Critical Language Scholarship Program | Jacob Burch-Konda
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CLS Turkish participant Zoe Kemprecos and I stand with our Advanced Turkish Grammar teacher Ibrahim Yildirim inside the Azerbaijan University of Languages.

Jacob Burch-Konda

Jacob Burch-Kon­da is an alum­nus of the 2018 CLS Turk­ish pro­gram in Baku, Azer­bai­jan. He is cur­rent­ly a junior at Okla­homa State Uni­ver­si­ty where he’s major­ing in Ani­mal Sci­ence. He plans to attend vet­eri­nary school or pur­sue a master’s degree in Ani­mal Sci­ences. Jacob grew up on a small peach farm out­side of Kings­burg, Cal­i­for­nia and has a very close rela­tion­ship with much of his extend­ed fam­i­ly. Hav­ing lived most of my life at the base of the Sier­ra Neva­da Moun­tains, he is pas­sion­ate about out­door activ­i­ties, includ­ing snow ski­ing, camp­ing, hik­ing, and wakeboarding. 

Begin­nings in Turkey

I first began learn­ing Turk­ish when I spent a gap year in Aydin, Turkey on the YES Abroad pro­gram with a host fam­i­ly who didn’t speak Eng­lish. My pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for study­ing Turk­ish has always been the peo­ple. I love being able to con­nect with peo­ple from across the globe and show them that I care about their lan­guage and cul­ture. It has been incred­i­ble to lis­ten to and under­stand the per­spec­tive of the Turk­ish peo­ple in their own native lan­guage, while shar­ing my own per­spec­tives as well. 

Before liv­ing in Azer­bai­jan with CLS, I had no con­cept of how impor­tant the Turk­ish lan­guage is across the Tur­kic-speak­ing world. Azer­bai­jan is filled with Turk­ish tele­vi­sion, music, and adver­tise­ments, to the point where many Azeris are flu­ent in Turk­ish as well. The Tur­kic lan­guage fam­i­ly also allows a glimpse into so many unique cul­tures across Eura­sia, and hav­ing a base in Turk­ish makes learn­ing these oth­er lan­guages so much easier!

Turkey and the oth­er Tur­kic-speak­ing coun­tries are home to quick­ly expand­ing agri­cul­tur­al indus­tries and it is my goal to use my lan­guage skills to lis­ten to farm­ers and help devel­op prac­tices that will both improve rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and ben­e­fit the environment.

Con­nect­ing Lan­guage to Agriculture

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is a word we hear quite a bit when dis­cussing the cur­rent real­i­ties and issues with­in the agri­cul­tur­al indus­try. As our world con­tin­ues to increase in pop­u­la­tion and thus food pro­duc­tion, I hope to be a part of the research into find­ing sus­tain­able solu­tions to prob­lems such as food insecurity.

A Life-Chang­ing Haircut

Dur­ing our first week in Baku, a group of fel­low CLS par­tic­i­pants and I were in need of hair­cuts and stum­bled upon a small Turk­ish” bar­ber shop right down the street from our uni­ver­si­ty. Just a few hair­cuts lat­er, we had quick­ly become friends with the own­er Javad and the oth­er bar­bers in the shop. Over the course of our time in Baku, the bar­bers showed us around the city and we learned of all the cool local restau­rants and cafes. Some­times we would just go to the bar­ber shop to hang out after school, where the bar­bers were always will­ing to speak Turk­ish with us. I’ve loved keep­ing in touch with my bar­ber friends post-exchange and am con­vinced I will nev­er find a hair­cut that good in the states!

Falling in Love with Culture 

Most of the peo­ple in my home com­mu­ni­ty (Kings­burg, Cal­i­for­nia) and col­lege town (Still­wa­ter, Okla­homa) had nev­er heard of Baku, Azer­bai­jan, let alone under­stood what life is like there. I have enjoyed shar­ing with Amer­i­cans what a day in the life of an Azer­bai­jani would look like, as well as their shared val­ues and cul­ture. Azer­bai­jan is locat­ed at a cross­roads of sev­er­al beau­ti­ful cul­tures. Azer­bai­ja­nis tend to be very warm and hos­pitable peo­ple who take pride in their nation. Many of the Azer­bai­ja­nis I spoke to cher­ished lin­guis­tic, reli­gious, and eth­nic diver­si­ty and were quick to assure me that their coun­try was a home to all. Some of the peo­ple I met in Azer­bai­jan are the strongest peo­ple I know, and I was so inspired by the per­se­ver­ance of my host com­mu­ni­ty, which had an often tur­bu­lent past.


CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sadors are recent CLS par­tic­i­pants who take lead­er­ship roles as active and pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the CLS Pro­gram by engag­ing with CLS alum­ni and rep­re­sent­ing the pro­gram to var­i­ous audi­ences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sador, please con­tact clsalumni@​americancouncils.​org


Alumni Profiles

Jacob Burch-Konda
Jacob Burch-Konda
Turkish 2018
Baku, Azerbaijan

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Posted Date

May 06, 2019