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When COVID Hit, This Istanbul Student Persevered with an edX MicroBachelors Program

Written by edX on Aug 4, 2022

Related content: Learner Stories, MicroBachelors, Courses, Impact and Outcomes

Even at a young age, Arca Berkay Zengi knew he wanted to be a computer engineer. After graduating high school in Bursa, Turkey, he chose to enter studies to pursue a career in the field at a university in Istanbul because the city, as he calls it, is “Turkey’s Silicon Valley.” Halfway through his second year, Arca had finally settled into his major—and then the pandemic hit.

“Everything happened so fast in my country,” Arca remembers. “Cases of the virus increased and, suddenly, universities everywhere were closed. Curfews began, along with all the questions that schools had to figure out: How will lessons be taught? How will lectures be recorded and accessed? How will exams be carried out? The answers at my university were not productive enough for me, so that’s when my friends recommended edX.”

Arca found himself back at home, still enrolled in his university but spending most of his time learning on edX. Of the wide variety of options he found, he chose the courses most connected to his career goals and then got to work. A quick and eager learner, he audited several courses in mobile app development and UX design before deciding to earn certifications in such courses as Microsoft’s Introduction to C++, IBM’s SQL for Data Science, the University of Michigan’s Getting Started with Python, and MIT’s Becoming an Entrepreneur. While waiting for better remote learning options from his university, it was then that he spotted NYU’s MicroBachelors® program in Computer Science Fundamentals.

“I researched the content of the MicroBachelors and thought it was the best program for learning operating systems, hardware, and networking,” Arca explains. “I specifically want to be an iOS developer, but I don’t think it's right to learn coding without these basics. The MicroBachelors really taught me how computers work in detail so that I could build a foundation from there. The courses on edX were an incredible resource.”

More Confidence, Deeper Connections—and the Gateway to an Internship

Arca found the project-intensive curriculum of NYU’s MicroBachelors program to be extremely helpful in getting hands-on experience and keeping the concepts fresh in his mind.

“When learning programming languages, the most important thing is practice,” he says. “In the MicroBachelors, working on a lot of projects using Python really helped the information sink in. Those projects also helped me make deeper connections from one language to another so that I could pick up new languages faster.”

To encourage learners to work on projects and problem-solve together, each of the courses in the MicroBachelors program had a discussion forum where Arca and his peers could connect and collaborate.

“The discussion forum was a space where we could share more challenging questions with each other and improve ourselves together,” he says. “Learning how to ask for help and also give it was one of my most important takeaways from the program.”

The courses also helped Arca feel more prepared for all the internships he began applying to at the start of 2022.

“I felt my confidence increasing as I moved into the interviews,” he explains. “I had worked on so many projects and case studies that I just felt more capable of answering everyone’s questions. In a short time, I started getting great feedback from the companies I applied to, and I think the biggest reason for that is the education I received from edX.”

Arca eventually landed an internship at Janus Bilişim, an IT consultancy in Istanbul. He believes the MicroBachelors program has played a pivotal role in his experience thus far this summer. “I was able to find quick solutions to the problems I encountered in my work, thanks to all the different projects I worked on in the MicroBachelors,” Arca says. “I knew how to do better research, ask people better questions, and sometimes just dream up the solution myself.”

Arca enjoys a warm summer evening in Istanbul against the backdrop of the city's iconic Bosphorus Bridge, which connects the continents of Europe and Asia

Lifelong Learning in the Face of Ever-Changing Technology

This fall, Arca plans to continue his studies at his university in hopes of graduating next spring. All along, he’s been absorbing as much content as possible on edX and intends to keep taking edX courses to supplement and expand on his undergraduate experience.

“One of my favorite aspects of edX is that even though I’m a student in Turkey, I can also enroll in courses from some of the best universities in the world and learn all of it from the comfort of my own room—and for free,” he says. “It’s amazing that I can get the same education that people in the U.S., China, Australia, and other countries are getting from their schools.”

After he graduates, Arca also sees himself pursuing an online master’s degree on edX, and eventually bringing his passion for technology to the U.S.

“The MicroBachelors has indeed been the perfect step to my goals, and a master’s degree will take me even further,” he says. “New technologies are constantly emerging, evolving, and being updated every day. There's no limit to it! Reaching people of all ages around the world through a few megabytes of mobile apps excites and motivates me immensely. I want to work in the U.S. one day because, for me, that’s the technology center of the world. I am constantly trying to improve myself and love learning through technology, so I hope other people become aware of these incredible educational opportunities through edX, too.”


Discover how edX has opened up new pathways to opportunity for other online learners, including Ronak Tejas Shah, who’s breaking down barriers for other young visually impaired students like himself to learn technical skills, and Michael Bell, who earned a professional certificate on edX in order to fulfill his late partner’s entrepreneurial dreams.

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