Reflections by Student Tutors Voluntarily Working for Yeditepe University Writing Center

A session at the Writing Center office
A session at the Writing Center office

About two months ago, I had a guest post on my blog from two student tutors from Yeditepe University. Here is a part two from a whole group of lovely student tutors, reflecting on the Writing Center they take part in, under the guidance of their professor, Ece Sevgi. A huge thank you – Çok teşekkürler to: Ece Sevgi, Şafak Ezgi Özel, Seçil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca, Deniz Aryay and Ş. Ceren Cessur!

Here they are:

“Actually, being a part of the Writing Center was not a “decision”; it was just one of the most important coincidences of my life.  I was taking a course from Ece Sevgi, and she announced that she needed about ten students to hang posters for the announcements of the workshops prepared by the Writing Center. Later, she made another announcement saying she was looking for student tutors to do peer-tutoring. After a training period, I started working as a student tutor, and I think it is a great experience for me to develop my skills in teaching. I learned a lot about the ELT world during this process because I was introduced to many big names at ELT conferences, practiced teaching how to write essays through one-on-one sessions with my peers,  prepared workshops, and  learned how to write better articles. Now I feel ready to become an English teacher even though I haven’t graduated yet because I have learned that experience and self-confidence are the most important parts of this job.”

Şafak Ezgi Özel

“I started working at the Writing Center in Spring 2012, and then Ece Sevgi wanted us to participate in IATEFL 2012 to assist the conference organizers. I really enjoyed being a part of that organization, but when she said that they were also looking for tutors to help students in their academic essays, I was not sure about whether I could manage it or not. However, I realized that I could really like being a tutor after working with my first students from the psychology department. Apart from our students, we also found an opportunity to improve ourselves in our fields. I think, my turning point in my career is probably the Writing Center. I always had wonderful teachers showing my way, but I guess Ece Sevgi is one of the most important ones.”

Seçil Uygungil

“… The moment I entered there, I felt that I could be helpful to others even though I was still a student. Thanks to this program, other students who are also our friends, learned from us, and in return we’ve learned from them since we gained experience in teaching. This program proved us that textbooks, lectures, and teachers were not the only sources to receive information, and we realized that we could learn from each other as well. With the help of this program, we understood the importance of team work once again. The Writing Center opened many doors to all of us. It was not only about the student tutor program; it went beyond that point and improved all of us. I believe with this experience and good memories, these moments will be one of the best moments of my university experience.”

Eda Demirci

When I first heard of the Writing Center and the Student Tutor program, I was in the first year of my university life, just trying to get used to being a university student, and I did not know which path I should follow to become a good teacher. Ece Sevgi told us about tutoring as a student and learning from each other with this program. I think the most important and valuable contribution of this program for me is gaining experience in the ELT field by working with our peers and learning from all the mistakes through the tutoring process. I have also learnt a lot by giving sessions about academic writing in the workshop weeks of the Writing Center, which has changed my perspective and personality from a shy and stressful person when in front of people to the one who is more confident and open to improvement as a life-long learner.

Merve Karaca

“I was getting feedback on my essay when I first learned about the student tutor program, and the first thing that occurred to me was “Oh my God!”.  Being very straightforward indeed, I assume it can briefly summarize the importance of this opportunity in our lives. The Writing Center allowed me to feel like a teacher after only a semester spent on this field, which made me realize how accurate my choice was. We were not only helping our friends, but also learning to teach. I believe, this is a chance which won’t happen often, and I’m more than glad to be a part of this family. I have enhanced my writing, my English in general, and obviously obtained new skills such as being more attentive and patient. The Writing Center has opened a new path ahead of me, and I’m tremendously thankful to everyone who made this possible.”

Deniz Aryay

“… Ece Sevgi, who was my instructor for the Academic Writing course at Yeditepe University, changed my perception about making mistakes. I was visiting the Writing Center to get one-on-one feedback. Then, I learned that we, as students, also have the right to work at the Writing Center as student tutors to help our fellow friends to improve their writing skills. When I became a member of the Writing Center, I learned how to conduct a conversation on a professional basis and I realized that the instructors were far more interested in our development than we thought. I can voluntarily help in the establishment of a Writing Center for the school that I will be working at in the future. If you ask whether or not I would want my students to work there, my answer is “yes”.

Ş. Ceren Cessur

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Through the Eyes of the Student Tutors: Yeditepe University Writing Center by Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing
Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

I am very honoured to have this blog post by two amazing young ladies, Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur, who are student tutors in the ELT Department of Yeditepe University. I was introduced to them by their outstanding professor, Ece Sevgi – and was delighted to meet them in person at the ISTEK ELT Conference in Istanbul, last April. Here, Deniz and Ceren write about the Writing Center they have in their university, an amazing programme! Over to Deniz and Ceren, who will surely become great educators.

Yeditepe University in Istanbul is one of the most prestigious universities that tries its best to help its students prepare for their professional lives. It is an English-medium university.  This has its own downsides and difficulties since some of the students enter the university with no or little knowledge of English. Even if they spend a few semesters in preparatory classes trying to master English as a foreign language, they may not become proficient enough to cope with the language level in their classes.

This is the reason why some universities here in Turkey have followed the lead of their counterparts in other countries and established Writing Centers in the aim of fostering the students’ language ability in one of the productive skills, writing. Writing Center at Yeditepe University is a unit which helps students by editing their written work, giving feedback, and guiding them to correct their language mistakes. The use of error code, multiple drafts, and progress tracking system aims to develop learner autonomy and raise awareness about the points to consider in the students’ written work.

Yeditepe University Writing Center does not only help students but also supports academicians at the university. It offers a free edit service to support and encourage academic publications in any field. It is the only unit at the university that organizes Creative Writing Contests. We now have a brand new website (http://writingcenter.yeditepe.edu.tr/) where you can find information about the Writing Center, and a wiki space (http://yuwritingcenter.wikispaces.com/) where we post written tutorials about academic writing. To us, having a Writing Center is more than a luxury; it is an essential unit at a university teaching in English in a non-English speaking community.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Mirror Mirror on the Wall (From left to right: Secil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca and Ezgi Ozel)

While opening a Writing Center is not an original idea, Yeditepe University Writing Center has done something for the first time by allowing its students to become members of this family during the course of their studies. The Student-Tutor Program is a pioneer programme in this field, and has significant benefits for the chosen students. These selected student tutors, who are students of English Language Teaching, and Translation and Interpreting Studies Departments work voluntarily at the Writing Center Office to help prep and undergraduate students with their written assignments. They are chosen meticulously with a suggestion from their Academic Writing instructor, and then receive training on how to give written feedback before they start offering this service at the Writing Center.

Under the supervision of experienced tutors working for the Writing Center, student tutors also prepare and present academic writing workshops for the university students and faculty. You can meet many of our student tutors at ELT conferences held in Istanbul. Four of our student tutors, for example, were concurrent keynote speakers at ISTEK ELT 2013 Conference with their talk Mirror Mirror on the Wall…, and shared the stage with Ken Wilson, Herbert Puchta, Teresa Doğuelli, and Jamie Keddie.