How to help a young man (dual Turkish-Pakistani citizenship) pursue his education in Western country?
June 29, 2008 5:37 AM   Subscribe

How to help a young man (dual Turkish-Pakistani citizenship) pursue his education in Western country?

We have been travelling in Turkey for a month or so. Recently we met a bright, well-mannered, well-spoken young man (25 years old) whom we would like to help out if we can. His father is Pakistani (ethnic Mongolian) and his mother is Turkish but they are divorced. He has dual citizenship of those two countries and speaks English, Urdu, Persian, and Turkish. He does not feel like he belongs in either country and would like to pursue his education in the West. He has had two years of college and has served the mandatory Turkish military duty. As one can imagine, it is difficult to get around with either of his passports!

- Have other people been in this situation (met someone while travelling who needs some help)? What kind of help is most useful? What are some dos and donts? Any words of wisdom in general?
- I gathered from a quick search that to enlist in the US military one needs to be a legal resident. Has this changed at all? Are there noncombatant opportunities eg as translator?
- Any practical advice for student visa process for US, Canada or Australia? I gather it is a 6+ month process. Is that about right? I also read that the student needs to demonstrate a 12 month supply of funds. Is that correct?

I know that everybody and his uncle wants to get into the US and it is not a trivial process. My husband is a softie though and likes to help out his fellow man. Any information or advice would be very much appreciated!
posted by ebellicosa to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: By the way he does not have much money for himself and is obliged to support his extended family.
posted by ebellicosa at 5:39 AM on June 29, 2008

I would advise you to look at the international student section of a large state university or a prominent private university; for example, some that take in large numbers of international students are Harvard, Yale, my own university University of Wisconsin - Madison, and University of California - Berkeley. They have extensive information on what international students need.

He will need these things:
- enough funds to demonstrate he can pay his tuition and support himself in the United States
- an H-1 (student) visa
- a passport, of course

He will need to do these things:
- take the TOEFL, which is a test of English comprehension
- submit the international student application to the universities of his choice
- take the requisite standardized tests
posted by kldickson at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2008

Correction: he needs an F-1 visa.

He also needs to file an application with SEVIS.
posted by kldickson at 6:37 AM on June 29, 2008

What skills does he have besides linquistics? Many European nations offer priority to skilled immigrants. It's really a question of determining what he can do and then pitching appropriately.

I worked in Frankfurt, Germany for maybe six months, and there were loads of Turkish people living there. Some were just there to acquire capital, fully intending to return home while others wouldn't dream of leaving. Mrs Mutant is Dutch, we keep a second flat there and Amsterdam also has a large group of guest workers.

We currently live in London, and the UK is trying to attract skilled immigrants.

I wouldn't bother with the US (I'm an American who has been living in Europe for eleven years so I can say that!) for lots of reasons, difficulty in immigrating being near the top of the list.

Not only would certain European nations be closer, I suspect it would be easier for him to get a temporary work permit and perhaps even permanent residence, should that be what he's after.

Ok meeting people while traveling: yeh, I've been all over the Middle East and Africa and have heard my fair share of such tales (I'm a friendly Country Boy and like your husband, inclined to help if I can). So, do - just what you're doing now. Offering alternatives and information to this chap. Maybe purchase him a meal or buy his services as a guide to help you see parts of the city or country you'd otherwise miss.

Don't - be giving this person money, even if you're so inclined. Get something in return - charity is degrading and if he's real he won't want a handout. Also don't pitch ridiculous sums for guide work, etc. Find out market and add a little, maybe 20% as a premium 'cause he's a trusted and known party.

Keep in mind that $100 for you and I isn't that much, dinner out for two perhaps. But in some parts of the world, like where you currently are, someone can live, perhaps even live well, for a year on such a sum. Scams are common - your time there is short, and these tales of woe can be successfully pitched maybe a dozen times a month. I worked in Cairo for a long time, heard it all, and learned from folks living there just how this operates. I don't mean to be snide about your acquaintance, I'm sure he's a great guy - but a little cynicism will protect both parties.

Also don't pass along any personal details / address / etc. A friend of mine did so while we were in Cairo, and it turned into a big problem that someone showed up at Heathrow and gave her name and address as a reference and the place he'd be residing during his time in England. You don't need those kinds of problems.

And don't fully trust either. You've just met this person. No need to turn what seems like a pleasant experience to date into a miserable memory. You don't know this guy and the wide gulf in wealth might cause inappropriate behaviour.
posted by Mutant at 6:43 AM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

yeah, the US doesn't sound like a good idea, especially since he doesn't simply need a scholarship but he also needs to work to support his family. Germany is a better match, the Turkish community there is huge.
posted by matteo at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2008

I've been in this situation - Eastern European citizenship, no money to fund my studies, but wild desire to get Western education no matter what.

I managed to get my MBA through World Bank Scholarship, and I know from my personal experience that there are numerous funding options even for those who don't have much money. In Europe, practically every country offers some sort of financial aid programs for foreign students. There is Swedish Institute Scholarships, there are scholarship programs from British Council, and so on.

For studying in the US the only two options I know about are the World Bank program I already mentioned, and Muskie Foundation Scholarship, although competition for both of them is quite intense.

He might also look into studying in Canada. In the states (and I think, in other countries as well) students are allowed to work, but only on campus. Canada goes one step further and allows off-campus jobs for international students. He'll still need to find some initial/partial funding to get into a Canadian university, though.

There is a good site that I just Googled up -- -- it could be a good place to start with his research. All that is needed from that young man is the drive to make it happen and some encouragement along the way (that I am sure you'll be able to offer him!).

Good luck!
posted by cst at 9:58 AM on June 29, 2008

I totally feel for you. I live in Armenia and I encounter great people all the time that I want to help. Unfortunately you can't help them all and sometimes "helping" just takes people down the wrong path. To be honest with you, at least in Armenia and other Former Soviet Republics, people that have the smarts (book and street) and balls to get into an American university have already take the first steps to figure out how to get into school in the U.S. The ones that haven't figured out the first few steps are going to have a much harder time navigating life in the United States. And then someone is going to need to help them. And that someone may end up being you. (It ended up being me.) And these bumps in the road can vary - for example, extreme credit card debt. And then what do you do as the "helper"? I also only have helped students that I've known for at least a year and know their families and trust them. Although this young man sounds very nice, you really don't know him at all.

With allt hat being said...

I have to warn you that 1. it is EXTREMELY tough to get over to university in the U.S. I help a kid who came in with excellent English, good SAT scores, and we had to BEG her way into an American university. SOME schools give full rides, but generally those are for students with nearly perfect SAT scores and they are few and far between.

As others have said, here are few of the steps he's going to need to take (and they aren't cheap (estimate at least $1000):
- Take TOEFL and do extremely well on it.
- Take SAT/ACT and do extremely well on it.
- Get high school and any university transcripts professionally translated. Many universities require that they be translated by an official transcript translation service, which is extremely expensive.
- He's going to need to prepare evidence of how much his family has money/assets/etc. - and Turkey isn't a totally impoverished country, so one can imagine that his family at least has a home or something. This WILL count against him.
- Check out this list of schools that offer full rides. His SAT/grades/TOEFL needs to EXCEED their requirements.

Then the application process begins. Often international students have to pay more to apply, and these can really add up. And for international students, they might not understand that these applications are really competitive. He needs to spend lots of time on the essays and application materials.

And then it is a waiting game. He may get accepted to all sorts of schools, but what REALLY MATTERS IS THE MONEY. Will he get a full ride or not? Some schools will give a tuition waiver, but that's really not enough. A student needs to have at least $30k/year. Taking out student loans is tough without an American co-signer (and I would not recommend that you co-sign for him.)

If he does get a true 4-year full ride offer - EXCELLENT!

The university will take care of sending him a visa invitation letter and he'll go to the American Embassy and apply for a visa (more $$$) and hopefully get it. Then he'll fly to the U.S. (~$1000) and hopefully land at the university city. This is possibly the easiest part of it all, although often the most painful.

Choosing a major that will actually apply when he is back home is important. Economics, medicine, engineering, etc. BUT mind you, after 4 years, coming back home and making piddly squat for a wage is going to drive him crazy. He may try to stay in the U.S., which is tough as well. If he has any debt from his school years (and he probably will, even if he does work while in school - which he can do, on-campus, 20 hours/week), he'll still be on the hook for that.

Also, what about breaks? If you guys are the ONLY people he knows in the U.S., are you ready to host him for the Winter Break? Summer Break? What about the short breaks? Maybe he'll make friends quickly and can go home with them, but don't count on it.

So, summarizing what I have experienced on a few occasions, it is really really really tough. As others have suggested, you're better off wishing him well in Turkey and letting things be as they are.
posted by k8t at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2008

BTW - 95% of people who tell me "I wanna move to America" I know are going to have a lot problems getting there.

Also the myths about moving to America are widespread. It is actually somewhat common for people here in Armenia to believe that the U.S. government gives people homes and cars (granted, here in Armenia, especially outside of the capitol, no one could imagine having to buy or rent one's own home). People don't realize how tough life can be in America and how unforgiving Americans can be. (Ex. how people react to poor English.)

With a cab driver, I mostly just nod, but in situations where people keep on asking me about it...

I say (if pressed) something like this (except to like, 85 year old men that will never get there anyway), "Wow. That's really great. America is a nice country. You know though, there are a lot of great things about Armenia (or whatever country) too. Here people really care about each other. Families and friends are so close. In America, most families and friends don't take care of each other like they do here. (And I'll give an example such as how my parents haven't given me money since I was 18 and how this is normal or that after my baby is born, my parents and in-laws will come visit for a week or so, but they don't live with us to help.)"

If the person still presses I will say, "As I understand it, it is very difficult and expensive to get a visa to move to the United States. You need to have a job in America or be accepted to a university."

If still pressed, I will actually tell them about how many of the illegal Armenian immigrants in the United States are living in apartments of 5 families with 20 people in 3 rooms and how they can't open bank accounts or drive cars and after all that their kids might go to university, but won't be able to get a legal job because they are illegal too and then end up working illegal jobs just like their parents.

Hopefully during a short holiday you won't have to get into such in-depth conversations about immigration, but I do multiple times a day, so it is as the forefront of my mind.
posted by k8t at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2008

Believe k8t and mutant. Everybody wants to go to the West, but the people that have their shit together have already done the basic research on their own, and are not relying on the chance help of a random new Western friend.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2008

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