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ANAMED Newsletter – How has the global pandemic affected your ANAMED fellowship life and associated research?

by Hakan Tarhan, BIAA-ANAMED Joint PhD Fellow (2019-2020)

First of all, I would like to express my profound thanks to the ANAMED administration and Koç University for letting us to stay in ANAMED facilities during the pandemic, as well for continuing to support us financially. This assurance, which was communicated in the early days of the outbreak, surely eliminated some of our major concerns regarding our near future and helped us to focus on our work.

The biggest change we have experienced was in the level of noise that surrounds Istiklal Street and Beyoğlu on a normal day—and night. Due to many businesses switching to home offices, shops being closed, domestic and international travel banned, and people staying at their homes, the most crowded street of Istanbul gradually became emptier and, in the end, turned into a ghost town from a Western movie. Considering the everyday noises of Istiklal, such as the café employees trying to attract people by yelling “çay, kahve, nargile buyrun” or buskers who play for the whole afternoon with their repertoire of two songs, the silence of Istiklal was surely remarkable. This change was a golden opportunity for those of us who continued to stay in ANAMED to work without much distraction.

One of the biggest challenges everyone faced due to the pandemic was to stay indoors, not being able to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air. Furthermore, many people had to live and work in the same space, which in the end caused distress and affected both their physiological and psychological wellbeing. We, as ANAMED fellows, were very fortunate on these matters, since ANAMED has a big terrace that we can use for relaxing and socializing; our study rooms are very spacious and well-ventilated, allowing us to work within the same space while respecting the necessary distancing measures. Thanks to these facilities, I did not feel like I had my back against the wall during the quarantine, and I was able to live and work at peace.

How did these conditions affect my work? As a part of my PhD research and my ANAMED fellowship, I planned to do public opinion surveys in two different towns of Turkey; the surveys comprise face-to-face questionnaires and interviews with local people. This fieldwork was scheduled for the spring term, but because of the pandemic, unfortunately, I had no other choice but to postpone it.  Instead, I focused on reading new material that became available online—again, due to the pandemic—and writing some other parts of my thesis.

Hakan Tarhan, BIAA-ANAMED Joint PhD Fellow, 25 May 2020