Gatepost Interview John Palabiyik Marketing and hospitality professor

What’s your educational and professional background?

I have a B.A. from Istanbul University, and I actually studied ancient languages and cultures. After Istanbul, I started to work. There’s a huge gap between my B.A. and master’s – about 20 years. In 2009, I applied for my MBA, specializing in hospitality at DeVry University in Texas. I went there for a couple of years. After I finished there, I started to teach a little bit in hospitality and I applied to Texas Tech University for my Ph.D, specializing in hospitality again. My area is hospitality administration. 

What brought you to Framingham State?

I had been applying for jobs for almost a year – I had so many options, but Framingham State had something unique for me. They are opening a new hospitality department, and I specialize in the business of opening hotels and restaurants. I said, “Well, this is a new opportunity – a new start for me.” So, I applied for the job, and what they were looking for was someone more from the business side – someone who’s worked in hotels and restaurants, has experience with openings. And I think it was a perfect match. I noticed that the area is great. It’s good for my kids and for their education. Boston is one of the cities I like in the United States. And Boston has some good flight connections with Europe, and I have family members in Europe, so I thought it was a perfect place. So, I said I’d take it. It’s a state university, a good opportunity, and there are so many new things to me.

What do you think are some differences between studying in Turkey and the United States?

The biggest difference is the financial impact that affects the students. I remember when I was doing my B.A. … my job was being a student. Here, I see that school is not the students’ first job. They have to work and study. It sounds great because they are having the work experience and studying, too, but they still have so much in student loans. When I finished my degree in Istanbul, I didn’t have to pay anything – not even a single dime. I was working in school for four years, but for my personal expenses. I got really good support from my family, from the state, from the government, so I didn’t have to pay. I wasn’t really worried about financial issues. That is one thing that really affects students [here]. In Turkey, it looks like students are more successful because school is the only thing we expect from them. But here, I see they have a lot of responsibilities. That’s why I see students coming to class late, or they don’t come to class – they might be working. I kind of feel sorry for them sometimes.

What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?

I believe my greatest accomplishment is my family. I have a really great, supportive family. I have been married for exactly 20 years, as of a couple of weeks ago. Most of my time I spend with my family. … Even if it’s stressful here, if it’s a busy day, I can go home and it’s like I’m in a completely different world. My kids can speak a couple of different languages, and so does my wife. I think family ties are such an accomplishment. Whenever I tell this to people, they usually get surprised – they expect it’s business or academics. … But having a really peaceful and supportive family really is an accomplishment – not everyone can find it. It’s not easy to find someone you can be happy with and have kids together. It’s funny – I think it’s easy to move up in business or academics, but it’s harder to accomplish this.

What languages do you speak?

My first language is Turkish. From my grandparents and parents, I learned Greek. I’m fluent in English. When I was working in Turkey, we had so many customers from Germany. I’m not fluent, but I can communicate a little bit in German, a little bit in French. We are also very close to Arab countries, the Middle East, so I can communicate and understand basic Arabic. Recently, I’ve been learning Chinese. I can’t speak it well, but I’m going to teach in China, so I’ve been trying to learn. I’m probably not going to become fluent, but I would at least like to communicate a little in their language. I think it’s one of my skills – I can learn quickly with languages and cultures. That’s my first degree, too. I studied Latin, even though we don’t use it in daily life. I also studied cuneiform. It was 25 years ago, so I can’t read all the scripts right now, but I’m familiar with all the structures. We used to compare modern languages and languages we don’t speak anymore. It’s like a map – it truly helps me to understand cultural development and relations.

What is your advice to FSU students?

My biggest advice is to be a lifelong learner. You have to be a learner. … You have to be curious. You have learn about cultures – why do we do things, why do we think things, why do we speak different languages? What I always say to students is the moment they think they know something, it’s when they start to know less. When we get someone in a job interview who thinks they know everything, I think – this person is not hireable. This person is not trainable. They are not open to learn. I advise that you keep learning every day. 

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