Audiology Interview Series #4 Şeyma Yalçınkaya | Gallaudet University
In the fourth episode of the Audiology Interview Series, we talked with our special guest, Şeyma from Gallaudet University.
I hope you will love this interview!
Şeyma, thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us!!
PS: If you have a question, please comment below. You will get an answer:)
- Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Seyma Yalcinkaya. I graduated from Istanbul Medipol University in 2019. I have been doing my doctor of audiology program at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I have been awarded scholarships from Gallaudet University International Student and Scholar Services and the Doctor of Audiology department. I am interested in the vestibular field, and I have been working as a research assistant at Gallaudet University Vestibular and Balance Laboratory. I work as a newborn hearing screener at George Washington University Hospital on the weekends.
- How did you meet with Audiology? Can you give us information about your bachelor’s degree?
I didn’t know much about audiology until I learned that my family friend’s daughter studies in the audiology program. She mentioned to me her positive experience in the field, which motivated me to do more research about audiology. I discovered that this field in Turkey is relatively new, and I thought it could provide a variety of job opportunities after graduation.
I completed my bachelor’s degree at Medipol University. I had great opportunities to acquire clinical skills at Medipol Mega University Hospital. After I had started my bachelor’s degree in the audiology field, I was involved in a variety of volunteer internships including hearing aid centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and cochlear implant centers. I gained so many different perspectives and experiences during my internship placements. While I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I frequently attended symposiums and certification programs, which provided me with great connections with professionalists in the audiology field.
- How did you start your doctoral program? What steps did you take until now?
The day that I graduated from my undergraduate program, I flew to the U.S with a Work and Travel Program. While I was continuing my work and travel program, I researched audiology in the U.S. At the end of my work and travel program, which lasted 4 months, I changed my visa status to a student visa, F1. After 4 months of waiting, my student visa is approved. Then, I started my English classes at Kings Borough Community College for 6 months. While I was pursuing my language classes, I studied for TOEFL and GRE after classes. While the expected TOEFL scores that need to be taken to show a difference depending on universities, usually the lowest score that is required to be taken is between 80-100. On the other, GRE scores show big differences depending on the universities to that you are going to apply. After I obtained the TOEFL and GRE score that is required to be taken for the universities to that I applied; I added them to my applications. It is also required to send 3-5 reference letters which I requested from my professors. Then, I completed the other documents like bank statements and a transcript with an English translation.
- What did you pay attention to when choosing a university and research field for your doctoral education?
Firstly, it was very significant for me to study at a well-known university in the audiology field. I researched universities and their ranks before I applied to them. I contacted the students who study in those universities via social media and learned from their experiences. After I had applied to five different universities, I accepted offers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Gallaudet University, and the University of Connecticut. During my orientations and interviews, I had a chance to learn more about faculty members and clinical educators for each university. I also learned about their research opportunities.
Since I had a strong background during my undergraduate program in the vestibular field, I was driven to work on a project related to it. Professor Chiz Tamaki, director of the audiology program, gave me the opportunity to work in her vestibular and balance laboratory. Currently, I am working on assessments of the Unilateral Centrifugation and Subjective Visual Vertical tests in Deaf adults.
- What challenges did you face before starting your doctorate education? How did you deal with those issues?
Before beginning my doctorate program, I had issues with the administrative process because there was so much paperwork that I needed to complete to be able to start the program. In addition, I needed to study for GRE and TOEFL as well as prepare a CV and personal statement. In addition, having to adapt to a new culture and language and overcome all the difficulties by myself was overwhelming. I worked very hard to cope with these difficulties. Firstly, I was very motivated and concentrated to achieve my goals. I was very fortunate to have an amazing ESL teacher. He was willing to help me with my personal statement and TOEFL questions after classes. He sacrificed his extra time to be able to help me with my doctorate program application. Secondly, I was involved in so many organizations and made friends to adapt to the American culture and beliefs.
- What kinds of pros and cons have been doing a clinical doctorate or PhD in the United States?
In the U.S, education has been conducted in English, which is a huge advantage because it is the most common language in the world; most audiology books and resources are written in English. I have so many opportunities to interact with clients, which aid me to improve my fluency in English. In addition, in the U.S, universities and research labs often receive research funding to provide for doctoral students’ research projects. There are so many research conventions and symposiums, such as ASHA and AAA, which I can attend with grant and award opportunities.
The only drawback that I can think of is that I am expected to be completely independent to complete all the assigned tasks. My classmates and I spent so much time with homework and assigned readings outside of my courses. I devoted most of my time to complete my school work, and I often worked diligently in the clinic until late at night.
- Why did you choose Gallaudet University? What are the advantages of doing a doctorate program there?
Gallaudet University was the university that gave me the best first expression during my interview and orientation sessions. Their faculty members and clinical educators had strong academic and clinical backgrounds. I will never forget when I had my interview with Dr. Lancaster, who was my clinical supervisor for my first semester of the clinic; he was extremely positive and welcoming to me. He was very excited to have more diversity in our program, and he had a big impact on my decision to continue my education at Gallaudet University. Also, the most unique quality of Gallaudet University is that students are required to speak sign language outside of the classes, so it is expected to be fluent in English and American Sign Language, which is the third most common language in the United States. Over 80% of students in undergraduate programs include Deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In the Gallaudet University Speech and Hearing Center, we have the chance to see so many Deaf and hard of hearing clients, and we communicate via spoken English and/or American Sign Language with them. Diversity, multicultural issues and having an equal opportunity in medical care are important discussion topics in the U.S. Being able to speak two different languages and learning an additional, ubiquitous language would provide me with great career opportunities in the future as a first Turkish audiologist in the U.S.
- Can you talk about the Deaf community and sign language in the United States?
There are giant differences between the Deaf community and sign language in the U.S and Turkey. Firstly, the word “deaf” doesn’t seem to be a bad or wrong word. Oppositely, if someone identifies themselves as a Deaf person, identifying that person as hard of hearing is being seen as not right behaviour. In the Deaf community, being a Deaf doesn’t seem like a disability. Instead, it is seen as a culture. The most important thing that audiologists care about is that individuals especially children should be able to acquire a language. For this reason, audiologists’ main goal is to provide all the resources to their clients in order to acquire a language. Cochlear implantations and hearing aids don’t always establish the same effect in children. Sometimes cochlear implantations and hearing aids only aid children to hear the sounds, but it may not help in acquiring a language. In these situations, audiologists recommend using CI or HAs for receiving the sound inputs and using sign language to acquire a language.
Gallaudet University is representative of the Deaf Community. In the U.S, there are many Deaf schools which provide education to Deaf students including PhDs. There are many Deaf audiologists and they are very good at their jobs. In the U.S, the Deaf culture can benefit from interpreter services anywhere, so they can live independently without family members’ support. Also, it was interesting for me to learn that even if people’s one ear has total hearing loss and the other ear has typical hearing levels, these people identify themselves as Deaf. Since I used the terminology here, Gallaudet University academicians encourage people to use the word ‘typical’ instead of the word “normal” hearing. The reasoning behind this is that deaf people are not abnormal. They just don’t have the typical hearing levels as other people do.
- Can you talk about your routine, social activities, and relationships?
I have classes and research study 3 days a week, and I am in the clinic 2 days a week. On the weekends, I work at the George Washington University Hospital until afternoons. As an extroverted person, I had so many opportunities to socialize in the U.S. Firstly, I have an amazing cohort. We always organize parties, picnics, trips and attend baseball games. Besides our cohort organizations, we also do organizations from within the department. We organize ASHA brunch meetings or talent shows outside of the classes and attend our professors’ home parties. I have a very diverse cohort with different religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds, so I have so many opportunities to celebrate different holidays and attend cultural festivals. We always buy small gifts for each other, either to celebrate holidays or to just motivate each other. In addition, Gallaudet University organizes different social activities almost every day, and I had so many opportunities to learn more about Deaf culture while improving my ASL skills. I had attended church rituals with my classmates and made new friends from there. I am fond of learning about other religions and their cultural beliefs. I am also involved in a Muslim organization and every Friday I attend the lessons and pray sessions with them. It is also great to meet with Muslim people all around the world. Last but not least, I love travelling to different states during our school breaks. I had the chance to travel to more than 10 different states in the U.S. My next goal is to discover the rest of the 40 states.
- Can you talk about your research proposal? Are you satisfied with the subject you have been working on?
I am very excited about my research project. I conduct my own research project under Dr. Tamaki’s supervision. My research project topic is the assessment of the Unilateral Centrifugation and Subjective Visual Vertical tests in Deaf adults. This research project aims to investigate the feasibility of UCF and Dynamic and Static SVV tests on Deaf individuals and compare the results to patients with typical hearing. My long-term goal is also to find out the correlation between oVEMP, UCF, and Dynamic and Static SVV tests on vestibular assessment. I am also working on an independent project with an IT manager and mechanical engineer to create a mobile application for tinnitus sound therapy. I am dedicated to helping a broader audience of people affected by tinnitus.
- What are the differences between Turkey and the United States in the clinical and academic fields?
There are two different types of doctorate programs in the United States. These are Doctor of Audiology (AuD) and PhD. The AuD prepares individuals to become independent clinicians and supervisors of clinical practice who may be employed in clinic, hospital, and university settings and in private practice. The PhD prepares individuals to become independent investigators who are typically employed in academic and industrial settings. Being a clinician and academician are completely distinct from each other. In the U.S., academicians don’t interact with the clients while they teach classes and conduct academic research. However, in Turkey, academicians are involved in clinical and research work, which can be exhausting and causes not to super specialize either in them.
- What are the qualifications to conduct AuD? How do you improve yourself?
Firstly, you need to be very passionate about your major. AuD is an extremely challenging program that requires a lot of dedication to become successful. You need to have great communication skills to interact with clients and their families. It is very important to be open-minded and culturally competent. Audiology in the U.S requires culturally responsive practice. The United States has a hugely diverse community, so serving individuals within the context of their cultural background is significant. The ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of other cultures is an important qualification that an audiologist should have. Professional interactions with colleagues, students, audiology externs, interprofessional practice providers and so forth take an important place in the audiology field. To improve these skills, I try to acquire clinical experience as much as I can by working in the hospital and doing internships. I am involved in cultural organizations and try to learn cultural ethics to be able to practice cultural competence.
- Do you have any recommendations for students who want to proceed with an MSc or PhD?
Self-confidence, hard work, and positiveness are key qualifications for achieving success. During this journey, there will always be people who will claim that you can not succeed and talk about your goals’ difficulties. It is very important to trust yourself and not lose your motivation. Students should never forget what they are capable of and should not let others discourage them. It is an extremely challenging pathway, but we received an exceptional education in Turkey. This should enable us to pursue our MSc or doctoral degrees anywhere around the world! Trust yourself and never give up!
See you in the following interview! We are waiting for your contributions and comments!