After the violent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, Süheyl Uyar (24) and Tevfik Çiçek (26) flew to Turkey with a group of Dutch healthcare providers to help victims in the disaster area. They stayed for a week and set up a field hospital. Once back in the Netherlands, the interns raised more than 50,000 euros for those affected in Turkey. The two students then went back again to distribute the funds and to provide further help. Süheyl and Tevfik have now been jointly nominated for Student of the Year.

EM WP-Student of the Year-2023-Femke Legué

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You flew to Turkey a few days after the earthquakes, how did that come about?

Süheyl: “When we heard about the earthquake neither of us realised how big it was at first, but after a while you could see the extent of the impact. We are both of Turkish descent, so it felt very close to home. I thought: I may be able to help with my medical background. The earthquake happened on Monday, and we signed up for the relief campaign on Wednesday. On Thursday evening, we were called to ask if we could be at Schiphol at 5 am the next morning. We didn’t have to think twice. When we arrived at Schiphol we didn’t know anyone, and in fact we didn’t even know each other.”

Tevfik: “We also didn’t know what we were going to do or exactly where we were going, as this still depended on where there was a demand for medical personnel. In the end we were sent to Adiyaman, where it was a bit like a movie: there were rescue teams everywhere, people asking for your help. In Adiyaman, we went to the university campus. Hundreds of thousands of people were arriving every day, but there was still no medical help. In the end, we worked with a group of doctors and nurses to set up a field hospital, which ended up being two very large tents with medical help, a pharmacy and the like. We were ultimately able to hand it over to the local aid organisations and it’s still being used now.”

What motivated you to go?

Süheyl: “We want to point out that this isn’t a hero story, we’re not heroes. We were in the privileged position of being able to go there. Most of all, we just wanted help to arrive, whether it came from us or from others. We didn’t know in advance that we would end up establishing a field hospital. We just went there to help people, and I would also have been fine with moving rubble.”

Tevfik: “Look, we can all go on holiday in the sun or go skiing, but this is so much more satisfying. It feels so good to help others: to hand out an envelope with money, make a child happy with a game or give someone a meal. I would like everyone to experience that feeling.”

What has stayed with you the most?

Süheyl: “The second time I went, we ended up deep in the mountains delivering envelopes with money in them. On the way back, we drove past a village where we had been a few hours earlier and saw a man gesturing at us by the roadside. When we stopped, he told us that his family had accidentally received two envelopes, so he wanted to give one back because other families needed it too. When we looked in the envelope, the original amount was still in it.”

What do you think of the nomination?

Tevfik: “I’m not really into these kinds of awards, to be honest. We’re not at all interested in being in the spotlights, but perhaps we can inspire people to do something themselves. You don’t have to jump straight on a plane to Turkey or Syria, you can help in so many ways. For example, you could give your neighbour a helping hand or spend a weekend working at the food bank.”

Süheyl: “Of course we appreciate the nomination very much, it’s an honour. But we want the focus to be on the victims once again. And if we can inspire someone to help others, that would be great. If we win, it goes without saying that we will immediately donate the prize money to the people affected.”

Who is your biggest role model?

Tevfik: “My parents. I learned from my father to be selfless, to do things purely to help someone without it benefiting you.”

Süheyl: “Yes, it’s also my parents for me. Parents are so important. Especially my mother, her care and consideration inspires me and she teaches me to see the good in people.”

The election for Student of the Year is organised by Studium Generale and Erasmus Magazine. The jury has chosen the finalists from 104 nominations. From 11 May, you can vote for one of the students. These votes are one part of the final outcome. The jury will vote again and the very last round of voting will be by the public on 31 May.

Students of the Year 2023_nominaties_nominees_AmranMahamed-SüheylUyar&TevfikÇiçek-PimdeBoon-AlexHuang-ReneedeGroot_Thanh Nguyen

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