Dilara Pars in competitive action

Dilara Pars in competitive action

School Student Carries the Flame

Dilara Pars, first-year undergraduate at the School, and Turkey's champion junior show-jumping star, is joining the Olympic Torch Relay in Istanbul on 3 April.  ‘I am very excited to be taking part in this important event,’ Dilara said. ‘My uncle put my name down without telling me, so I was really thrilled when I found out I had been selected!’

A Business and Management student, Dilara (19) began riding when she was 12, and has been competing—and winning—at show-jumping for several years.  In 2005 she won both the Individual Balkan Championship and the Team Balkan Championship, having already won Turkey's most important juniors’ competition, the “Inönü Cup” twice, in 2004 and 2005.  Since then she has gone on to win the Team Balkan Championship in 2007 as well as two major winter cups, the “S Winter” and “Kaya Baban.”

Dilara's success in the show-jumping ring has not interfered with her education or her professional ambitions.  Speaking of her time studying with the School, Dilara says‘I came and saw the campus and fell in love with it, and Exeter's rankings are going up and up every year, which influenced my decision a lot’ she explains. ‘I am really enjoying my time here. The system is quite different from Turkey, with more private time studying, but being here has made me stand on my own feet, though it was difficult at the beginning.  People are so friendly here, and all the lecturers do their best to help and make you feel you are “at home”!’

The University of Exeter is currently “home” for more than fifty Turkish students; many of them, like Dilara, are enrolled in professional courses such as business and law.  However, in the future, Exeter intends to become the UK's leading educational institution for advancing understanding of Turkey's past, present and people.

In the meantime, the University riding club enables Dilara to continue training in her chosen sport while following her plan to graduate with a good degree and pursue a successful career in international business management.  ‘And I want to continue riding and competing at higher levels, if I still can!’ she declares.

While at Exeter, Dilara has become involved in the Great Anatolian Ride, an international project whose participants aim to ride on horseback across Anatolia in the hoof-prints of the great seventeenth-century Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi. The project aims to discover what can only be learned by travelling on horseback along the byways of this ancient region, and to see what remains of the native Anatolian breeds of horses. The organizers hope that the Great Anatolian Ride will lead to the establishing of an equestrian route across Turkey to be called the Evliya Çelebi Way.

Meanwhile, like other keen and gifted young Turkish riders, Dilara is optimistic that Turkey will soon be competing in equestrian events at future Olympics.  ‘There are lots of talented young Turkish riders who have the talent and training,’ she reports. With continued dedication, Dilara should find her dream coming true, of seeing Turkey competing—and winning—at the Olympic equestrian events in the very near future. 

By Andrew Finkel with Gerald Maclean

Date: 11 March 2008

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