Carla - Bogazici University

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

I found Bogazici university much more relaxed academic wise in comparison to UQ. Attendance is especially relaxed for most courses, which as long as you can keep up with the content without attending lectures is great if you want to plan some longer trips every now and then. The downside of such chilled out classes is I often found lectures difficult to follow as they had no lecture slides and were fairly unstructured. The classes I participated in (mainly in the POLS faculty) were interesting content-wise with good readings.

I struggled a bit with working out the sign on system, despite seemingly clear instructions, but unlike UQ you shouldn’t stress if you don’t get into classes you want (which I only worked out after freaking out and talking to my advisor). You can attend all the classes in the first week and talk to the lecturer about missing out on their course and 90% of the time they will let you in. Just remember to send your new courses to your faculty for approval.

Personal experience

I gained so, so much from exchange. It helped me to grow as a person, see things from a different perspective, gain friends from around the world and see as much as I could of new cities and countries. The first thing that comes to mind is the lifelong bonds I created with both my fellow exchange students and my Turkish housemates. There is such an amazing atmosphere in the exchange community, everyone is so open to meeting new people and trying new things. Going through an experience like that together bonds you for life. Also, I became really close with my Turkish housemates, I miss all my friends and housemates horribly but I know I have a coach to crash on next time I am in Europe. 

As far as exploring goes. Istanbul is a magical city that is infinitely interesting, there never seemed to be an end to the things to see and do. Sometimes this was frustrating because I felt like it was impossible to do it all, but it also meant that every spare second of my exchange was spent wandering back streets, exploring ancient monuments and eating my way through every Baklava shop in Istanbul. I also had the opportunity to explore more of Turkey on my weekends with groups of my exchange friends. Turkey is such a diverse country with an endless amount of things to see and every place I went was amazing, welcoming and so, so interesting. 

Accommodation

I lived off campus in an apartment with 3 other Turkish Bogazici Students. I found my accommodation through Facebook housing groups and I wouldn’t stress about it, there are sooo many housing listings you’ll find something easily. I loved living with Turkish people! I feel like it really gave me a deeper experience of Turkish culture. It gave me an insight into the little day to day rituals that make up Turkey, I had the opportunity to eat loads of homemade Turkish food and my housemates were invaluable when it came to navigating phone contracts and the university administration.

On top of this, they became lifelong friends and invited me to meet their families and introduced me to all their Turkish friends. My advice to future exchange students would be to wait till you get to Turkey to choose a place, I had some friends who had not so good housing experiences so really try and get the vibe of the people you're going to move in with and set firm ground rules. Also, I lived halfway between my university campus and the city centre, which I thought would be a good halfway point, but it meant that I had to catch public transport everywhere I went, which in Istanbul is a bit of a nightmare. Moreover, all my friends lived near campus so I always had to commute to hang out with them which was slightly annoying. My advice would be to stay near campus. There are so many great, cheap food places, getting to uni is easy and I don’t feel like the area around campus is devoid of culture, it's just a regular neighbourhood, so you'll still get an authentic experience.

Budget

I found Turkey very cheap compared to Australia and compared to a majority of other European countries. Majority of students in Istanbul eat out, which means that none of the student apartments have very well equipped kitchens. This is fine, because the food is cheap and amazing, but put it in your budget. Housing is extremely cheap. I paid around $350 AUD a month for my rent and utilities (including internet). Transport and travel are also really cheap, same as shopping and going out at night. Overall during my time on exchange I don’t think I spent over $6,000 AUD (and that was when I travelled almost every weekend), you could survive and enjoy yourself on a lot less.

Professional development and employability

Studying at university in another country has made me feel much more confident in my abilities to navigate new working and cultural environments which I believe is essential for any job. I also believe being able to thrive and navigate new, culturally different environments is a skill sought after by employers, especially in our modern and diverse arena of work. I believe going to exchange, especially to a country such as Turkey, helps to make people stand out from various other job applicants. Studying in Turkey has given me a unique perspective on many of the international relations topics I study and it was really interesting to hear about topics such as Turkish politics and the Syrian Refugee Crises from people who worked in and lived in an environment directly connected to such phenomena. Being in Istanbul also gave me the opportunity to volunteer my time at the Syrian Canadian school, where I taught remedial English classes. This opportunity in particular I think will be important for my employability as it shows my ability to engage with the community even while overseas and I learnt a lot from the experience itself about the difficulties of cross-cultural communication. I believe this will help me avoid these same problems in the future and that is something I will definitely draw on during job interviews and applications.

Highlight

Group of exchange friends and view over Istanbul
Group of exchange friends and view over Istanbul

The truth is there is no one highlight. The whole experience of living my day to day life in a city as vibrant as Istanbul, surrounded by all the amazing people I met and all the once in a lifetime experiences cannot be boiled down to one single moment. I travelled to some amazing and beautiful places, walked inside mosques that were thousands of years old and took a balloon ride over landscapes that looked like an alien planet. But when I really think about the highlight of my exchange I picture lazy afternoons wandering around a city that I have come to call my second home, with people who became my temporary family. There is no one specific moment, just a mirage of images in which I explored back streets, ate until I burst, laughed until I cried and learnt so many things about the world and myself. My highlight of exchange was the whole experience itself.

Top tips

  • Firstly I would say definitely do exchange if you have the chance. It is an amazing experience that you can only have while you are at University. I would also say don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, both while on exchange and also when choosing a host University. There are some experiences you only get to have once, pick something as unlike anything you’ve known before as possible.
  • Also don’t be afraid to go on exchange alone, that is not knowing anyone else going to your host University. In fact, I recommend it. Being alone really forces you to put yourself out there and make as many friends as possible. The few exchange students I knew that came on exchange with friends seemed much more closed off and less easy to approach. All the other exchange students are in exactly the same boat as you, they don’t know anyone, and they are all just as eager to make friends as you. This to me was one of the best parts of exchange, making friends from all over the world. Don’t stress about it, it will come so easily. 
  • Do as much travel as possible, but do it before/after exchange or during mid-semester break. I had so many friends that were jetting off to a different European city every weekend and they barely got to see any of Istanbul or Turkey. Travel is something you can do anytime, living in a city for an extended period of time is not. Make the most of it. (Besides, trying to see a city like Paris or Berlin in a weekend is a waste!) Take as few clothes as possible. If you are anything like me you will buy lots when you are over there and you will end up wearing the same outfit almost every second day. No one cares.
  • Make an effort to learn the language, it makes such a difference to the way you are treated by locals and even knowing a few words opens people up to you in so many ways.
  • Seek out the opportunities that your University and host city has to offer outside of just studying. My university had a whole range of clubs that students could get involved in. But there was also a whole range of opportunities outside of University to volunteer your time. This is a great way to meet local people and make friends outside of your classes. I totally understand wanting as much time to enjoy yourself as possible but a small volunteer commitment can help to deepen your exchange experience.On this note, I would also advise really trying to make friends with some local students. I found this almost impossible in my classes as no one really wants to hang around to chat. Instead, my main point of connection to locals was the Turkish students I lived with and all their friends. This really gave me a completely different experience to people who were just friends with other exchange students. Not to mention its super helpful when you need to call the phone company or understand something in a University email.
Carla - Bogazici University