BU Today

Campus Life

There are more than 3,000 international undergraduates from 108 countries at BU. While each has a unique story about coming here, they all share a similar theme: leaving behind friends, family, and culture to travel to a new country and begin a new chapter in their lives.

This week we launch the new animated series “Lost and Found.” In each installment, international students share their journeys, talking about what they’ve left behind and one thing that helped them forge a new life.

In the video above, Deniz Hallik (CAS’19) talks about how taking up painting helped her manage the depression and anxiety she was feeling after arriving at BU from Turkey.

The series is the brainchild of Carlos Soler, a BU Productions motion graphics and video producer. It’s a subject he knows well. Soler left his native Colombia in 2014 and moved to Georgia to work on an MFA in animation at the Savannah College of Art & Design. He left his family, friends, and partner to pursue his dream. He says that adjusting to life in a city where he knew no one was hard, but that the vibrant cultural life there, which attracts artists from over the world, helped fill the emptiness he felt.

Part two of our series is the story of Deniz Hallik (CAS’19), who traveled from her home in Ankara, Turkey, to fulfill a long-held ambition: attending college in the United States. She says she’d never imagined “how big of a change it would be” coming to Boston and BU.

Once on campus, the cultural and language barriers Hallik encountered made her feel lonely for the first time in her life. She was crying frequently and unable to get out of bed. One day, she saw a Student Health Services (SHS) poster listing the symptoms of anxiety and depression on the bulletin board on her Warren Towers floor. “I had every single symptom,” she recalls. A friend visiting from Turkey urged her to call SHS, and she began therapy and medication.

A turning point came about a month into her treatment, when she took up painting. “I didn’t even think of what I was going to paint,” Hallik says, but through painting she discovered she “felt like I could finally deal with my issues.” She says she wanted to share her story as a way of encouraging other students who feel depressed and anxious to reach out for help.

This project has been personally fulfilling for Soler. Each video took a month to produce, starting with lengthy interviews, followed by hours of storyboarding and animation. “I’m anxious to see how people will react to these videos,” he says. “They’re a way to make these students more visible and a reminder about the need to build community.”

View the first installment of BU Today’s “Lost & Found” series here.

Carlos Soler can be reached at csoler@bu.edu. Bill Politis can be reached at bpolitis@bu.edu.


15 Comments on Lost and Found: Deniz Hallik, Turkey

  • Matthew Jennings on 03.30.2017 at 9:25 am

    Tremendously inspiring stuff! Thank you for the great work Carlos!

  • Danielle Sauvé on 03.30.2017 at 11:18 am

    So beautifully done and touching! The animated drawing really capture the the emotion and I love to see the role of art in Deniz recovery and adaptation to this estranged new environment.

  • Lauren on 03.31.2017 at 9:57 am

    Deniz, I’m so proud of you for sharing your story. It’s beautifully done here too! It was such a pleasure going on ASB 2016 with you and getting to learn more about your life experiences. You’re such a resilient person and you’re going to do great things in this world.

  • Sergei Varasirof on 03.31.2017 at 10:25 am

    This story does not reflect the reality. Turkey is not a country like the one shown in the paintings. There is no “bazaar” in the sense of a “oriental bazaar” in Ankara where you can go see five stores next to each other that sell oriental goods and the people will just welcome you and talk to you about your problems etc. Also, the family values are changing; and in fact have changed a lot. And it is not a culture where everyone supports everyone else, especially in urban settings. I am guessing Deniz wanted to attract attention by portraying Turkey in a different way than it actually is.

    • A Turkish Person on 03.31.2017 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Sergei,
      You are right that things are constantly changing, just like everywhere else. But I’m guessing that you’re a non-Turkish who stayed in Ankara for a week or so. There are definitely places where you can see the things you’ve claimed to be nonexistent. In an age, in which many people claim to have depression to attract attention, it would only be unfair to assume that those who actually have it are also saying so because they want attention as well. In the future, pease make sure you know enough (i.e. even more so than a local would) about topics that you will go on to harshly criticize.

    • Deniz Hallik on 04.04.2017 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Sergei,

      First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to watch our video and share your thoughts. The bazaar I’m specifically talking about comes from a beautiful memory I shared with a friend this winter break when I was home. You are absolutely right, times are changing, especially now. I was walking around the Ankara Castle (Ankara Kalesi) with my friend to reconnect with our culture in a bright day while snow was still around. We took our camera and went to the top, to actually observe the urbanization, the torn town buildings, the emptiness of the streets because of the lack of tourism due to the political imbalance, and talk to the beautiful people who still are an amazing representation of our culture. When you take a left after you leave the historical site, that has been home to many empires since 2 BC, there are more than five stores next to each other, owned by people with gorgeous smiles.

      Maybe you think I’m trying to attract people, and you’re right because it is an amazing place if you let go of the prejudiced view media creates, or a few of your experiences that might have unfortunately made. I walked into one of those stores that day, looking for an oriental gift for an American friend, and before I could even admire all the jewelry the store owner had, he said, “Cayi simdi demledim ister misiniz?” (I just brewed some tea would you guys like some?). We talked about the lost culture, politics, tourism, education and how I missed home and my family. I still talk to my grandmother about going to the village (köye gidelim) and I hike around Turkey to experience the warmhearted hospitality of different towns. I have definitely felt beautiful moments with my family members, as well as people I just met, who have made supported me and made me who I am.

      I suggest you give another chance to the paintings and try another approach to realize the value and beauty of Turkish culture, and I even hope you get to experience many more cultures around the world, because appreciation and gratitude will give you amazing happiness. Have a great day.

    • Idil Us on 07.21.2017 at 10:28 am

      Hi Sergei,

      I so randomly came across this article and your comment, but I’m glad I did because what Deniz shares in her story is so very empowering. I am a Turkish citizen who has lived in the US for 6 years now, so it’s safe to say that I have an understanding of both cultures. Sadly, I’ve gotten many comments like yours over my 6 years here. Somebody went even as far to ask if we used camels for transportation in Turkey… I just felt sad for the person because in reality, we don’t even have deserts in Turkey. I’m guessing you have some sort of affiliation with Turkey that you could suggest it’s changing and how Deniz portrays the country isn’t accurate anymore. Yes, I agree that it’s changing. And no, I don’t agree with the change, but it’s not to say that Turkey just isn’t the same anymore, that the values are lost or forgotten. Well, they aren’t forgotten by everyone. And until the last one of us standing, we’ll promote our modern thoughts to bring back the beautiful, peaceful country back. It’s only fair if people think twice before imposing negative comments about a nation that’s desperately in need of positivity. Just because things are going down doesn’t mean that we have given up. Turkey is still as beautiful to us as it was when we were kids. And that’s the truth people should know.

  • Pedro Falci on 03.31.2017 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Deniz!

    New Turkish photography exhibit is up at the Thurman Center. Come see us!

    • Deniz Hallik on 04.04.2017 at 11:13 pm

      I’m actually going to come with two Turkish friends to write a paper for our anthropology course, see you soon :)

  • Student on 04.04.2017 at 4:08 pm

    I really enjoyed watching this video and reading this article. I have so much respect for international students who leave their families and arrive in the US. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be so far from home for such a long time. Thank you for sharing this story!

  • K on 04.06.2017 at 4:03 pm

    Art has been a tremendous help to me in times of high anxiety and depression. I have struggled with these conditions for my whole life. I know that I must stay physically active and mentally active, too. But that does not mean only writing, reading and thinking. Mental agility can come from exercising the right side of your brain through art, creation, or just a visit to a museum. Thank you for your courageous story. I have worked at BU for over a decade now. As the previous comment states, I do marvel at all that the international students are able to overcome and achieve while students at Boston University. It is nothing short of impressive. Thank you for publishing and creating this video. Excellent work by all.

  • Lara on 07.20.2017 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you, Deniz, for sharing your story, and thank you to Carlos Soler and the BU production team for creating this video. The mainstream media in America often portrays immigrants to the U.S. as coming here in order to gain, in order to take. Rarely does the media force us to consider what immigrants have to give up or leave behind when they come to the States. My parents were Egyptian immigrants to Canada in the early 1970s, then the U.S. in the 90s, and your story and video was very touching for me. While I understand that culture and society always change, whether in Turkey or the U.S., there is something about American society that can be particularly isolating for people, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. Living in Egypt for a year for my own research made me see how much easier it is to create a strong network of close friends there, and how much more time and energy it takes to do the same in America. I am happy that you found happiness and solace in art making, Deniz, especially because I am doing my PhD at the History of Art and Architecture here at BU. Wishing you all the best at BU in the coming semesters!

  • Venitra DeGraffenreid on 07.21.2017 at 6:11 pm

    Dear Deniz,

    I stumbled upon this today. I applaud you for your honesty and bravery in acknowledging and fighting to conquer your depression. As your elementary school librarian, I knew that you were a young lady that was going to conquer the world! I think that is why your story is so moving; no matter what your background, it is difficult being a stranger in a strange land, and is occasionally painful.

    I hope that Sergei gives Turkey another chance. As you know, Deniz, I lived in Ankara for seven years. I had a child there and lost my husband there. Nevertheless, despite living in other cultures and being in the US for the last seven, I still consider Turkey home. The warmth and kindness of the people cannot be paralleled, and I recall many wonderful weekends in the Ankara Castle, as well as exploring other parts of the city. I know things are changing, and the political situation is a little disturbing, but I will always love Ankara and Turkey.
    You are a wonderful, brave, vivacious young woman, and I am proud to know you. If you ever visit Ohio, please look me up!

  • Rachel Zhu on 03.14.2018 at 10:15 am

    This is beautiful Deniz! Past spring break i saw Van Gogh’s paintings and was so touched by the power of self-expression. Art is sentimental and powerful for it releases and transforms stress into creativity. And i appreciate what you have done! This inspires me to pick up drawing again! I am also an international student who struggle to settle in among new identities. Over the years, I find meditation through dancing.
    I hope everything is going well (and will be fabulous) for you. You should be proud of yourself!

  • Andrea Popa on 03.14.2018 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Deniz – Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate your vulnerability to discuss your experience and the steps you took to find a new balance at BU. Carlos – I look forward to following this series.

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