Melahat Güray 2007-2008 Academic Year Jean Monnet Scholar
Delegation of European Union to Turkey, Department of Economic and Social Development, Program Manager
Could you tell us a little about yourself? How has your career been shaped until today?
For about 16 years, I have been trying to make a difference in different institutions and positions in the field of social policy with different tools, to contribute in line with the values and dreams that I believe in for the development and improvement of working and living conditions of people. Although I have many reasons to lose my idealism on the road, I continue the journey, holding on to the principle of hope.
When I graduated from METU Political Science and Public Administration in 2004, my only dream was to become a district governor. However, it was not possible to become a district governor as a "woman" due to predictable reasons. When I passed the EU Expertise exam of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which I applied in the same period, it was possible to start my career as an EU expert as a woman. Thus, my career, which has progressed in the triangle of "EU, social policies and project management" of about 16 years as of now, started. My experience in the ministry has been a good school for me, I also gained knowledge and experience in issues such as project preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation thanks to the Pre-Accession Financial Assistance in addition to the fields such as international conventions, EU legislation, country legislation, labor market in the field of social policy Learning about the country's bureaucracy and making good friendships are also among the contributions of my experience in the ministry. During my time in the ministry, I worked for a while as a representative of Turkey at the Eurofound for the Development of Working and Living Conditions in Ireland. My love for Ireland also changed my preferences for the master's degree.
After nearly 10 years of experience in the ministry, as I always liked the idea of going outside the comfort zone for the things you believe in and innovations in life, international organizations crossed my path. For a while, I worked as a social policy expert and national project coordinator in different projects and programs at UNDP and ILO Turkey Office. I have been working as a program manager in the economic and social development department at the Delegation of EU to Turkey since 2019. I continue my academic studies in the PhD program in sociology of work in the Department of Sociology in METU.
What shaped my career was never my career itself, but my love of the field in which I worked, and my insistence and dream of “being useful.”
Could you give us information about the university and the topic you studied with the Jean Monnet Scholarship Program?
I completed my master's degree in European Economics and Public Policy at the University of UCD (University College Dublin) in Dublin, Ireland. As an interdisciplinary program, the program offered course options in different fields such as social policy, economics, governance and law. At the same time, I had the opportunity to attend classes at universities and research centers in Florence for 2 weeks and in Leuven for 2 weeks, and to visit EU institutions in Brussels. In this sense, it was both enjoyable and very useful in terms of meeting different academicians and seeing institutions and mechanisms that work or do not work in the field.
As a thesis topic, I critically addressed the "Flexicurity" approach, one of the main pillars of EU social policy, and looked at its implementation in countries in different welfare systems. I conducted such a study because I thought it was valuable to remember and remind us of security in our very fragile lives in those years when there were discussions of flexibility in labor markets that still remain relevant.
What are the effects of the education you completed through the Jean Monnet Scholarship Program on your view of the European Union?
My education and living one year in Ireland affected my thoughts and feelings about both EU legislation and policies in the field of social policy and the EU in general.
During my master's degree, I thought about what could be done to increase the effectiveness of EU Social Policy in member and candidate countries academically. Since I believed, I still do, that the EU and the UN should increase their effectiveness, especially in the field of social policy, I was thinking about the ways and whether this was possible during my institutional visits and my academic studies. I once again experienced that the most fundamental basis for social integration of the EU, which is successful in economic integration, is the values and principles it sets out, but I thought that the tools it should use should be more diversified.
During my visits to the institutions and my thesis, I was surprised by the bureaucracy in EU governance. I started thinking about what we could do with the omnipresent side of the bureaucracy and I still haven't found it.
I felt how wonderful, but also how utopian, the feeling of being together with “difference and diversity” in EU countries, as I had the opportunity to travel a lot. As I made young friends who came to Ireland from different countries for education or employment purposes and had the opportunity to talk with them, I saw how the idea of the EU has shrunk the world geographically and grows it culturally and intellectually.
What would you like to recommend to Jean Monnet Scholarship candidates?
Know or feel what you want or at least what you do not want when choosing a program/university/country,
Research, read, watch, think about that country before you go there,
Choose lessons that will give you pleasure, enrich you not only in terms of career, but also mentally,
Determine your thesis research topic by getting ideas from as many academicians as possible,
In addition to following your courses and thesis studies, get to know the culture of the country/city you will go to, learn its history, food, drinks, habits, read writers and poets who grew up in that geography and telling the stories of these places and listen to songs,
Sleep on trains, travel a lot,
Make friends and friendships,
Discover its nature.