July 22, 2013
Missouri native Mark Twain once said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Another Missouri native Brett Marler took that quote to heart. Except for a couple of summer internships in Washington D.C., Marler spent all of his life in Springfield where he attended Greenwood Laboratory School and Drury University. When he graduated from Drury in 2010, Marler wanted to stretch his wings, but a job in Kansas City or even New York wasn’t going to cut it. Marler went far afield to Turkey on a Fulbright English Teaching Grant.
“I wanted to learn from being a foreigner in another culture,” Marler said. “Teaching English is a really accessible path for students wanting to go abroad. It doesn’t require a lot of previous experience and allows you to engage with the local culture.”
Marler quickly learned that in the Turkish culture it is impolite for a host to even remotely suggest that a guest has worn out his welcome, “I learned that you have to practically insist on leaving because a host will expect you to spend the night, just to be polite,” Marler said.
He enjoyed his time in Turkey so much, after a few months back in Springfield following his Fulbright experience, he went back to Turkey as part of a U.S. Embassy program to teach English in the divinity department of a Turkish University. After another few months back home, Marler went back for a third stint in Turkey, but this time at an English-language newspaper in Istanbul.
During his time in Turkey, Marler had very little formal education in Turkish, but he figured it out, “I learned when I got hungry or when I got bored. I learned the language by necessity,” Marler said.
He’s home for the summer again preparing for another trip, but this journey is just up I-44 to St. Louis where he’ll begin a master’s program in Islamic Studies in the fall at Washington University in St. Louis with a plan to eventually complete a Ph.D. and become a professor. “Istanbul is a safe city and is statistically safer than St. Louis. I’ll be more on the lookout in St. Louis than I was in Istanbul,” Marler said. “It’s incredible how welcome and safe I felt in that country. The only fear of kidnapping I felt was someone trying to get me to stay at their house and they’d over-feed me. It was great, in those three years in Turkey I really grew up.”
Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications at Drury.