Istanbul Summer II 2015
Summer in Istanbul
While in Istanbul, I tried my best to absorb Turkish culture, as I had never visited the country before and may never do so again. The classroom setting in the university I stayed at was refreshingly informal. The teacher conversed casually us for roughly 15 minutes after the posted starting time for the class, while the students filed in. It seemed that the professor cared for her students, to the point where she made sure that our books could be accessed as cheaply as possible. While living in Turkey, I was able to further my appreciation of history in ways I had never imagined outside of books and the classroom. I was able to see the remarkable architecture of the old city, which houses such monuments as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Pictures of both of these are included.
While I had read about the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, located on Turkey’s western coast, it was something else entirely to visit the site myself, following the footsteps of the ancients. Later, I took a trip across the Aegean to Greece, where I was able to briefly experience contemporary Greek culture.
One of the more interesting cultural experiences I had was getting to enjoy a Turkish bath. I visited an ancient bathhouse in Istanbul, built in 1454, which offered a deeper clean than I have ever experienced.
The area I lived in was a neighborhood in Istanbul called Etiler. The area was filled with what are called “neighborhood dogs.” These animals, though vaccinated and tame, have no permanent residence and wander the neighborhood, recieving food and occaissonally medical care from the local residents in Etiler. Every time me and my friends went out, we had an escort of these friendly creatures to accompany us. I became quite fond of these dogs, including one we affectionately nicknamed “Gimpy”, who is shown in one of my pictures.
Language-wise, I tried to speak Turkish wherever possible. I learned a few key phrases, mostly involving eating in restaurants or finding my way around the city.
One of the major differences between Turkey and the United States is the religious one. Islam is the dominant religion there, and the different religious practices were quite interesting. Throughout the day, I heard the call to prayer, which summons observant Muslims to mosque for their daily prayer. It was intriguing to accomodate to a different religious atmosphere than the one I had grown up in.
In general, I would say that my study abroad trip was an amazing personal and educational experience. I hope to be fortunate enough to visit Istanbul again, and have a second chance at exploring such a wonderful city.