Imperfect, Yet Beautiful and Exhilarating Past Review

By (Political Science and Government, Middlebury College) - abroad from 01/26/2015 to 05/26/2015 with

Duke University: Istanbul – Duke in Istanbul

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
To elaborate on the question of whether or not I would choose the same program, I am very torn between whether or not I would choose to do the Duke program again or to direct enroll. I think there are a lot of benefits to direct enrolling, but I wanted the coddling of the Duke program. They do so much for you, and I knew so little about Istanbul and Turkey going into the program that I don't think I could have taken care of many of the things that Duke did on my own.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I learned a great deal during my semester with Duke in Istanbul. While much of this learning took place in the classroom, as with any study abroad program, I learned just as much from the experience of living daily life in Turkish society as I did from my courses.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The Duke staff were very helpful with taking care of things like the residency permit and student transportation cards. I enjoyed the first few program events that took us to some of the more standard tourist destinations, but as the program went on and we became more familiar with moving around Istanbul on our own, we probably didn't need to do as many coordinated events. It was just silly when the program staff got annoyed about the poor attendance at events. We are college students, not campers at sleep away camp. Trying to insist that the events were mandatory was also silly. They are covered by our tuition costs, so it should be up to us to decide whether or not we would like to attend them. Aside from that small issue, the staff were great, especially Alican. I was disappointed that he didn't attend our final program dinner.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The Superdorm has its ups and down. I didn't love my roommates. Two of them were seniors and even though they spoke perfect English, they never made any effort to include me in their conversations or introduce me to their friends. They oftentimes had friends over late at night and spoke only Turkish with them, so I couldn't hang out with them or go to sleep. They were very inconsiderate. The third roommate was much nicer and did make more of an effort, although her English wasn't great so it did limit how close we could become. All three of them left on the weekends to go home, which was very nice for me. If I had known enough about the area going into the program, I would have preferred to live in an apartment with other international students. My non-Duke friends seemed to really enjoy that arrangement. The Superdorm is also just a little depressing because it is so sterile.

* Food:

Turkish food was great until it wasn't. I did love trying lots of different Turkish dishes, but I did have trouble finding fresh produce like what I'm used to having. I gained a lot of weight on the program, which I think was partially because I felt like I didn't have access to healthy food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Not at all. All of my friends were other international students. Not speaking Turkish made it almost impossible to integrate into the culture or make Turkish friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

My experience with accessing healthcare services was great. I got an eye infection, and the Dunya Goz hospital down the street from the Superdorm was super convenient and provided great service. Although I know students who tried to use health services on campus had more mixed experiences.

* Safety:

I never, ever felt unsafe. I wish I could communicate to more people how silly it is not to travel to a place like Istanbul because of safety concerns. I had friends who were also abroad who were not able to visit me because their parents wouldn't allow them to travel to Turkey, and that just seems incredibly silly to me. You are just as safe in Istanbul as you are in any other major city. Things could happen, but they are unpredictable. In terms of petty crime, I was pretty vigilant about keeping a hand on my bag at all times, but still, there were never any threats. I think the biggest issue was for the blonde girls on our program. Especially on Istiklal at night, they drew a lot of negative attention just because of their hair color.

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


* 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)

I personally found Turkey to be very affordable. I spent about $200/week on food and personal expenses, but of course that is totally variable. I definitely spent money on luxury items/experiences that aren't necessary for survival but that did enhance my experience greatly. I imagine that if I had studied abroad in the Eurozone, I wouldn't have been able to afford nearly the same range of luxury expenses.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $200
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I'm not the best with budgeting, so I probably am not the person to ask. I took out 500 lira (about $200) from the atm once a week to minimize international transaction fees, and I made that last a week. This was plenty for food and fun.


* 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

Very little emphasis on the language component. See course evaluation for Turkish 111 for more on this.

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? I literally did not know a single word of Turkish before leaving.
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? It takes a lot of personal motivation. It would probably help to have Turkish friends to practice with, but it's hard to make Turkish friends without knowing at least a little Turkish before arriving. The student in our program that seemed to have the most immersive experience studied Turkish for 2 semesters at Duke prior to the program, and it seems like prior study would be the way to get the most out of the language study.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excursions
  • They take care of so many things for us
  • The staff
* What could be improved?
  • Gradually have less programming
  • My peers in the program weren't great, but what can you do
  • The second excursion could have used some work
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? So, so, soooo many things. But that's the nature of studying abroad. I don't think you can really know what to expect before getting there. To some extent, you have to take a leap of faith and just jump in.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Religion and Society

Course Department: Political Science
Instructor: Murat Akan
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course is a great option for any Middlebury Political Science majors. The assignments were very reasonable (3-4 short essays of about 3 pages) and incredibly straightforward. This course highlighted just how well Middlebury trains its students to write. I had a very easy time with the assignments, whereas some of my peers struggled. Akan is highly egotistical and is likely to shut you down for disagreeing with him. I recommend just listening, figuring out what Akan thinks about the subject matter, and reiterating his own views in your essays.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Turkish History

Course Department: Duke course
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I learned a great deal from this course, although the exams were quite difficult. I did well on the midterm because I had some heads up from previous students that the exams were quite comprehensive so I studied accordingly. I think just about everyone ends up with a good grade in the course, but the assessments are challenging. Be sure to attend all class meetings, as this course only meets once a week. Our TA was incredibly unhelpful. I can't remember her name, and she likely won't be the TA in future sections, but she was honestly terrible.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Turkish 111

Course Department: Duke course
Instructor: Ceyda Arslan
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Wow, this class really highlighted just how good Middlebury's language courses are. This class was waaaay too easy, and as a result, we didn't retain much of what we learned. This clearly resulted in some frustration for Ceyda, and so she tried to amp up the intensity of the course about halfway through the semester, but the tone had already been set at that point. I wish I had learned a comparable amount of Turkish to what you learn in intro language courses at Middlebury, but it was helpful to have some Turkish for getting around in Istanbul.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

History of International Economic Relations

Course Department: Political Science
Instructor: Mehmet Gok
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I highly recommend this course. Of the three courses I took during my time abroad, this was the only course of comparable academic rigor to Middlebury coursework. Professor Gok is an interesting individual, and I would suggest getting to know him. I learned a great deal in this course.
Credit Transfer Issues: