Coining Culture: Travel and Turkish coffee with Sinan Kazaklar ’14

Earlier this week, I walked into a busy, bustling Paces Café to chat with Sinan Kazaklar ’14. Sitting at a booth, he looked like he was in his element, comfortable and self-possessed. You may know him for his Turkish coffee nights, which take place every Tuesday at Paces, but Sinan is also intensely involved at the cafe as Financial Director this year.

When Sinan first came to Swarthmore from Istanbul, he did not expect finance to be in his future. “When I was in high school, I wanted to study medicine,” he explained. “So when I got to Swarthmore, I took a bunch of natural science classes and was pre-med. In my freshman year, I took Introduction to Economics and really liked it, and then decided to continue with that. I finished all my requirements for pre-med by the end of sophomore year but decided not to apply to medical school.”

Having abandoned the prospect of medical school, Sinan chose to escape the Swarthmore bubble for a year at the London School of Economics, where he studied finance and economics. Although Swat’s collaborative atmosphere marked a positive change from his competitive high school, he missed the bustle and accessibility of a large city like Istanbul. After serving as Student Academic Mentor in his sophomore year and feeling the pressure of serving an entire hall, Sinan decided to spend a year abroad so that he could really appreciate his last year at Swarthmore. Now back on campus, he is able to appreciate the slightly more relaxed atmosphere that differentiates us from a large city.

“I missed the bar culture and the accessibility of a city that I really enjoyed in London,” he said. “I thought London would be like New York, but it was so different – much more European, eclectic and historic. I enjoyed living in a cosmopolitan city and meeting people from all over the continent. Being from Istanbul, it wasn’t very hard for me to adapt to the European culture, which is sort of universal. Of course, it’s always hard to go to a new place and make new friends, but I got used to it fairly quickly.”

Indeed, Sinan himself exerts an air of internationality, having spent his time in a variety of places. A year in London allowed him to travel around Europe occasionally while getting accustomed to being a Londoner. He has also spent summers doing research at Swarthmore as well as working back home in Istanbul. Last year, he spent his summer at Goldman Sachs in London, interning with sales and training. Despite the long hours and rigorous schedule, the experience was intensely challenging and Sinan had a rewarding time — working in investment banking allowed him to keep up with markets around the world, work on his interpersonal skills and keep his technical skills up to par.

“Part of why I chose Swarthmore was the challenge, and that’s what I really liked about my internship. In the ten weeks I worked at Goldman Sachs, I learned more than I did at my finance class at LSE,” he said.

Next year, Sinan is ready to return to the world of investment banking at Goldman Sachs and is going to work at the Emerging Markets Sales desk in London.

As a confused sophomore, I asked Sinan how he made the transition from pre-med to finance, and how he decided what to major in.

“What I found out through my career search and my internships is that it doesn’t matter what you major in,” he reassured me. “What counts is how open you are to different experiences and how well you deal with the responsibilities you are given. The way I see it, higher education is meant to teach you how to learn, and you can learn the actual material you need to at your job.”

Sinan also recalled what Paces Café was like his freshman year, when not as many people frequented the space. As part of a five person team, he has watched Paces grow and transform from a space that was totally dependent on school funding, to a business that now makes a profit every week. Having established a presence at Paces, he thought Turkish coffee would be an interesting addition to the menu, especially since he used to casually make coffee for his friends. For now, you can find Sinan there every Tuesday, or at the Admissions Office where he works as an International Recruitment Intern.

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