My story

So Who am I?

Imagine a small idyllic village in communist Bulgaria.  People live in “adobe” houses, basically made of mud and straw. There are no indoor toilets, let alone electricity.

Half a century ago, on a cold December night, a little girl was born. They named her Türkan. Yes, that girl is me.

We were an extended Muslim Turkish family of 10: me, my younger sister, my parents, my uncle’s family and my grandparents, 3 generations lived under the same roof.

I was only 5, when my parents moved to a small town for better job opportunities. I couldn’t hear from them for weeks, because we didn’t have phones or Skype, back then.

I knew they were working day and night to prepare a better future for me and my sister, but I felt abandoned. Very early in life, I learned to take care of myself and be self-sufficient.

Since I can remember, I had an interest towards languages. My teachers praised me for my Bulgarian language skills. However, my mother tongue was weak, because speaking Turkish was forbidden in Bulgaria.


Due to ethnic segregation towards the Turkish minority, my family decided to immigrate to Turkey. I was 10 years old at that time and had just finished 3rd grade.

In Turkey, I had to work twice as hard as my classmates in order to catch up with them.
Adapting to Turkey wasn’t easy, to say the least. It was a culture shock.

On top of that, my parents had financial problems, so they sent me to boarding school when I was 16. After graduation, I bought myself an encyclopedia, which ignited my curiosity about foreign countries and cultures.

Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that someday I would travel to 23 countries, and study 7 languages including Finnish and Japanese, two of the world’s most difficult languages.

More challenges:

Fast forward 20 years… Before moving to Finland, I lived in Ireland for some years.
I was already 39 when I moved to Finland and I couldn’t speak a single word in Finnish.

I had to start from “scratch” and adapt one more time. I studied the language tirelessly for 3 years and eventually found a job as a community interpreter.

My working languages are Finnish, Turkish and English. Since 2010 I have helped 100’s if not 1000’s of immigrants to communicate with the Finnish officials, who provide a wide range of social services.

The year 2011 was the turning point of my life.
Where were you when the great earthquake and tsunami hit Japan? Do you remember?
I remember vividly. I was in the hospital trying to recover from my surgery…

I had been diagnosed with … cancer. My doctor was telling me:
“Consider yourself lucky, as if you hit the jackpot! It was caught at an early stage.”

As Rumi said: “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
They also say: “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

After the initial shock, and spending many sleepless nights worrying:
“Is the doctor telling me the truth? Am I going to survive?”
I realized: I always wanted to win the lottery and travel to Japan someday.

I call my illness: “sensei”, which means teacher or master in Japanese.
It accelerated my desire to learn and travel more. More importantly, it taught me to wake up every morning with an attitude of gratitude.

I started practicing AIKIDO and learning Japanese. I made a lot of Japanese friends and I got to visit Japan not once but twice. I was absolutely enchanted with Japan’s beautiful nature, ancient architecture, delicious food and the kindness of the Japanese people.

I’m not a religious person, but I remember thinking:
If there is Heaven, this must be it! Even if I die tomorrow, I would die as a happy person.

Also, I’m interested in personal development and continuous learning is one of my core values. As part of my “Expand your comfort zone” Project, I want to overcome my limiting beliefs such as “public speaking is not for me”.

So who am I?
Long story short: I am an inquisitive, adaptable, resourceful, resilient and an evolving human being. A world citizen, who is passionate about learning languages and exploring the world.

I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
七転び八起き」 “Nana korobi ya oki” This is a Japanese proverb and it means:
Fall down 7 times, stand up 8”.

Regardless of who you are, where you come from and what you’ve been through, you are way stronger than you think you are. Please, don’t wait until you win the lottery or get diagnosed with cancer in order to fulfill your dreams!