December 17, 2020
She is a pioneer: Suna Turhan was the first in her family to attend university – the English-speaking Jacobs University in Bremen. "This made me not only the first student in my family, but also the first to go to a private university," the Berlin-native said. Thanks to her outstanding academic achievements and her great social commitment, she even qualified for the "Vodafone Chancen Stipendium", a full scholarship for students with migration background. Suna now works in marketing and sales for a US-American company based in the Silicon Valley. Here, she also plays a pioneering role: she is one of the few women pursuing a career in the tech industry.
Suna chose Jacobs University because of its diversity. Young people from more than 110 countries live and study on the campus in Bremen. "That really convinced me," the alumna explained. From 2007 to 2010, Suna studied “Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies”, an interdisciplinary program combining literature and cultural studies.
During the initial period, she was facing a number of challenges. Suna first had to get used to the new environment. "At the beginning I was a little homesick for Berlin. As a student from the working class, the academic milieu was also new to me.” In addition, she was confronted with a high academic workload. But Suna successfully met these challenges – not least thanks to her mother, who encouraged her: "I am still grateful to her for that today.” In the following months, Suna settled in on campus. In particular, the many opportunities for voluntary work appealed to the young woman: "For me, it was like paradise. And like many of my friends, I was highly motivated to get involved beyond the curriculum."
Together with some fellow students, Suna revived the Radio Club at Jacobs University and wrote articles for the student magazine. Furthermore, she initiated the Bremen Media Project, a workshop for young people interested in journalism, in cooperation with the University of Bremen. "It was important to me to give something back to the city where I lived."
At the end of 2009, she received the Mercator Award for her broad commitment. The award is dedicated to outstanding students who live in the Mercator College at Jacobs University. Suna lived there throughout her entire bachelor's studies. "That gave me a lot of self-confidence and it also showed that social commitment is worthwhile," said Suna.
When she was 15 she received her first scholarship: a scholarship from the “START” foundation, explicitly directed at gifted and social committed high school students with a migration background. Her classmates had recommended her to apply. "I was surprised by that initiative. I always thought that you had to be born abroad to have a migration background. I didn't associate myself with that at all back then."
A few years later she received the Vodafone Chancen Scholarship. Her geography teacher helped her apply. The scholarship was intended to increase the number of young people with a migration background at private German universities. This was the first time Suna learned more about private higher education in Germany and came across Jacobs University during her research. "I liked the idea of studying at an international university together with people from different cultural and social backgrounds.”
Suna’s bachelor's degree was followed by a master's in “Social Sciences”, which she completed at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the Middle East Technical University in Ankara as well as at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (GC CUNY). The Jacobs alumna has been living in Munich for four years now, where she has been working in marketing and sales for various IT companies.
Suna has been fascinated by the increasing digitization at an early stage. Originally, however, she wanted to become a journalist. "I began my studies with this goal in mind," said Suna. Her dream was to combine her passion for books and texts with the new, digital media. In the end, things turned out a little differently: her first job took Suna to London, to the marketing department of an American tech start-up. "In this job, communication plays a major role. So, I could definitely see myself continuing to work in this fields. And at the same time, I had enough money to live on," she explained with a wink.
Other jobs in prestigious start-ups in the tech industry followed. Her English language skills, which she perfected at Jacobs University, helped her in her jobs.
In addition to her demanding career, Suna is still involved in volunteer work today. She is committed to climate protection and she was active in the Jacobs University’s Alumni Association until recently. But even on her own doorstep her commitment does not stop, when she is supporting the homeless: "Commitment can be big or small.”
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.