PREP Talk Too – Charles Riddell

CHARLES WILLIAM RIDDELL, born in 1965 in Glasgow (Scotland). After high school, he worked for some time in a photographer’s office, then he studied Electronic and Electrical Engineering, joined the army for 31 years (his  work of love for the PREP  talks), and finished his education with a BA in Astronomy and Planetary Science and a MSc in Intelligence and Security Studies. He has two children from two marriages, a 25-year old daughter and a 5-year old son. His hobbies are playingthe  guitar, writing songs, reading and amateur dramatics. He has been teaching at IUE for the past year.

Why did you choose the military?

I saw it as a way to see the world and experience lots of different things in life. I just wanted to travel and to be in a position where I could be doing something important. I have been in Northern Ireland, Germany, Turkey, Cyprus, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and a lot of places in the Middle East. My favourite memories are from the trips when we didn’t just go for work. One highlight was going to Berlin when the Wall was still up and then going back after the Wall had come down. Also,  travelling through East Germany to get to Berlin was special. I spent my last four years in America, and had a chance to travel all over the country. Before that I lived for four years in the UK and before that four years in Turkey. That’s the thing: this is the first real opportunity for me to call a place home.

You went from the military to teaching 18-year old kids, why did you make this change?

Many times during my military career, people told me I would be a great teacher and I never took it seriously. I retired because my son was four years old and my wife (she’s Turkish) was missing home. And I honestly thought “okay, I am retired but I cannot sit here doing nothing”. So I looked back and remembered all these people saying I could be a teacher. It was another challenge and it was gonna be completely different from what I had been doing in past. Then, by chance, I have a good friend here at the university (teacher John Robertson) who I’ve known for eleven years. He is also Scottish and we were in military together.

What have you learnt from this change to teaching?

I’ve learnt not to take teaching for granted. I thought this was gonna be quite simple coming from working in a very stressful, dynamic environment. Going to teaching would be easy peasy , but it was a big shock to the system. It’s very tiring and you have to constantly think on your feet. But what  I really enjoy about it is meeting lots of new people and possibly being in a position to change the way somebody thinks about life. Maybe you can get someone to look at things in a different way, get them to look at something a little deeper, to think outside the box, to see the bigger picture.

Do you have any advice for our future?

I hear a lot of negativity about the future’s uncertainty and that’s quite depressing. Too many people are talking about trying to get out this country, but if all the intelligent people go out now, if all the educated people leave the country, where will that leave Turkey in the future? I think your country is a great country with great people, and eventually it will be what the people make it to be.

I think that with politics everywhere we are going through some of the most dangerous, but also some of the most interesting times ever. Who knows where the future will lead us but we can’t give up on our hopes and dreams, because those are the two things that keep us going in life: our hopes and our dreams ……..

Interview by Uğur Dura