The theme of the third TEDxYouth@EyüboğluHS event was ‘Roads Untravelled’.

Excitement was building in the sunny school garden on the morning of Saturday 28 April as the students and staff who had organised the event donned their black T-shirts, specially-designed just for today, and waited to greet their guests. Everything was ready to start and the months of planning the third EyüboğluHS TEDxYouth event were about to come to fruition. Soon Eyüboğlu students, parents and teachers, along with students from other notable Istanbul hi̇gh schools, i̇ncludi̇ng FMV Erenköy Işık, SAC, Robert College, Üsküdar American College and Terakki Foundation Schools, began to arrive. Presented with their event badges, bracelets and greeted by the warm smiles of the organisers, members of the audience wandered around the inviting garden, decorated in the distinctive red, grey and black of TED events, taking photos, having breakfast and waiting in expectation for the day’s events to begin.

At 9.00, everyone was settled in the E-hall. The thrilling voice of Eyüboğlu College student, Melanie Koşkun, singing Elliot Wheeler’s ‘Power’ gathered everyone’s attention for the beginning of the first session of the day. Suddenly the hall was pitched into darkness and the sound of revving motorbike engines was heard. From the back of the stage came small lights.As the audience strained to see, they understood that the event was underway….kicked off by a group of mini robots, each carrying a card, who moved themselves to the front of the stage and organised themselves into a WELCOME message before disappearing back to the Eyüboğlu Computer teachers who had programmed them. Next, members of the Eyüboğlu TEDxYouth club, Ayşenaz Kocailik, Ayça Pektekin and Buse Kutulu, welcomed the audience to the event….and then we were off!

After watching the official TEDx video, which explains to the audience the aims and format of a TEDx event, which includes live talks as well as the audience were treated to the first fun and informative video, Richard St John’s ‘8 Secrets of Success’. St John had interviewed many renowned attendees and speakers at the official TED event in Vancouver and collated their advice for success into a three-minute infoburst. In short, St John, a ‘success analyst’ and author, who regularly shares the same advice with American high school students as a 2-hr presentation, says that success requires values which include passion, persistence and service and boils down to the advice that we should do our jobs “for love, not for money".

In a similar vein, Eyüboğlu high school student, Nazlı İdil Ulusoy, focused on the secrets of happiness. In an inspiring talk, Ulusoy shared how her own definition of happiness had moved away from the need to be “perfect", and the realisation that such a goal was impossible, and focused on the outcomes of some personal research she had done into what ‘makes’ people happy, arriving at the following recipe:

  1. Accept what you have
  2. Enjoy what you do
  3. Live for today
  4. Have relationships
  5. Stay busy
  6. Don’t compare
  7. Be yourself
  8. Stop worrying
  9. Get organised
  10. Think positive

Continuing an uplifting session focused on new ways of reflecting on the road to success, the audience were treated to an energetic rhythmic gymnastic performance by Eyüboğlu high school student, Ayda Özkeşkek and then Alp Köksal, a senior at Üsküdar American College, shared his ideas on volunteering with the aid of some mathematical metaphors. Köksal explained that volunteering is not a one-way street and that, in the long term, volunteers often gain much more in terms of insight and wellbeing from the volunteering experience than the people they are ‘helping’. He suggests that volunteering projects should appreciate the impact they have on the volunteers and reframe the language of volunteering as an exchange - thus removing the image of the helper and the helpless - by focusing on initiatives which support empowerment of the ‘needy’.

In a frank and personal talk, Eyüboğlu high school student, Ayşe Kelce spoke of her debilitating struggle with anxiety and how she had begun to overcome it. She shared how she had been scared to do anything and the physical symptoms which accompanied her panic attacks had distanced her from trying new things or following her dreams. Finally, Kelce mentioned, her “therapist said don’t be friends with anxiety" and she began to say yes when I had always said no. This new attitude, she explained, meant she “felt the fear and did it anyway", going on to become an MUN speaker, debater and published author.

“Don’t be afraid to choose your own road - take the wheel."

Ayse Kelce’s novel, Kumsaldaki Meteor (The Meteor on the Beach), was published by Fenomen Kitaplar in 2015.

The next official TED video by Cosmin Mihaui discussed how the gamification of physical therapy could increase motivation and ensure that patients recover fully from physical injuries. After both his grandmother and himself suffered injuries which required physical therapy, Mihaui found ways to make the repetitive practice more fun by creating interest-appropriate game scenarios for all age groups. The technology also provides data to the physical therapist, enabling patients to receive a better quality of service, even when time for face-to-face appointments is limited.

The final speaker of the first session of the TEDxYouth@EyüboğluHS ‘Roads Untravelled’ event was Ebru Köksal, a Chartered Financial Analyst who has worked in the US for important financial institutions and is well-known for her time with Galatasaray Football Club. Köksal is now a prominent FIFA and UEFA women’s football and Women in Sports Leadership advisor. She shared details of her rollercoaster professional and personal life in a heartfelt and emotionally-charged talk, cautioning against complacence and advising the audience to grab every opportunity with both hands.

Ups and downs

Ms. Köksal shared how she had dropped out of Harvard Business School to return to Turkey and marry her husband, but had returned to complete her MBA in 2017. She said it was never too late to make a change or take on a new challenge. Following her own advice, Köksal mentioned that, at 47, after almost twenty years in football business administration and as a respected mentor of female sports leaders the world over, she has finally begun to play football herself. As always, the self-proclaimed overachiever was not content just to kick a ball around, and her women’s football team were league winners this year. It seems this story of success is still a work in progress!

“Success is being authentic and it starts with being honest with yourself...success is about making difference in the lives of others...success is building a future that you would like your children to live in."

Hardy a dry eye remained after the final honest and inspiring talk and many audience members swelled forward to congratulate the session’s speakers for a tremendous start to the day. The hum of discussion outside in the green areas testified to the fact that the audience had been given plenty of food for thought by the speakers and talk videos. After some time to chat, have a snack or sample some of the activities organised by the TEDxYouth club students, including virtual reality games, live music and a range of physical challenges, the participants were invited back into the hall for the next session.

Once again, the talks and videos offered a variety of perspectives and based themselves within different areas of interest, from cockroaches to game theory, but all spoke of ways to look at the world from a unique perspective or encouraged innovative thinking as a solution to a mundane problem.

The session opened with an eye-opening TED talk video from TED’s official 2007 conference in Vancouver, presented by ocean exploration pioneer, David Gallo. He showed video taken shot by Dr. Edith Widder of deep sea creatures who live in “a perfectly positively pitch-black world". Amazingly, as Gallo explained, these sea creatures are inexplicably colourful and rich in variety, and we have only begun to discover what’s down there as technology advances.

“ a place where we thought no life at all, we find more life, we think, and diversity and density than the tropical rainforest, which tells us that we don't know much about this planet at all. There's still 97 percent, and either that 97 percent is empty or just full of surprises."

Utku Diler, an Eyüboğlu high school student, illustrated the hero cycle discussed in Joseph Campbell’s novel, ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’, using contemporary fantasy and game characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Zelda and the Mario Brothers to illustrate how anyone can become a hero through a process of challenge, trial, crisis and victory. Diler brought his talk to a close by challenging his audience to become everyday heroes in their own lives:

“Anyone can tell a story; life’s a story...just go out there and tell it."

The next speaker, Aleyna Yıdırım, related her experience of moving out of her comfort zone as she moved from Izmir to Istanbul to pursue her education and ambitions in female basketball. Quoting Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, she pointed out that we need to try new things to move forward in life:

"The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." (Mark Zuckerberg, October 2011)

The next video, TED-Ed video by TED Fellow and neuroscientist, Greg Gage, presented of how the impulse feedback from the muscle movements of cockroach leg - amputated live during the video - were used to create a musical beatbox output. The experiment illustrates how the brain gathers information from our bodies to make sense of the world around us.

Eyüboğlu high school student, Oğulcan Kaya, shared a commentary on the importance of passion in career planning, using examples from the lives of computer programmer and Valve CEO, Gabe Newell, author J.K. Rowling and motoring journalist and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson. Kaya pointed out that satisfaction in life is not just about becoming reaching social norms of success, but is more related to job satisfaction based on ongoing challenge and developing unconscious competence in their field:

“Life isn’t about fitting in with the successful stereotype, it’s about being what you are and being as good as possible at it."

Members of the Eyüboğlu Young Entrepreneurship Club, Emir Baysal and Güney Ergüney, shared their experiences on the road to entrepreneurial success as members of the national young entrepreneur championship-winning team with their composting product design, Compose-It. One dressed in black, the other in white, the students presented their very different roads to their common win. Baysal built on previous successes, learning from the small mistakes which had left his previous team in second place to improve skills steadily through practice and increased organisation, while Güney’s experiences of miscommunication and disorganisation had him taught similar lessons more dramatically. Ultimately, they shared, they had both understood that the road to success is a learning journey with many disappointments and few guaranteed wins, but still worth the struggle:

For me, the meaning of entrepreneurship has changed in meaning. When I first started, I thought it meant a way to earn easy money... but it didn’t take me long to figure out that it is waaay different from that. Entrepreneurship to me now is having a goal, a passion and working hard for it while taking big risks. (Güney Ergüney) I see entrepreneurship differently... I think it is a kind of game based on loss, patience and struggle which bring you success. (Emir Baysal)

Following an energetic performance by the Eyüboğlu high school step dance club, this time to ‘Super Taranta’ by Gogol Bordello, the session drew to a close with a thought-provoking talk on game theory and its take on the human condition. Bülent Coşkun, Bilgi University MBA lecturer and academician, introduced the audience to The Prisoner’s Dilemma, an interesting model which suggests that it is always better to reject collaboration and be selfish; while you may gain less, you ensure your opponents don’t gain more. Examples of this model can be seen in many arenas, from business to evolution itself. The model’s results are inarguable and why, Coşkun revealed, systems built on zero-trust models, such as cryptocurrency Bitcoin, are likely to be more secure than traditional honour-bound methods. While thinking about tactical models of success can give us clues, he continued, it does not explain everything about the human condition or why we continue to donate, share or cooperate.

“Are we non-trusting humans, then? No. Game theory doesn’t teach us this; it simply teaches us how to be smart and fair."

As the audience spilled out into the sunshine for a relaxing lunchtime in the Çamlıca campus green areas, the discussions and reflections on the myriad perspectives represented began. Right at the heart of the TED initiative agenda to “make great ideas accessible and spark conversation." It was our pleasure to be able to further that agenda on a local level for our high school students, teachers, parents and guest from other high schools around Istanbul over the course of the day. In attendance were also students taking part in the second leg of our annual School Orchestra Exchange trip with of the Dutch Antre Foundation. Members of both Eyüboğlu and Antre Foundation orchestras performed their takes on modern favourites, such as Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, during the open mic sessions in the green areas during the breaks.

Participants lazed on beanbags, listening to music or chatting with friends, as they enjoyed the barbecue lunch provided in the garden. Lunchtime activities included a chill-out video room, opportunities to try out a range of virtual reality experiences, fun group games, such as soda pong, and instant challenge games designed by Eyüboğlu high school Destination ImagiNation club members. Participants were invited to reflect on the events of the days by writing comments as they threw paint splats and called out their reactions, by chalking their comments onto a giant black X or by writing feedback to the various speakers on a graffiti comment wall in the foyer to the Eyüboğlu Hall.

Softened by the sun, stomachs sated, the participants returned for the final session of the day. In keeping with the relaxed mood of the participants, the session began to strains of the English electronic group Morcheeba’s video ‘Enjoy the Ride', accompanying the mellow lyrics with views of beautiful skies from around the world.

The first TED video, ‘One year of turning the world inside out’, in which French street artist, JR, reported back to TED on his social art project Inside Out, funding by his 2011 TED Prize wish “to use art to turn the world inside out." The project prints photo portraits sent to them free-of-charge in a giant poster format and mails them back to the sender so that they can be used as a form of peaceful protest. More than one hundred thousand posters were printed in a single year and initiatives which have come into being due to the project include protesting Haitian dictatorship, Russian homophobia, the rights of women in Pakistan and the rights of native Americans in North Dakota, as well as mass marches for peace in Israel and Palestine.

The inspirational video was followed by the humorous tale of his first skydiving experience by Eyüboğlu high school science teacher, Emre Ede. He reminded the audience that great experiences are often on the other side of fear - both physical fear, and the social fear of embarrassment or not fitting in: “I promised myself that I would not let fear control my life, because if you do, you won’t have a life…. Time is fleeting, but memories are forever."

Selin Sönmez, a Terakki Foundation high school student, reminded participants about the importance of collaboration and learning from the past to move forward. In a synopsis of breakthrough discoveries throughout history which have ultimately been responsible for the advancement of our species, Sönmez reminded the audience about the importance of incremental discoveries. We, she says, should be happy to stand on the shoulders of giants and benefit from the discoveries already in existence because our frailty as humans means we do not have enough time to start from the beginning in any one life cycle. She suggested that “the main thing that makes us human is our ability of utilising the knowledge gained on roads that we personally did not travel."

“the only road we have to travel is the one that hasn’t been travelled yet."

A short home movie shot by Eyüboğlu College student Mehmet Ali Makbuloğlu, featuring an interview with his brother, a first grade student at Eyüboğlu Çamlıca Primary School, added the perspective of the very young to our pot-pourri of reflections on the day’s abstract theme of the ‘road untravelled’ as Mustafa shared his dreams for the future, mentioning that he wanted to become a director of action movies. The short film was followed by a modern dance performance by the Eyüboğlu high school dance club, choreographed to the Bishop Briggs song ‘River’.

The final TED talk video, like Sönmez’s talk earlier in the session, once again reminded the audience of their place inside a community. Children’s book author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka talked about why he based his popular Lunch Ladies graphic novel series on the unsung heroes of the school lunchroom. Lunch ladies, he reminds, do much more than serve lunch. They are often one of the few comforting constants in a child’s life and are in an unique position to observe student wellbeing over time. His stories encouraged their readers to appreciate the efforts of the lunch ladies in their lives and has even been the impetus for national School Lunch Hero Day in schools across America, but his point was not just about lunch staff. In schools, and other settings, we are part of a huge community with many auxiliary workers providing us with services which allow us to accomplish what we do with comfort and ease. It is often the case that they do their jobs so well as to be invisible, but they should never be unthanked or underappreciated, Krosoczka reminds. Ultimately, he says, giving or receiving thanks is a powerful thing: “A thank you can change a life. It changes the life of the person who receives it, and it changes the life of the person who expresses it."

Eyüboğlu Çamlıca Primary School English teacher, Laura Fenercioğlu, delivered the final talk of the day, sharing how she and her husband had accidently ended up with a Greek island mountain climbing hobby. Charting their degree of preparation and cross-referencing it with their performance and level of pleasure gained, Fenercioğlu used her mountain walks as a metaphor for reaching any goals you may have on life’s road: “the moment you start learning from your mistakes, the trip becomes easier and more enjoyable... always try to keep our hearts open for new experiences and new adventures."

As the final session came to a close, members of the Eyüboğlu TEDxYouth club once again came on stage to thank speakers and participants. Just as they said goodbye, a surprise finale exploded onto the stage in the shape of the dance group we had enjoyed watching earlier in the day. They were soon joined by the Brass Brothers who pleased the audience with an enthusiastic brass percussion rendition of the Percy Mayfield rhythm and blues classic ‘Hit the Road, Jack’. The joyful percussion group, with the assistance of members of the Eyüboğlu high school dance club, led the audience out of the Eyüboğlu Hall into the garden for a group photo and some more music and dancing outside, under a furious display of black, red and white balloons. After photos, hugs, enthusiastic thanks and promises from guests to ‘see you all again next year’, the day came to a satisfied finish. It had taken months of planning and lots of energy and dedication from a giant team, but it was a wonderful experience… so, don’t forget to join us next year when we do it all again!

The fourth TEDxYouth@EyüboğluHS event, ‘Fight or Flight’ will take place at the Çamlıca Campus on Saturday 27 April 2019.

TEDxYouth@EyüboğluHS 2018