I'm here today to talk about what is doubtless at the forefront of the mind of anyone who is about to spend an academic semester abroad - academics!!
If you're looking to apply to study at Bogazici University for a semester, look no further - here is a (rough) guide* for what to expect.
(* Turkish bureaucracy is an unpredictable beast and your experience at Bogazici will depend on the classes you take so I can't guarantee everything will be as I described - these were just the processes that I had to go through!)
Bogazici was founded by American missionaries and is taught more or less in English. If you decide to take an art or PE class, the likelihood that it will be in Turkish is high (also if you take a Turkish lanugage class but c'mon... obviously). There are four campuses but the two that will probably concern you are North and the far superior South Campuses. South Campus is like the eyelashes on my right eye - far superior in every way. This is the campus they put in the brochures and on the websites. There is greenery. There are nice looking buildings. There is very good 3TL soup. North Campus, on the other hand, is grey and borderline Soviet in its architecture/overall vibe. You are greeted by a very 70's library and a huge bust of Ataturk almost immediately after entering the campus. If you are lucky, there might also be a pile of rubble. It's one redeeming quality (to me, and perhaps I'm just too judgemental), is that it's much quicker to get to North Campus from the metro station, although neither are far.
Bogazici is, as I mentioned before, a 30-45 minute metro ride away from the apartments with only one transfer. The length of the journey is really dependent on how lucky you are in catching either train - the M6 line only comes about once every 8-10 minutes so missing it could mean being late to class (not that that's usually a huge deal). I'd suggest leaving an hour for travel during the first week so you can figure your way around campus and try to figure out where exactly New Hall is. There's a shuttle that goes between the campuses but there's usually a pretty long line so they're not totally reliable. South Campus is located on top of a hill which takes roughly 10 minutes to walk - totally beautiful, with a fantastic view of the Golden Horn.
Registration & Classes
So! Let's talk registration. Registration is complicated and the staff is well aware of it. Basically, you will be given a username and password when handing in forms to be used on the registration website that may or may not work, depending on your luck. I was unlucky but it didn't end up mattering too much. If the same thing happens to you - AKA you still can't login 3 days after registration began and you're freaking out about not getting into any classes - don't fret! Send emails to professors early and show up to class. Chances are there won't be issues with getting what you want.
Of course, that means you have to understand what you want to take, which is another process entirely given Bogazici's convoluted course schedule. Quick guide:
1. Classes that are 500 level and beyond are graduate courses and you can't take them
2. If you click on "more info" below the course name, you might be able to get a syllabus
3. Classes can meet on different names at different times and the times slots are determined by number (ex. "1" means 9-9:50, "2" means 10-10:50, etc.), so if your class meets "MMW 341", it will meet on Monday from 11-12:50 and Wednesday from 9-9:50. Classes usually have two meeting places depending on the day and a full list of building abbreviations/campus location can be found on BU's website.
4. Professors usually give you a break if your class is 2-3 hours, but they might not. They also might go over their time slot, which can be an issue if you have a class on another campus!
Overall I've been pretty satisfied with my classes. It's clear that there are some classes/professors which are known to be "easy" and general feel like a survey course, but there are also some very tough and demanding professors. I do feel like my workload is less than at home in terms of actual assignments. Although one of my classes has a lot of assigned readings, in total I've had one short paper and one small test so far. Midterms are happening at the moment so we'll see what happens!
The Dreaded Residence Permit
Bogazici will also help you to get your residence permit, which is a very lengthy, complicated, and stressful process. Some things to expect for the individual aspects of the application:
1. Be prepared to pay about 600TL (cash) for Turkish insurance. Reimbursement is unclear at this point, and you can risk having your international insurance be translated. If you opt for the second option, it'll be pricy and the immigration office may not accept it.
2. The online application is hellacious but don't fret too much if it won't print/submit/whatever. The website was overhauled while we were here so there were perhaps more problems now than there will be in the future.
3. Make sure you have a scan of your stamped visa. If you come on a single entry student visa (which is the only student visa anyone here received), you might need to buy an e-visa in order to travel abroad before the papers are submitted and a temporary pass to travel can be received from the police station. Something to keep in mind during the visa process and when making travel plans.
4. When going to the tax office to get your tax number and proof of payment, bring your physical passport as well as a copy!
5.. Have a digital file of your passport photo available as well as loooots of "biometric" prints - it will not hurt to have too many.
Having the incoming student advisor check over your documents is worth the 5 minutes it will take if only for peace of mind! Request your documents early, submit your application ASAP, and save that sucker on your desktop so you don't have too many problems printing it.
The immigration office came on one day to process all the students (two days ago!) and we weren't allowed to try and submit our papers before then. There was only one person to process ~300 students, so go early if you're able!
Another thing to consider is the discounted student metro card, which you can apply for as soon as you can request a student document. Apparently whle we were here, the transportation department changed their stance on "special students" (students who are not at Bogazici through Erasmus or a direct affiliated university exchange program) and declared that they wouldn't be able to receive the discounted card. However, myself and others didn't have an issue when we went to the office - when they asked (and they didn't always ask), we said we were Erasmus and that generally seemed to work. The card is definitely worth the trip out to Karakoy - a metro ride now costs me 1.15TL and transfers are only 0.50TL! - and you'll need:
- student document declaring that you are a student at Bogazici (requested online)
- YOKSIS number, received from the same place as your student document
- passport (also bring a copy just in case)
- a passport photos
- student ID
Overall, I am really enjoying my time at Bogazici despite the frustrations of bureaucracy. This is because there are other actually fun things about studying here! Look out for them in part two where I discuss things likes clubs, food, and cats.