Turkey: It's Not Just For Thanksgiving December 20, 2014

By (Econ, Duke University) - abroad from 09/01/2014 to 12/23/2014 with

Duke University: Istanbul – Duke in Istanbul

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about making new friends, being independent, how to explore, how to take risks that stretch your comfort zone, budgeting money in the real world, Turkish, Turkish history, and current affairs.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

While I enjoyed the required classes (Ottoman history and Turkish), registering for them was very stressful. However, everything seemed to work out in the end after much emailing, etc. Boğaziçi doesn't have registration windows for its 10,000+ students, so it is understandable why the registration site is so frustrating. However, I enjoyed being able to choose my remaining two classes. Flexibility varied. SInce the Duke program ends almost a month before the normal semester, we had to make special arrangements with our professors to take exams early. This was very easy for the required courses and my experimental econ course (our professor made us our own special exam), but was a real pain for my history of economic thought course, where the professor required us to take our final on the first day of school at Duke back in America. Classes here started out easy but turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Teachers are very good here at times but don't give much feedback if any, making it difficult to understand paper grading, test grading, and how to improve, which can be very frustrating.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Alican, Kara, Fazilet, Zeynip, and everyone else was very helpful, available, and answered all the questions I had. Alican was especially fantastic. He went above and beyond finding extra weekend excursions for the program around Istanbul (Ebru Workshop, horticulture event, scavenger hunt) to make it more interesting. The excursions

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The super dorm was perfectly fine. The staff at the front memorized everyone's faces (all 500 of us) so it is impossible to host visting friends, which is annoying. The walk to south campus is about 20 mins and the walk to north campus is about 10 mins. Laundry here is slightly expensive at 12 lira/load (loads are pretty small), but the convince factor is high. Laundry is done in the Super dorm and all washing and folding is done for you. There is a cafeteria and market inside of the superdorm as well.

* Food:

You don't have to look very hard to find great food in Istanbul. However, food is not included on this program (outside of excursions) and eating at restaurants is çok pahalı. To cut down on costs, I recommend eating at the cafeteria. The food is very edible and it only costs 1 TL for breakfast and 1.5 TL for lunch or dinner.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We lived with Turkish roommates and were surrounded every day by the Turkish language. The non-Duke classes were a great opportunity to get more immersed in the culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

This is a mixed one. Alican did an amazing job getting the program to pay for an amazing health care program for us that made me feel very secure. However, the student health clinic was really the only place I ever had to visit, and it was never worth visiting because of how difficult it was to communicate to the doctors who didn't speak any English. Even with a translator, solutions never were ideal, giving strange ointments for foot injuries that never helped or strange pills for fluid in lungs, etc.

* Safety:

I don't know why, but I never felt too unsafe in Turkey. The super dorm has security guards at the door 24/7 and in general, people in Turkey are very nice and helpful. I felt very safe and have no incidents to report.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Costs were not too bad once we got our student cards so that we could eat at the cafeteria. I'd estimate 10 TL on transportation, 30TL a week if you eat only at the cafeteria, 24 TL for laundry every cycle, 20 TL/Month for cell phone. In reality, I probably took money out of the ATM every 1.5 - 2 weeks.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Eat at the cafeteria. It is edible and extremely cheep.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 2 semester of college Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Make lots of Turkish friends and lots of language mistakes. I actually joined one of the school's jazz choirs, where meetings were conducted entirely in Turkish. Also listening to the radio helps.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excursions (Both large ones and weekend ones in Istanbul)
  • Unique Culture and Contrast From Europe
  • Language Barrier
* What could be improved?
  • Getting Student ID Card Quickly
  • More Task Based Learning in Turkish Class (we don't learn though participation as much as we do in language learning back at Duke)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I didn't realize food was not included in the program, but I think that was made clear to me and I didn't listen. It turned out not to be a big deal since the cafeteria was so cheep. Also, the weather in the Winter is grey, cloudy and raining almost every single day November onwards. Not a big deal, but missing blue sky makes me want to encourage students to choose the less popular spring option. Pianos are very difficult to find.