Monique Bowie is an alumna of the 2019 CLS Turkish program in Baku, Azerbaijan. She’s currently a senior at the University of North Texas, majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Development and Humanitarian Affairs and a minor in French and Sociology. She is planning to attend graduate school to study global human development, followed by a career in foreign service. She loves to dance, travel and have game nights with friends.
Getting to Know Monique
I grew up in Houston, TX with a sister, raised by our single mother. We lived in a low-income area and I had the opportunity to attend a college preparatory school starting in 6th grade. At the University of North Texas, I take part in multiple organizations on campus such as the Spanish Club, Model United Nations, and Non-Profit Leadership. I am also fluent in French and Spanish.
While browsing a mall in Azerbaijan with my best friend Adelia and my sister Gulay, a group of younger girls walked up to us and spoke to my friends in Azerbaijani. They asked Adelia if they could take a picture with me because they were so fascinated by my beauty and the color of my skin, and told her they weren’t sure how to interact with me. I saw this as an opportunity to lead by example for other women of color who may have this type of encounter when visiting Azerbaijan. I let the group of girls know that they could interact with me like any other person; I allowed them to ask me questions about my life and where I came from, and also asked them about their lives and goals. This experience greatly impacted me because I was awarded the opportunity to expand another individual’s thinking, and truly set the tone for appropriate interactions with Azerbaijanis and African American women. I still talk to this group of girls on Instagram to this day.
Advice for Future Participants
The reason my CLS experience had such a huge impact on me is because I was able to immerse myself into the community very well. I was on the Azerbaijani news, I was in two Azerbaijani commercials, I had the opportunity to speak at a Baku Youth Center event, and I made lifelong friends who I still talk to on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to go all out. Talk to people even if your language skills aren’t the best — they love to see that you are trying. Do the extra work of looking for things to do around the city because I promise it’s worth it.
I wanted to study Turkish because I fell in love not only with the language, but the culture when I visited the country in 2014. I would definitely recommend that others study Turkish because it is a unique language — when you tell others you have the ability so speak Turkish their eyes light up. I plan to use Turkish in my professional career as I hope to work in Turkish-speaking areas as a Foreign Service Officer. With knowledge of the language, I would be better able to integrate into society.
April 29, 2020