“If I stayed in Cyprus, I would have to go into military service”

“If I stayed in Cyprus, I would have to go into military service”

A room of one’s own

03-10-2022 · Interview

Ceyhun Bakkaloglu (23) from Cyprus, a master’s student of Health and Social Psychology, pays €900 per month for an 18 m2 room near Vrijthof.

Ceyhun Bakkaloglu moved into his new room just a few weeks ago, in early September. Just in time, he says; he can only stay at his parents' house in Cyprus for ten more days this calendar year. “If I’m there for more than 120 days per year, I have to complete compulsory service for the military force of Northern Cyprus (the self-proclaimed republic recognized only by Turkey, ed.). I really don’t want that. Not just because it would make studying impossible, but also because it goes completely against my values.

“Last year, when I started my master’s degree, it was almost impossible to find a place to live. I just took what I could get.” He ended up renting a couple’s apartment for nearly €1,800 per month. “I couldn’t share it with another student because there was no separate bedroom. Fortunately, two of my family members helped me cover rent.”

This academic year, however, he is financially on his own, so he had to move. Again, he felt forced to go for the first possible option – a room in a stately student house with a view of the Basilica of Saint Servatius. It’s not perfect, either. “My rent went down by 50%, but it’s still high. I’ve taken a job at a donut shop to make ends meet.”

Flip out

He had hoped to secure a studio apartment for himself. During his bachelor’s degree in Plymouth, England, he had a bad experience living in a student house. “My housemates and I were all in the same study programme. We did everything together, even grocery shopping. It led to an unhealthy situation. You could cut the tension with a knife. Some housemates would just flip out over nothing. I began to withdraw to my room and developed mental health problems.”

For a long time, he thought that he himself was the problem – until one of his friends moved into his room after him and faced the same issues. He was relieved to find that things are different in his current student house. “Everyone here is nice, but we also give each other enough space.”

Plants as pets

Fortunately, the room does tick plenty of boxes on his wish list. “The location is fantastic, right in the city centre. It’s the place to be.” And it has a large window that introduces enough natural light to keep his many houseplants happy. “I just love plants. I treat mine like pets; I even gave some of them names. They remind me of home, where my room is also filled with plants. It was a hobby that started with my grandma, who often gave me plants. It just kind of grew from there.”

So then why did he decide to study human biology, rather than plant biology? “I didn’t want to become like an art student who spends so much time studying the subject that they start losing the passion for art itself. Besides, I still don’t understand how photosynthesis works”, he laughs. “It’s so abstract.”

Sex therapist

He is enjoying studying the human mind and human biology. His goal is to become a sex therapist. “I grew up in a conservative village in Northern Cyprus, where sex was a very taboo subject. Young people aren’t taught how to use a condom, and sex is considered a sin.”

And not conforming to the heteronormative ideal is completely out of the question. “I’m bisexual, but I didn’t share that with others for a long time, not even when I lived in England. Eventually, I thought: if I want to become a therapist and help people embrace their sexuality, why am I not embracing my own sexual identity?” Coming out didn’t go very well. “My parents didn’t take it very well. I still visit them, but we don’t talk about it.”

Surviving

One day, he hopes to return to his native country as a therapist to help future generations be more open-minded about sex. It will remain a difficult decision, though. “Not because of the army – after working abroad for four years, you can buy yourself out of military service and serve a reduced term of a number of days. It’s mostly because I wouldn’t be able to maintain my current standard of living. It’s much more difficult to make ends meet in Cyprus. You’re so focused on surviving that you lose touch with your creative side.”
 

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: a room of one's own,aroomofonesown,cyprus,military service,student room,students,instagram

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