“There are lots of students all over the country who would kill to be sitting where you are right now,” said one of our professors in our very first class, “use your chance wisely…”
By Berke Alikasifoglu
That speech was more about the quality of education that we will be receiving here, in the “4th best politics school,” and I am sure that she hadn’t thought about other aspects of learning that one might discover in this mind-blowingly diverse environment that we have learned to love and call home.
It is not only the Umayyads or interest rates here in Menton, it is also the things you learn over a beer with people who would never have had the chance to get together if it wasn’t for Sciences Po and Menton.
I think it is safe to say that the things I’ve learned from these sessions have been as important as “violence and the state” and stuff like that, if not more.
Everyone listens to music, right? I mean, everyone has a certain taste in music, whether it’s commercial pop or avant-garde jazz. But in the end, everyone listens to music. Before coming to Menton, I took pride in being someone with a diverse musical taste. I would listen to stuff that no one I knew listened to. Music was, and now is even more, a big part of my life and my identity. I have had periods where I legitimately identified myself with the music that I was listening to (just imagine a 13-year-old emo Berke…). I had “diversity.”
I had no idea how shallow my musical knowledge was.
The First Shock
The very first musical shock I had in Menton was the first time I listened to Umm Kulthum in one of those sessions with my friends, sessions that would later mark my year. I felt like it wasn’t from this world. How could I miss this? Did my musical diversity have limits? Whose fault was it? Why had no one ever shown me this? I think I was just disconnected musically from my region and its musical culture. This was the first time that I realized that I was entering a new world, a world full of good music right there waiting to be discovered. Just hours later, I was listening to a new musical genre, a mix of reggae and electronic music: Jungle. I lost it. What was going on? Hours ago, I was getting lost in a qanun solo, and now I just couldn’t stop moving my body.
I learned a lot that day. I had no idea that nearly every day in Menton would be like that from then on; just an endless learning ground with as much diversity as the campus has to offer.
Fear the change?
I don’t really like change. Last year, I resisted for weeks when my parents decided to change the color of the walls of our house. Being this attached to insignificant things like that was a huge concern for me in the beginning, since I was changing every single possible thing in my daily life by moving to another country. I never knew that my coping mechanism would be discovering new music and embracing it. My fear of not getting along with people in this new environment got lost in Ali Farka Touré’s guitar strings, in Mohsen Namjoo’s voice, and in Omar Souleiman’s majestic mustache.
When I woke up today after a night of 80’s rock, followed by classical Turkish music, then drum and bass, I felt like someone new, someone better. I still identify myself using music to some extent, and right now, I feel like I have grown up. These nine months with people coming from places that I would never have the slightest chance to know and appreciate made me someone open to change, to new beginnings.
Classical Farsi music during the day, French reggae for the afternoon, and God knows what for tonight…
When our professor told us to use this chance wisely, I thought to myself: “Hey, just another professor praising the school and warning us to be studious…” But now, when I check my mixed Spotify playlist, in which I put some of the acquisitions that I made here, and which I named simply “Menton,” I feel like I actually did pas mal when it comes to using my chance wisely…
Utilizing his wits and writing skills to give voice to the diverse mentonese Ummah,Berke can express himself in three and-a-halflanguages. Although he admits that his red, thick and gorgeous beard is a vital part of his charm, he doesn’t like to be reduced to only his facial hair. He can rock a beanie like no other and rumor has it, that he is the reincarnation of the great pirate Barbarossa, exploring the Mediterranean, and discovering new horizons.
Berke’s passion for music is a driving force in his life, and please don’t talk to him if you don’t like Pearl Jam. His heart can be won by nuanced talks on Kurdish regional politics, anything Marvel or DC.
Berke is single and he resides in rue longue and his door is always open for those who seek intellectual conversations and intoxicated company.