Turkish visitors see America, South through Rotary program

Pam Lightsey (center), the assistant governor of Rotary District 6920, stands with the Turkish group that recently visited Augusta. The group - Ilkin Sengun (from left), Elif Cevlik, Onur Ozer, Ilknur Ozer and Deniz Alpan- visited as part of a cultural exchange through Rotary International.

After she returns to Turkey, Iknur Ozer will never forget one of the things the South is famous for – its hospitality.


“Everybody is very kind. You feel like a family member,” said Ozer, one of five Turkish citizens and leader of a team, which will spend a month in Georgia as part of a Rotary International group study exchange team. The group was in Augusta May 12-15.

Instead of staying in hotels during their visit, team members have stayed in the homes of Rotarians throughout the district. Their stops have included Valdosta, St. Simons, Jekyll Island and Savannah.

“They come to parts of the country they wouldn’t normally see if they were visiting a big city as a tourist,” said Pam Lightsey, assistant governor for Rotary District 6920.

In some cities, they also have had the opportunity to see their American counterparts perform their occupations. Ozer, a psychologist, shadowed a fellow psychologist at work in Savannah on Friday.

While in Augusta, the group toured the city, according to Lightsey.

They learned about the medical community and toured downtown Augusta, shopping at the Saturday market. Also, they took a ride on the Augusta Canal and visited the Morris Museum of Art.

“The history is very interesting for me in Augusta,” Ozer said.

She also found it unusual that people kept busy after the work day was through.

“In my country, when you come home from work, everybody wants to rest,” she said.

Other differences in the cultures included another Southern phenomena – sweet tea.

“In Turkey, we drink tea, but it’s hot tea. You drink cold tea; it’s very interesting,” she said.

The Turkish team returns home on Sunday.

Because it was an exchange, a group from Augusta also visited Turkey during the same time frame.

Jamie Quarles, the Augusta State University men’s assistant basketball coach, represented District 6920 as the head of the team that traveled to Turkey. The team left on May 2 and will return on June 1.



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