I had fun; you will, too Past Review

By (Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics., Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/01/2014 to 12/22/2014 with

Duke University: Istanbul – Duke in Istanbul

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about another culture and saw the world through a different lens. I had a great time, and going to İstanbul is certainly worthwhile. Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim, which stands in stark contrast to any place I had ever been to before. It was nice being immersed in another culture where most people didn't speak English and I was forced out of my comfort zone. I would definitely recommend a semester in İstanbul.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

"Rigorous" is not a word to describe this program. The Duke history course was, at best, sub-par. The professor had a tendency to be at least twenty minutes late each session to the point where he added extra classes because he got behind and still we didn't finish all of the material. Other classes at Boğaziçi were engaging, but I wouldn't call them difficult. Having a Duke-only Turkish class was great, and we covered significantly more than the other introductory classes. That said, I don't know Turkish.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director, Alican, was amazing. He's honestly just a fantastic guy. He went out of his way to make our experience enjoyable, and I will be eternally grateful for that. Duke sponsored excursions throughout Turkey and weekend activities in İstanbul were fantastic and significantly increased my cultural immersion. Only four stars though because supposedly there were other members of the team, but outside of the excursions I didn't see them.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Superdorm is fine. It's not bad. It's the definition of mediocre. I would have loved if it had Wi-Fi installed during my time there. I also would have appreciated if the suites had stoves or anything to cook on. Some days I debated sleeping on the floor instead of the bed because it was so uncomfortable. On the other hand, the suites had a ton of cabinets for storing my limited things and were cleaned very often. My Turkish roommates were cool. The best part though was having all the program participants in the same building, which made it much easier to see each other and hang out.

* Food:

İstanbul has amazing food. The food on program excursions was unbelievably delicious. The food near campus at restaurants was also great. The food at the cafeterias...well....it was 1.50 TL. Can't really complain about that.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I leave İstanbul pretty satisfied with how my immersion went. I made a few close Turkish friends, not many, but enough. The language barrier, even on campus where everyone in theory knew English, definitely existed. But I definitely know a lot about İstanbul. I have favorite neighborhoods and have mastered the public transportation system.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I went to the pharmacy a couple of times for cold medicine. It's cheap and powerful. I didn't talk to the program though because a cold is not all that serious. I'm sure if I had more serious issues that the program would have been great.

* Safety:

İstanbul is incredibly safe. I had no incidents. Maybe you should have a guy sit in the front seat of the cab just to be safe, but really I can't think of any times I felt my safety was threatened at any time.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

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)

It definitely depends how you spend money. If you don't travel, you'll save a lot of money. Traveling from Turkey isn't cheap. Food can be done fairly cheaply - the cafeteria has meals for 1.50 TL (about $0.60 as I write this). The food is mediocre, but hey, it's cheap! Restaurants around campus are also pretty cheap. If you want to do other things in the city, though, you'll end up spending more.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Stay in İstanbul and save money. Also, buy alcohol at duty free. Yes, you'll be legal in Turkey and if you want to inebriate yourself, buying alcohol at the local Tekel shops will run you up a fortune.

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

Did they encourage us to do so? I'm not sure. Boğaziçi Üniversitesi teaches in English, so other than our Turkish course, we almost exclusively spoke in English. Also, most of us had zero Turkish knowledge before starting the program so even if we wanted to, we still could not have conversations. By the end though, we were able to get around İstanbul quite well. We could haggle, go to restaurants, and say limited things about ourselves.

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? -NA-
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 Turkish friends and have them try to speak to you in Turkish. Yes, they'll want to practice English with you. Don't let them! Win that argument! You practice your skills, not them!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* 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?
  • Alican Ayanlar (Program Director)
  • Excursions
  • Ä°stanbul itself
* What could be improved?
  • Eliminate the history course or get a different professor (that course is literally awful. If that's the Duke standard....oy... US News has to reevaluate its rankings!)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known a little bit more about the city and university before I went. I might not have done a program at all - getting an apartment in a better part of the city (near where there are things to do, farther from the university) would be near the top of my list of reasons why. Also, it's much cheaper to just pay Boğaziçi tuition and direct enroll than to do the Duke program. Then again, the excursions are awesome and the program staff (Alican) was super helpful with things like navigating the Turkish bureaucracy and acquiring the documents that we needed to thrive in the city.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

History of Late Ottoman and Modern Turkey

Course Department: History
Instructor: Yavuz Karakışla
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was awful. He's a horrible professor. He's never on time, and then adds extra sessions to make up for the information that he was not there to teach us. He goes off on too many tangents that are much too long and never close to relevant. He's difficult to understand and not funny. Exams were impossibly hard because they focused on the very minute details rather than themes - in a survey history course! The term lists on the exams were entirely irrelevant to gaining a broad understanding of Ottoman history (the alleged purpose of the course). It stinks that students are stuck taking this course, as the rest of courses at Boğaziçi are great. Not this one though, Karakişla is terrible.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Elementary Turkish for Foreigners I

Course Department: Turkish Language & Literature
Instructor: Bilgen Erdem
Instruction Language: Turkish
Comments: Bilgen is amazing. Everything about this course was great. Do I have a great knowledge of Turkish? No. But, I did learn enough to get by. The course moved about as quickly as it could, given that it met twice a week. Standards were clear on exams. Bilgen provided great feedback and she's really a sweetheart. Future program participants will be lucky to also have Bilgen Erdem.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Special Topics: Readings on Law in Classical Athens

Course Department: History
Instructor: Kyriaki Konstantinidou
Instruction Language: English, Ancient Greek
Comments: This course was incredibly challenging and about a year above my level in Ancient Greek, but Kyriaki is fantastic. She's very easy to reach by email, seemingly at all hours of the days. She's super responsive and incredibly helpful and supportive. I feel that I learned a ton. Also, our discussions were fascinating and I always left class still debating in my head what we discussed. We essentially did a gender studies class by translating and discussing Ancient Greek oratory. Wow. It was awesome.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Issues in Turkish Foreign Policy

Course Department: Political Science and International Relations
Instructor: Gun Kut
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was quite engaging, and the material we discussed was mostly new to me. This course definitely helped my cultural immersion and taught me, a news junkie, about Turkey's place in the international system of states. I think that I will understand discussions on regional issues much better in the future. That said, each week we had a presentation essentially on a Wikipedia article by students in the course. He didn't do much of the teaching, but instead added commentary to clarify people's presentations. The final paper is a mystery to me as he refused over and over again to give us any information about it. He's also not easy to reach by email. Overall, good course though.
Credit Transfer Issues: