SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is welcoming its first Fulbright student, Turkish-born Nefike Günden.
The 22-year-old scholarship recipient arrived a few weeks ago to pursue a master’s degree at USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership.
Günden said she knew of the international scholarship program but never considered applying until a teacher at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, suggested it last year. She ended up beating out hundreds of other students to win the prestigious grant, which in her case runs two years.
“A lot of students applied. I didn’t think I would get it,” said Günden, who already holds a degree in recreation management. “It’s very exciting to be here to try to pursue my dream.”
Of the 1,000 or so Turkish students who applied for the Fulbright scholarship, only 85 were selected. Günden graduated with a 3.72 Grade Point Average. In addition to speaking English and some French, she’s fluent in Japanese.
Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USFSM, said she was delighted that Günden chose to attend USF Sarasota-Manatee.
“We are very excited and honored to have Ms. Günden at USFSM,” Dr. Stone said. “The Fulbright program offers students a wonderful opportunity to live and study in a different country, and we are delighted that she has chosen to live in Sarasota and pursue her graduate studies in our hospitality program.”
Günden said she’s just now getting used to her new teachers and classmates and has recently joined several student clubs, including the SCUBA Club, Rowing Club and the university chapter of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals.
“Everybody has been so welcoming, showing their hospitality: ‘How are you? Where are you from? Can I show you around?’” she said.
Günden is not entirely unfamiliar with the United States. She’s visited twice before, both times as part of a work-study program that saw her at Disney World in Orlando. She worked one summer as a cashier and another as a hostess. She said she cherished the experiences and hoped someday to return to Florida.
When the Fulbright opportunity emerged last year she quickly began looking online at college hospitality programs.
“The program at USF Sarasota-Manatee had everything I wanted,” she said, referring to the classes she wanted to take in hospitality-technology, finance and marketing.
However, she said she’s already missing her family and home cooking. When not studying, she enjoys baking Turkish favorites with her roommates who also attend USF Sarasota-Manatee. She also enjoys the local beaches and traveling and hopes to visit Miami, New York and Los Angeles.
Amela Malkic, director of the USFSM’s Global Engagement Office, said the importance of the Fulbright Program cannot be underestimated.
“USF Sarasota-Manatee is proud to support visiting Fulbright scholars and students and to facilitate this educational and cultural exchange in our community,” she said. “Likewise, we are proud of our academic programs that attract both domestic and international students from all over the world. Ms. Günden’s active participation in our university’s academic and social life will promote mutual understanding of different cultures and support the vision of the Fulbright exchange program.”
The Fulbright Program provides 8,000 grants yearly to allow U.S. students and scholars to study and conduct research abroad and for people of other countries to do the same here. It’s named for U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who founded the program to increase understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.