By Arpit Rathi
Electrical Engineering, fifth year
Boğaziçi University, Turkey (Autumn 2015-16)
Intro – With a lot of faded memories and a lot of cherished ones, I write this article about my experience of semester exchange program at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul more than a year ago during the Fall term, 2015-16. I went there with 3 of my batch-mates (Shubham Singhal, Kashish Sottany & Kanishk Khandelwal) from the same department. And we were the only 4 Indians among more than 400 exchange students at the university coming in from different parts of the world. If you’re someone who is considering to go for an exchange program to Istanbul, this would be a good read.
City– Istanbul has a rich history and the place is full of ancient monuments. It’s a great combo of both architectural & natural beauty and a blend of both western & eastern cultures. If you’re a party animal you’re at the right place. If you’re a spiritual seeker, you’re again at the right place. Not only does it resides people with both modern and conservative ideologies together, but in fact, Istanbul is the only city in the world that embraces two different continents – Europe and Asia.
Transport– The public transport is well furnished and economical with a large number of buses, taxis, metro and trams running through the city, but the most amazing experience is that of riding a Ferryboat. With such a variety of options for intra-city transport, travel is always easy and fun in Istanbul.
Food– Although there are plenty of restaurants around the university serving a variety of delicious food, if you’re a vegetarian, life would be a little difficult unless you know how to cook. But if you’re a non-vegetarian, you’re in absolute heaven!
University– The University occupies a huge landmass that is distributed over 6 different campuses. The main campus is near Bosphorus and has a beautiful scenic view and gives you an additional incentive to wake up and go to school every morning. One of the other campuses that is although quite far, has its own private beach. Apart from this, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll find a lot of cats and dogs all around the campus that enjoys the privilege of being common pets for everyone in the university.
Students– In the university you’d find people from diverse backgrounds passionate about different fields of study like History, Political Science, Languages, etc. Interacting with them would give you a very different perspective in life and would help you grow as an individual and broaden your horizons.
Academics– All of us registered for a good number of credits. I took 7 courses, most of them being graduate level. Contrary to our expectations, there was a lot of coursework filled with assignments, projects and exams. And there was no getting away from the fact that we were only on a partial vacation. The academic standards were par excellence and the courses were structured really well. None the less we being IITians managed everything quite efficiently and in fact all of us performed a lot better than how we usually did over here.
People (Language) – The weather in Istanbul can be pretty cold with snowfalls but the people in Istanbul are always warm-hearted and welcoming to the visitors. Although the university students speak English as their second language, most of the natives speak only Turkish. Thankfully we have Google Translate for the rescue and we could easily get our way around in shops and malls. But learning some basic Turkish could prove really handy in day to day affairs.
People (Sports) – Turkish people are huge football enthusiasts. The 3 big football clubs in the country namely Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray which have a great rivalry are all based in Istanbul. You could literally feel the energy in all the cafes whenever there is a contest going on. As cricket is for India, Football is for Turkey. Enough said.
People (Culture) – Conversing over a cup of Turkish ‘Çay’ is a widely popular social custom. And apart from Football, people over there like to have discussions on differences in international cultures which are really illuminating. Although, some people might possess strong religious and political views and carry a spirit of nationalism but most of them embrace the differences in beliefs in a positive spirit. As a piece of advice, when it comes to religious or political conversations, diplomacy goes a long way.
Travel & Nightlife– Weekends are always fun as there are numerous parties organised across the city targeted specifically for the exchange students. Also, there are a lot of trips that are organized to some of the most amazing places in Turkey like İzmir, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, etc. which I’d highly recommend to be a part of. Apart from that, if you have time, money and a visa at the same time, it’s not a bad idea to explore Europe as well. Unfortunately for us, we just had the “plan” for that.
Safety– Probably the only dark side of visiting Turkey is recurring terrorist threats. I’d advise you to carefully analyse the political situation of the country once before you decide to go. Thankfully, our visit was pretty much peaceful.
Concluding– I’d like to conclude by saying that for once during your college journey, get out of the game of grades for a while. Have an open mind. Explore. And I assure you that you’d be a lot wiser when you return!