Hello OW Community!
Let me just start off by saying that I absolutely love it here at Bogazici University and quite honestly, I wouldn’t mind continuing my education here – and I’m not the only one who thinks this! There are many exchange students right now wishing they could stay for one more semester and some who have already been here from the previous semester! It’s just impossible to not fall in love with this school. The university is in such a perfect location – right off the coast of the Bosphorus strait – which just adds more to the liveliness of the atmosphere of the school. I mean just picture this: every morning you walk to school, you get an amazing overlook of the beautiful strait and the two magnificent bridges that connect the Anatolian and European coasts together – because of this view, I actually don’t mind waking up early!
Other than how beautiful the school is (I know I’ll keep rambling on and on about it), let me give some background information about the education system (specifically about the universities) in Turkey that I recently just learned about! Well first things first, to get accepted into a university in Turkey is not only a huge accomplishment, as it would be anywhere else in the world, but it is much more difficult and the sole reason for this is because of a standardized test that defines the outcome of whether or not you can attend a university. And no, it’s not like the SAT that we have in the U.S. because your acceptance to a university does not solely depend on the SAT. This standardized test, called Higher Education Examination-Undergraduate Placement Examination (Turkish: Yuksekogretime Gecis Sinavi-Lisans Yerlestirme Sinavi or YGS-LYS) are two multiple choice tests for the admission to higher education in Turkey. Because of the Turkish education system, the only way to enter a university is through this exam. If a student succeeds at passing this exam, he/she will continue with his/her studies at a university. Finally, some universities ask for an additional year of English preparatory study to be completed before the start of their studies and Bogazici University is one of them.
Now that I have overwhelmed all of you with all this information, I can move forward in talking about my experiences here! First, I’ll explain the assimilation process to Bogazici University and Istanbul, then I’ll discuss what I did for spring break, and finally I’ll explain the courses I am currently taking.
Assimilation – Perfection
So Bogazici University has this student organization club that helps students assimilate to the school and their surroundings by organizing dinners, parties, and other events. They are all super friendly and were more than excited to meet all of us! The gatherings made it much easier to build friendships and learn more about the school and the area. Because of this, I’ve met some pretty awesome people from the United States, Italy, Spain, and Germany. I’m not sure why it was such a shock for me, but I wasn’t the only Turkish person as an exchange student! There were many other Turkish students (mainly from Germany) and one from Long Island who lives literally 15 minutes away from me — what a small world!
The student life at Bogazici University will be something that I long for once I am back at Old Westbury. The reason for this is because here I actually have time to be involved in the school and participate in the school activities; whereas at Old Westbury, living off campus, working 27 hours a week and going to school full-time, didn’t really give me the opportunity to be involved in the school, which is unfortunate. I know that once I get back for the Fall semester, I will be in the same old routine as I was during the other semesters which is why I am utilizing my time here effectively and getting that full ‘college experience.’
Furthermore, adapting to the city life in Istanbul was not difficult at all (that is, as long as you don’t mind the constant rush of the city). But, of course, coming from a small quiet town in Long Island to one of Turkey’s largest cities, (which consists of more than 13 million people!) was a bit overwhelming for me in the beginning – but I still loved it! The one thing that I couldn’t get used to at first was the constant use of public transportation. The buses and the metros (the underground railroad) are always unbelievably crowded, as are the roads of Istanbul. As soon as the clock ticks 9 am, anyone driving is doomed to get stuck in traffic – and so the morning of Istanbul begins with the constant honking and beeping of one car to another.
With that being said, it was nice to step away from all the noise and chaos and enjoy the other parts of Turkey for Spring Break. I traveled to Bursa, Ordu, Izmir, Ephesus, and Pamukkale – places where quietness and tranquility actually existed. This eleven day spring break consisted of nonstop traveling, walking, and seeing the different cultures of Turkey. I won’t go too much into detail about each place (you can check that out on my personal blog http://tugbailik.wordpress.com/ ), but I will say that all this traveling has made me realize how much I love traveling! I’ve never really traveled like this before – with my life in my backpack. It’s something that I never thought I would do – being spontaneous and venturing around the country, but I most certainly have enjoyed it. Traveling has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and it allowed me to welcome change and step of out the ‘norm’ from my ordinary lifestyle.
Expectations – Successful
So as you all know from my previous blog entry, I wrote about my expectations of two things: to learn more about my culture and to find out what I want to do with my life. Of course, learning more about my culture was easily attainable as I traveled to different parts of Turkey and associated myself with other Turkish students so that I can improve my Turkish (which by the way I have). I am also taking a Turkish literature course and a history course. In the Turkish literature course, we take a look at Turkish poems, short stories, and essays written from the 1920s to the present time. The topics were all interesting as it applied a huge emphasis on the identity of women in the modernizing country of Turkey, the meaning of culture and the loss of traditional values, and lastly the importance of stigma relating to cultural and religious beliefs. The history course was an overall world history course which covered the understanding of the political, social, and economical stages of the three Islamic empires, the Renaissance and the Reformation, absolutism in Europe, the English Revolution and the Enlightenment, nationalism and imperialism, and the decline and transformation of China, Japan, India, the Ottoman world, Iran and Egypt. Although it is a very broad history course, it outlined important details about major areas which I believe gave me a much better perspective and understanding of the role history plays within the context of literature.
For example, what I was learning about in my history course of the English Revolution, the Enlightenment, the absolutism in Europe, and the Industrial Revolution all correlated to what I was learning about in my British Romantics course. It helped me better understand why the poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth wrote about the things they did. Some of the works we read by Blake were Songs of Innocence and Experience and Auguries of Innocence. By Wordsworth, we read “Lines Written in Early Spring,” “We are Seven,” “An Old Man Traveling,” and “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” These two Romantic poets mainly focused on the value of a child, the purity and innocence of childhood, and the importance and beauty of nature. We are also looking at the works of Samuel Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelly, Edmund Burke, William Cowper, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Charlotte Smith.
Reading the works of these Romantic poets made me come to the conclusion that I absolutely love my major and I will not change it – or rather, it is just simply impossible for me to let go from English literature. Although I may not have a career set for me at the end, at least I will be studying something that I love and enjoy and gain skills that will be valuable and beneficial in any profession – whether it be teaching, business, or government related jobs, having good reading, writing, and analytical skills are always a plus for future employers. As a result, I realized that I have indeed been worrying way too much about my future and the stress I go through was clearly not going to get me anywhere. Finally, I learned that it is okay to not know what I want to do with my life right as long as I continue doing well in my studies and enjoy what I am doing, the rest will eventually fall into place.
With all this being said, I can confidently say that if it wasn’t for me studying abroad, I would not have gained these perspectives. I would have been living my routinely ordinary life fussing and complaining about how I have no clue as to what I want to do with my life. Therefore, any student who is thinking about studying abroad, I highly encourage it! Meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and gaining fun and new memories is something that everyone should experience!