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How to be happy

Written by Suzy Duggan

"Smiling is the starting point for life," Sezin tells me, a twinkle in her eye. It comes as no surprise: she is always laughing. Her idea of graffiti art is covering university desks with smiley faces. When I ask her what it is that makes her smile, she mentions two of life's fundamentals: food - specifically the traditional dishes of the regions she visits on her travels - and love - Sezin has been with her boyfriend Emre since she was 17, and says that she always feels happy in his company. It's understandable - he is very handsome, as everyone agrees.

When Sezin isn't laughing too hard to concentrate, she is immersed in the study of politics, a subject that she is passionate about. Although she originally planned on psychology as a career, lessons at school soon changed her mind, and she chose instead to do a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration. These days she's engaged in writing her master's thesis in Eurasian Studies, focussing on the process of nation building in Azerbaijan. In her view, politics is not something one chooses to be part of, for everyone in the world is affected by it. Of course, not everyone chooses to read politics at university, and Sezin's decision to do so was informed not only by the conviction that it is hugely significant, but also by the situation in her home country. Turkish politics, she says, is problematic and fast-changing, as well as being particularly complicated by Turkey's global position as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. This has greatly encouraged her interest in the subject.

how_to_be_happy
Photo: Vincent van der Pas (CC-SA)
"But right now I want to be free," says Sezin Senturk from Turkey

However, Sezin has no desire to become a politician, though that may come as a disappointment to those of us who see this intelligent and altruistic young woman as an excellent candidate for head of state. She feels that a political career would directly oppose her deeply felt humanitarianism, taking the view that as politicians are always compelled to compromise, some members of their state will always be affected negatively by their actions. In hindsight, Nick Clegg would probably agree. Of course, Sezin has political ideas that she would love to see accomplished, but she believes that realistically, this would be near impossible due to the power relations that dominate politics.

Sezin has considered any number of alternative career paths, and one option would be to become a government official in Turkey. This would relate well to the public administration aspect of her bachelor's degree. Certainly she has a genuine fascination for her homeland, and she aims to travel to all the states of Turkey, especially the Kurdish regions of the East, so as to gain a deeper understanding of Turkey's varied local culture and traditions.

But Sezin's heart is set on academia, and it seems most likely that this will be her eventual choice of career. She comes from a highly academic family: her father is an aerospace engineer, while her mother is a music professor at Ankara university, and her brother is studying for a PhD in music technology, in Barcelona. Sezin would love to join him there, working on her own PhD.

Music seems to run in the family's veins, Sezin included. She is a keen flautist, and music is a crucial part of her life. She advises against learning music from family members, however, remarking that her mother's frequent disappearances into the kitchen to check on the cooking were perhaps less than beneficial to her elementary piano education.

When it comes to family members, Sezin's ambitions have changed somewhat since childhood: as a little girl she always dreamt of having a twin sister, but nowadays a husband and children are perhaps higher on her list of priorities. Ideally, she would like a son and a daughter, just as she and her brother are to her parents. "Not too soon, though," she adds. "It's too early to get married. At 28, maybe, but right now I want to be free."

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