spain.
“Everywhere is so green and I love the nature,” said Mistikoglu of Truro. “You’re living with bears and animals here.”
It is all a far cry from Mistikoglu’s hometown of Antakya in southern Turkey, which enjoys a warm, sunny Mediterranean climate and is filled with apartment buildings and shopping malls. She returned to Antakya on March break, visiting with her parents.
In Canada, she speaks with her parents regularly on Skype and also keeps up with her 21-year-old brother Ismet, who is attending university in Istanbul.
For her sojourn in Truro, Mistikoglu’s Canadian parents are Ben Robichaud and Dawn Watters and her exchange sister is their daughter Gabriela.
“I’m so happy to have them, because they just accepted me as one of their family members,” said Mistikoglu. “They’ve always been so nice to me, introduced me to Canadian culture, helped me with everything. They’re just like my second family.”
Having Mistikoglu has been a learning experience for Robichaud and his family too. He does everything a parent will normally do for a teenage daughter, such as picking Mistikoglu up from archery practice last Thursday, or helping her fix a meal.
At the same time, he has enjoyed a taste of Turkey’s rich culture, learning about its history and cuisine through Mistikoglu.
“I still can’t pronounce a thing in Turkish,” said Robichaud.
Nonetheless, he has noticed Mistikoglu working hard on her schoolwork – unlike many teenagers – and is helpful around the house.
Mistikoglu is not the first exchange child hosted by his family, as they had a girl from Italy come live with them last year.
“They become a member of the family,” said Robichaud. We treat her as if she’s our daughter and for the year that she’s here, she is.”
Mistikoglu will return home in June. Having studied as a Grade 10 student in Canada, she will need to study over the summer to catch up with her Turkish schooling.