The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Undergraduate Spotlight: Sarah Flynn

Tue, December 11, 2007

I started studying Turkish my sophomore year at UT. I have wanted to work as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department for awhile and Turkish, much like Arabic or Chinese, is one of the languages they are looking for in candidates. What began as simple language study quickly grew into something bigger. Within a year of my first Turkish class, I was proud to call myself a Turkophile.

In May 2007 the State Department awarded me a Critical Language Scholarship for Turkish study. I spent the summer in Istanbul, improving my Turkish, familiarizing myself with the culture and eating a lot of ice cream. I had been thinking about possible thesis topics for some time at this point, and while I knew I wanted to write something related to Turkey, I couldn't decide what exactly. When I left for Turkey, I had finally settled on something pertaining to Turkish immigration patterns.

I arrived in Istanbul at the height of election season. Party flags covered the streets while minibuses blasted party slogans and music. Meanwhile, the military was making threats, implying that if the presidential elections didn't go the way they wanted, a coup de'tat would be forthcoming. Immigration suddenly seemed really boring compared to the armed overthrow of the Turkish government. With two months in Istanbul as my muse, I am currently examining the conditions under which the Turkish military follows through on its threats to cause a change in civilian government. Since 1950, the military has stated four coups and threatened several more. I am interested in understanding why some threats are transformed into coups, and others -- like the threats made last summer -- remain merely threats. Writing a thesis has been a great opportunity to supplement my Turkish language study while also allowing me to specialize on a specific characteristic of Turkish politics.

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