Turks prefer Massachusetts for academia

Doga Dogan says he chose MIT because there was a good opportunity in his field. (Photo credit: Sumeye Dalkilinc)

By Sumeye Dalkilinc

For Turkish nationals, Massachusetts is one of the best places for academia because it’s the home of MIT, considered one of the top academic research universities in the world.

Hosting some of the world’s best institutes of higher learning, such as MIT and Harvard University, Massachusetts is one of the number one addresses of people who dream of a career in academia.

Turkey is ranked 15th in the list of countries sending the most students. (Table credit: Sumeye Dalkilinc)

So, in recent years, many Turks who were looking for a place in academia have preferred this state because of its advantages. The Turks come here because it’s faster to get access to materials needed for research, the state provides network, and work experience from the state’s top industries is an essential criterion for future job applications.

“Even if you want to be a research assistant in Europe or Turkey, having experience in the USA is a very important criterion,” says Ahmet Bekdemir, a 32-year-old postdoctoral associate at MIT. He says that a degree from an American university, especially from MIT or Harvard, has incredible prestige and provides a great opportunity in every place, in the world.

“You always try to go one step higher in academia. The school I went to in Europe was already one of the top two schools in there. If I stayed in Europe, the schools I would go to after that would not have been much better. So the USA was the only option for me,” says Bekdemir.

Many people have chosen the United States of America for a better education. Because, the States

was chosen as the most prolific publisher of high-quality science in the world in 2018, according to the to the Nature Index, a database on scientific research.

This success attracts international students. According to the most recent Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education, a report on international and U.S. higher education, there are slightly more than a million international students who study in the USA. And these students make up 5.5 percent of the total U.S. higher education population.

So some of Turks, who want to pursue a career in academia, prefer this state.

One of these is faster progress at institutes in Massachusetts. In other words, there is less bureaucracy, so it’s faster to get access to materials needed for research. These institutes just focus on science and set a high value on the scientist.

According to the MIT, there are 46 Turks study there. (Table credit: Sumeye Dalkilinc)

“There is a lot of opportunities to do research,” says Doga Dogan, a 25-year-old Turkish Ph.D. student in the department of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who is as part of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, adding that it seems like financial resources are unlimited.

Dogan, who decided to progress in academia after earning his bachelor’s degree in the electrical and electronics engineering department at Bogazici University, had to make a choice. Because the best universities in the world are in the USA, he mostly applied there for his Ph.D.

Then, he had to decide on getting a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, or MIT. “There was a good opportunity here in my field, so I chose MIT,” says Dogan, adding that resources are generous for researchers there.

However, a similar process to apply for financial resources takes a long time in Turkey. For the technical equipment needed in school, firstly it is requested to the authorized places. It takes up to one month for your request to receive confirmation. “Sometimes the confirmation doesn’t come, then you send the second e-mail,” says Dogan.

“Then the confirmation comes, but this time you need to give money from your pocket. Then you take the invoice and wait for that money to be returned to you. So it can be very bureaucratic, slowing work,” says Dogan.

But people who are approved and come to Massachusetts for their education don’t need to think about these kinds of things in here, because MIT has a world-renowned reputation and there are lots of grant money. They have all they need to focus on their research. “So, such small details can make a big difference,” says Dogan.

Omer Karaduman says that MIT was the best among the schools that he has accepted.         (Photo credit: Omer Karaduman)

Omer Karaduman, a 28-year-old, Ph.D. candidate at MIT studying industrial organization, energy and environmental economics, and market design, is another who prefers Massachusetts for academia.

“In the field of economics, the reputation of the schools in the USA is higher than the schools in Europe. I applied to 25 to 26 schools in total,” says Karaduman, who graduated from Bilkent, one of Turkey’s top universities. “But I preferred this place because MIT was the best among the schools that I have accepted,” says Karaduman.

Professional networking provided by the state is another important factor that plays a role in Karaduman’s preference. Being successful in academia is related to being published in reputable scholarly journals. “If you want to see your publication in the best places, you need to know some people,” says Karaduman, adding that you can get to know those people at MIT.

He adds that degrees from top universities in Massachusetts open doors more easily in the world, including in their home countries. That is why Massachusetts is one of the most attractive destinations for Turks, Karaduman says.

Ahmet Bekdemir says that the state has so many opportunity. (Photo credit: Sumeye Dalkilinc)

In addition to great universities, Massachusetts also has industries with high-paying jobs. For example, if a spouse of someone who is academically rising wants to pursue a career in the private sector, Massachusetts promises more than many other states in this sense.

“When I earned my Ph.D. degree in the same lab as my wife, she did not want to continue in academia. She wanted to find a job in the industry,” he says. “And in this sense, there was no other state as beneficial as Massachusetts. We chose here because it also offered so many options for my wife.”


About Sumeye Dalkilinc 4 Articles
Sumeye Dalkilinc is an award-winning economics reporter who has worked since 2009. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, and Anadolu Agency. She’s now the research assistant at Emerson College in Boston, MA.