Education RightRight To ShelterViolation Of Rights

Living in a KYK dorm in the city: “I’ll defeat you Istanbul!”

Ebru Sert

Click to read in Kurdish or Turkish.

According to the latest statements made by Minister Kasapoğlu, KYK dormitory capacities were increased to 800 thousand in the 2022-2023 academic year. Not ignoring the fact that this capacity increase is actually due to the doubled number of beds in addition to the newly opened KYK dormitory buildings, and by focusing on the experiences of students staying in KYK dormitories in Istanbul, who come from different cities of Turkey with various dreams; we will hear these young people about being a student at Metropol.

Istanbul hosts hundreds of thousands of students every year. How hospitable this so-called landlord is is debatable. Do those who come to Istanbul with the caricature “I’ll defeat you, Istanbul!” leave this city defeated? Or can they find a way to live here and build a life for themselves?

Unlike students who live with their parents in Istanbul, which could be described as luck nowadays, students coming from out of town have to deal with various issues such as housing problems, rent, bills, and transportation.

There are 26 KYK dormitories in Istanbul, 17 for women and eight for men. The ordeal of students regarding KYK dormitories begins with the process of applying to the dormitory. Students are waiting with great tension to be announced whether they are entitled to stay in the KYK dormitory.

So, what awaits students after the results are announced? What is it like to live in a KYK dormitory, especially in a city like Istanbul? Here we will try to understand and explain it. We interviewed two university students about three different KYK dormitories and discussed their experiences in KYK dormitories.

Second KYK dorm at the 3rd year

Emre is 20 years old. He came to Istanbul from his hometown Balıkesir after qualifying to study at Yıldız Teknik University (YTU) Department of Social Sciences and Turkish Language Education. Emre, currently a 3rd-year student, said, “Since I am a student in a city where it is difficult to rent a house due to economic reasons, there was no other option but the KYK dormitory. If I had another alternative, of course, I wouldn’t choose it,” and states that KYK dormitory is the last but also the only option for him.

Emre spent his first year at his family home as he studied distance learning due to the pandemic. Currently, he lives in his 2nd KYK dormitory. His first dorm was Kanuni Sultan Süleyman (KSS) Dormitory. We are no strangers to KSS due to problems such as the pitch-dark dorm road, lack of buses, robberies with knives, no hot water, and hundreds of students’ protests about these issues. “The distance between the school and the dormitory was a problem for me in the KSS dormitory. There was a new IETT bus line, but I did not feel safe going home after dark. Also, everyone was complaining about the cafeteria,” says Emre reminding us of these problems. Emre, who moved from the KSS dormitory to Fatih Sultan Mehmet (FSM) dormitory after a long struggle, stated that the conditions of the FSM dormitory are better for him, mainly due to its proximity to the school. He says that the cafeteria conditions in FSM are as bad as in KSS, but he has gotten used to it. Because he stays in the FSM dormitory and studies at YTU, he usually comes to school from the dormitory, eats at the school cafeteria, and then returns to the dormitory.

The weak internet connection of the FSM dormitory, the small rooms and the increase in the quota of the triple room to four people, and the discomfort caused by this are among the various problems Emre listed for us.

Emre plans to spend the following year in the dormitory and rent a flat in the last year of school because he is uncomfortable and cannot study in the dorm. He believes the house will be more comfortable so he can study for the KPSS exam. However, he states that he despairs this plan considering the house rents and bills, and adds, “I never think of staying in the KYK dormitory; I’m thinking of finding a way to rent an apartment. Because KYK is disrupting my mental health.”

Living in KYK: Will I be able to get to school?

Ezgi is 19 years old. She came to Istanbul from her hometown Diyarbakır a year ago. Ezgi is one of those who had a tense time while waiting for the KYK dorm. Ezgi tells the process of settling in the dormitory as follows:

“When I first came here, I did not have a place to stay yet, and the KYK dormitory was unavailable. The private dormitory was no longer an alternative because of its prices. The asking price for rooms for four to six people was around 2.500 per month. As everyone knows, prices have increased by 100 percent this year. After staying with someone I know for a while, I moved to the dorm when I gained the right to a dormitory from the substitutes.”

 As one of the students whose dormitory is far from the school, “Having no alternative but to KYK dormitory will force you to leave at 06.00 every day to go to school. Due to these dormitories built in the farthest parts of the city, you travel for at least two hours with three or five transfers during the day, you live far away from everywhere, and you always think, will I be able to catch up?” says Ezgi.

“I look at concert posters and pass by”

Although it is evident that it is wrong to describe students’ lives only in terms of the time they spend at school and dormitory, the conditions we are in force us to completely ignore the students’ social life while weighing the students’ living standards, from thinking about the distance of the dormitory from the school, whether the dining halls are suitable, whether there is hot water in the dormitory, etc.

Ezgi told us about her own experiences with some resentment and  anger:

“Yes, I am a student; I came to study from thousands of kilometers away. But I wonder if we have no life outside of being a student? We should call it ‘There is.’ I am a social individual. Don’t I have the right to go to the cinema, to the concert? I have. I can say that 1.000 students living in my dormitory cannot benefit from the monthly free concert activities. Because the concerts that start at 20.00-21.00 end at 23.00-00.00. Regarding the required time to return to my dorm, where there are no metro, Marmaray or Metrobus passes, I look at the posters of concerts and theaters hanging everywhere and pass by.”

Dorm check-in time

“Yes, I have a dormitory, a place to stay, but what exactly do you mean by shelter? It is a place with four walls that cuts you off from the city, cannot attend classes due to hours of traffic, takes away your social life, and prevents you from working in a place, is it considered shelter? No, it doesn’t count. This system, which builds a dormitory without transportation, aims to isolate us from all life by setting the last check-in time to the dormitory at 23:00,” says Ezgi.

Another point that the men do not mention but that Ezgi specifically mentions is the entrance hours to the dormitory. Especially in KYK dormitories where women stay, when the residents exceed the last entry time or do not spend the night at the dorm even though they inform the administration about that, the management calls families and ‘complains.’

Female students, who have three or four hours of distance between their school and dormitory, must reconsider having a cup of tea and chatting with their friends after their classes finish around 19.00-20.00. Otherwise, they would receive a warning at best if they got late to the dormitory due to traffic or the distance. That significantly affects the social lives of female students, causing them to think twice about going somewhere, as Ezgi said.

“Shelter is not just being under a roof between four walls”

Our university friends told us about their experiences and various problems they had. However, according to our conclusions, for a student living in a KYK dormitory in the city, covering the transportation costs and finding the opportunity to study, socialize and spare time after traveling for hours stand at a point based on their high efforts and devotion.

Another conclusion we made was how true the saying “Shelter is not just being under a roof between four walls” is true and how it is reflected in our lives. From a shallow point of view, students’ housing problem can be dismissed by saying, “At least, there is a dormitory where they can stay,” however it would not be wrong to say that none of them have quality accommodation.

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