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Ayse Yetim Finds Life Here Just Right

Part of an occasional series highlighting University of Virginia employees who have taken advantage of the adult education benefit.

August 17, 2011 — Ayse Yetim prefers small-town life, and is happier in Charlottesville than in the big city of Istanbul, Turkey, which she left five years ago.

Before moving, she and her family liked what they had heard about this part of America from a relative who earned a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. Yetim and her husband asked for his assistance in applying for green cards to come to the U.S.

"We knew zero English when we came here," Yetim said, taking a few minutes from her housekeeping job, cleaning residence halls, to talk. Now they own a home and both have good jobs, she said. Her husband works for Aramark at Newcomb Hall.

She also is happy her two children are getting such a good education here, she said. Her oldest, a daughter, is attending Piedmont Virginia Community College and is planning to transfer to a four-year college next year, taking advantage of the Virginia transfer agreement program. Her son is a senior at Albemarle High School.

Yetim, too, is a student. She is taking English as a Second Language class and is thankful U.Va. offers the program, she said.

Since 2002, the University has contracted with Charlottesville's Adult Learning Center to deliver classes in English as a second language, or ESL, for non-native speakers. The center provides the instructors and the materials; U.Va. pays the fees and holds the classes on Grounds. Also offered are General Educational Development classes toward a GED certificate.

It's overwhelming sometimes to be working and taking courses, but she'd like even more class hours, she said. Her writing has improved to the point that she won one of the top prizes in the Adult Education Program for her essay, "Birthday Surprise," published this spring in the "Voices of Adult Learners" booklet.

In the story, she recalls how her husband gave her a surprise for her birthday, but first she had to find the present by playing a game that will sound familiar to people who've grown up the U.S.

"The game, as we call it in Turkey, is 'Sickak or Soguk,'" Yetim wrote. "This translates in English to 'Hot or Cold.'" She had a hard time finding her gift and was getting impatient, when she spied a beautiful ring.

"When I remember that I had been frustrated during my party, it makes me laugh to see how silly it was. Now I thank God for my husband's generosity, and for my beautiful family," she wrote.

After describing her job and life here in the U.S., Yetim headed out for a meeting with her co-workers and the new crop of student resident advisers, all getting ready for the beginning of the fall semester. She's going to take another ESL class in mid-September.

— By Anne Bromley

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