Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robert "Bob" Olson, November 2, 2005

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:08 - Family history / Education

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Partial Transcript: Okay, this is November the 2nd, uh, 2005. I'm Angene Wilson, I am interviewing, um, Robert Olson, um, about his Peace Corps experience for the Peace Corps Oral History Project. What is your full name?

Segment Synopsis: Olson describes his family history before his birth in North Dakota as well as his experience in high school. He worked in construction to earn money for college at St. Cloud State University. He transferred to Bemidji State University after a year and majored in English and history with a minor in German. He moved to Hibbing, Minnesota to teach English and history. He discusses how he heard about Peace Corps as well as his application process. He wanted to go to Pakistan to get as far away from Hibbing as possible. He was accepted to go to Turkey.

Keywords: Construction workers; Farming; Farms; Rural

Subjects: Agriculture.; Bemidji State University; Education, Higher.; Education.; English; English literature; German language; Hibbing (Minn.); History.; Language learning and language teaching; Minnesota; North Dakota; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Rural-urban relations; Scandinavia; Social classes.; Social status; Socioeconomic status; St. Cloud State University; Teachers.; Teaching.; Turkey.

00:14:58 - Peace Corps training / Arriving in Turkey

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Partial Transcript: So, I finished the year and then I was accepted in, in--sometime in the middle of June I went to, uh, to Washington, D.C. to train at Georgetown University, which was another very interesting experience for me.

Segment Synopsis: Olson describes his training for Peace Corps, which took place in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown University. He describes the physical education training as well as the language training in Turkish. He was training to teach English as a second language. Another group was training for community development. He states that one of the things he noticed when he arrived in Turkey were the different smells. He ended up in a town called Fethiye. He says he didn't have much trouble adjusting to Turkey.

Keywords: English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Gazi (Turkey); Gazi Teachers' Training Institute; Gazi University; Marxism; Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Adaptability (Psychology); Adjustment (Psychology); Ankara (Turkey); Communism.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Exercise.; Fethiye (Muğla İli, Turkey); Gazi Eğitim Enstitüsü; Gazi Üniversitesi; Gazi Üniversitesi. Gazi Eğitim Fakültesi; Gaziköy (Turkey); Georgetown University; Hiking; Language learning and language teaching; Occupational training.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Physical education and training.; Potomac River; Training; Turkey; Turkey.; Turkish language; Washington (D.C.)

00:26:48 - Daily life and social interactions in Turkey

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Partial Transcript: What were your living conditions like?

Segment Synopsis: Olson describes his living conditions, which included an apartment with running water. He prepared most of his own meals, stating Western Turkey had an abundance of fresh food. He compares and contrasts his teaching experiences in the U.S. and Turkey, telling some stories about his experiences. He tells a story of the head of Peace Corps visiting in Turkey. He describes what he did for recreation, including interacting with friends and visiting a historical city (Sardis) as well as other historical ruins. He describes some of the history of the region. He describes his interactions with host country nationals and other volunteers. He contrasts his second year with his first year.

Keywords: Direct method; English as a foreign language; English as a second language; Heliopolis; Learning Turkish; Living conditions; Natural method; Persia; Running water; Sardes (Turkey); Sardis (Turkey); Sart (Turkey); Teaching English as a foreign language; Teaching English as a second language

Subjects: Agriculture.; Ankara (Turkey); Autobus; Beaches; Chickpea; Cooking (Chickpeas); Education.; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Excavations (Archaeology); Food habits.; Food.; Friendship.; Greece; Heliopolis/idee di città; High school teaching; Interpersonal relations; Iran; Junior high school teaching; Language learning and language teaching; Leisure.; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Newspapers.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Recreation; Rice; Ruins; Running water; Salihli (Manisa İli, Turkey); Studying; Teachers.; Teaching.; Travel; Turkey; Turkey.; Turkish language

00:47:07 - Memorable stories from Olson's Peace Corps experience

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, right, well, Bob, I'm remembering that, uh, 1964 is when Greece and Turkey were, uh, beginning to fight, uh, over Cyprus.

Segment Synopsis: Olson discusses some Turkish history related to a fight with Greece over Cyprus. He tells some memorable stories related to his stay in Turkey. One story was about a language misunderstanding where he used the wrong word. He briefly discusses his experience as a young man in Turkey, before telling a story about an experience with Romani people. He also talks about his experience with the Kurds when he traveled in Turkey.

Keywords: National Intelligence Organization; Romani people; Romanis; Women

Subjects: Cross cultural communication; Cyprus; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers.; Gender and culture; Gender and society; Gender, society & development; Gender.; Great Britain.; Greece; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Language learning and language teaching; Lifestyles.; Man-woman relationships.; Manners and customs; Middle East--Politics and government.; Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (Turkey); Patriarchy.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Romanies.; Social interaction.; Social norms.; Turkey; Turkey.; Turkish language

01:00:53 - Returning home to the United States

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Partial Transcript: So, what was it like to come home? Did you come directly home from Turkey?

Segment Synopsis: Olson describes his travel before his return to the U.S. He went to graduate school at Indiana University on a fellowship for the study of the Turkish language, studying Uralic and Altaic studies for year before transferring to the history department majoring in the area of Islamic history.

Keywords: Comparative history; National Defense Education Act (NDEA); National Defense Education Act of 1958 (United States)

Subjects: Altaic languages; Arabs; Cross cultural communication; Cultural awareness.; Education, Higher.; Education.; Egypt; Friendship.; Goans; History.; Indiana University; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Iran; Iranians; Iraq; Kurds; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Middle East; Middle East--Politics and government.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Social interaction.; Sudanese; Travel; Turkey; Turkey.; Turkish language; Turks; Uralic languages

01:07:51 - Impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: I owe the Peace Corps a lot.

Segment Synopsis: Olson states that the biggest impact of the Peace Corps was on himself and made him interested in another country. He states that he had more culture shock teaching in South Carolina than in Turkey because the place was conservative. At the time of the interview, he had been at the University of Kentucky for 32 years. He says his experience with other Peace Corps volunteers in the U.S. made him more leftist and conscious of cultural issues.

Keywords: Careers; Impact; Influence; Political; Politics

Subjects: College teachers; College teaching.; Cross cultural communication; Cultural awareness.; Education, Higher.; Education.; History.; Intercultural communication.; Intergroup relations.; Interpersonal relations; Iran; Iranians; Iraq; Iraq War, 2003-2011; Kurds; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Middle East; Middle East--Politics and government.; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Turkey.; Teachers.; Teaching.; Travel; Turkey.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.