My name is Fleur de Geus, 21 years old, and I am currently in my last year of the Bsc. Tourism program. I am doing my minor in Turkey, Istanbul, at the ancient Boğaziçi Üniversitesi and I am absolutely loving my time here. If you have the opportunity to go abroad; go for it as it will be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Since the introduction week of the study, I knew that I would do anything to spend a semester abroad. It would be hard to get everything organised, but that would not stop me from taking this opportunity with both hands. I think it is great to spend a longer period of time in a totally different place from home. You learn so much from it and have a lot of time to explore and meet new people.
Istanbul is just a crazy place. It is so big, sooo big! You cannot imagine. More people live in this city than in all of The Netherlands, and travelling from one side of town to the other can take up to two hours. The university is situated in the northern part of the city, pretty far from the old center which is the touristic part, but close enough to other neighborhoods which are more fun because they are more ‘local’ (as far as you can call something local here; the city is one big melting-pot of cultures). Rümeli Hisarüstü is the area where I live. It’s the neighborhood around the university so a lot of students live here. There are enough facilities like supermarkets, restaurants, and bars to enjoy yourself. The university has three main campuses spread out around the neighborhood. At Google maps it said that I was just 300 meters away from the main campus, but this should be seen in Istanbul perspective: 300 meters up a very steep hill and then you are just at the entrance. However, shuttle busses between the campuses are free and also bikes are available.
Costs of living are relatively cheap here. Rent is comparable to the prices in Breda, but food is cheaper. The university provides an excellent possibility to eat at campus: breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week for just 1 or 1,5 Turkish liras (which is 0,36 or 0,54 Euro cents). In addition you get discount for public transport as a student, and you can to use all kinds of sport facilities.
Boğaziçi is considered as Turkey’s best university. The educational system is nothing like we as Bsc. Tourism students are used to. It is a more Americanized system that requires you to register for courses at the beginning of the semester, and it’s first come, first serve. This is stressful, especially when the quota’s for courses are reached. Fortunately as an Erasmus exchange student you have a lot of possibilities to get into the courses you like anyway. The methods of teaching include PowerPoints, slightly more discussions than in our study, and somewhat different ways of examining. I have had open-book exams, multiple choice questions, true false questions, and a lot less essay ones. The level of English might not be the best at times, but it sure is all understandable. Overall I experience the educational level as being a bit less demanding than in The Netherlands.
There is an enormous amount of Erasmus students here and a lot of organizations and student committees providing opportunities to explore the city, party, or go sight-seeing. I have found out that international and domestic flights are pretty affordable from here, so if you want to explore more of the country or go on trips outside of Turkey, there are many possibilities. Next to this, there’s a good bus network to all kinds of places.
All in all, I love Istanbul. It takes a while to get used to the city because you will be overwhelmed during the first two or three weeks. But as soon as you get acquainted with the place you start seeing that it is a beautiful city to live in.
I would like to conclude by giving some tips for future exchange students:
- Start the process in time. It might sound super obvious, but I have experienced that to go on exchange, there’s a enormous number of things that must be sorted out. But, there are a lot of opportunities out there, so just go for it!
- Think about what you want to achieve with your minor and what subjects you would like to take. Then start looking for universities from there.
- Decide which countries or places you would like to go to. Also think about this in financial terms; what is your budget for your exchange semester?
- The most important issue: it doesn’t matter where you go! You are going to have a great experience anyway.
I would encourage you all to choose for a semester abroad! I just have 9 weeks left now and I don’t know how much I am looking forward to going home.. It’s just great here.