Hello hello hello! Hannah here, writing from Istanbul. I know, I know. It’s been a while. The past three weeks have been spent exploring and eating and learning and eating and meeting people and eating. Since it’s been so long since I last wrote, let’s get to the point(s).
Point #1: The apartments
This was one of the biggest things I was curious about before coming – what were the apartments like? What was provided? How do they compare to living on campus? Admittedly I don’t know what the Superdorm is like, but “inside sources” tell me it is very nice. Kind of a 3-4 person flat deal, with a shared kitchen and bathroom. Generally roommates are Turkish and won’t be in the dorm until a few days before classes start. I only know one fellow participant (hi if you’re reading!) that’s staying in the Superdorm and by all accounts it seems very pleasant and close to campus.
As for the apartments…
The apartment I’m staying in is a studio apartment shared by two people. Most things are provided – dishes, cookware, silverware, sheets and bedding, 3 hangers, a laundry rack, a desk, a table, bookshelf, lamps. Before arriving IES Abroad said towels would not be provided but my apartment had two that I assume previous occupants had left. The IES Abroad Istanbul staff also provided a very cute little package of milk, water, cereal, bread and cheese. It almost made up for the fact that there was no hot water the first night!! (Not IES Abroad’s fault, obviously.) The weather was absolutely horrible when we first arrived (side note: bring something warm and waterproof) so the hot water thing was a pretty big deal at the time. The apartments are very easily accessible and in a very nice new building. There aren’t really bars or clubs around in the neighborhood. It’s about a 10-15 min walk away from the Osmanbey metro station, which is extremely convenient. There’s a bunch of restaurants around that have very good food where I’m trying to establish myself as a frequent customer that should get deals. Also, there’s a food pazar every Monday and Thursday and a clothing pazar every Friday about 2 minutes away. While not particularly glamorous, I think the apartment is pretty excellently located. You also can’t beat the convenience of having the IES Abroad Istanbul center literally down the hall – for laundry needs, cleaning supplies, a daily dose of tea or to print things. It’s not always accessible, however, and you’ll need to figure out when someone will be in there for you to do your thing.
Point #2: Orientation
The first three weeks are spent in a fairly extensive orientation. There’s an intensive beginners Turkish class taught from 9-12 every weekday (for 2 IES Abroad credits). Different assignments were provided for me and others who had studied Turkish before. Additionally, there were a few /very fast/ walking tours through areas like the Old City, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Market. These aren’t really meant for you to experience these places so much as get a quick taste of where they are and what’s there.
There were also lectures scheduled throughout orientation on topics ranging from archeology to Turkish political history to current affairs. Some were cancelled and some were located very far away, but the ones I did attend proved interesting. It’s definitely a nice addition to the schedule that seeks to expose students to a variety of subjects while getting them pumped for classes.
Point #3: Actually being in Turkey
There are a few important steps to actually living in Turkey (who knew!) that are very confusing. The main thing is a residence permit, which all visitors who are staying for longer than 90 days must apply for. There’s a bunch of documents and forms that need to be filled out but the bottom line is this: you will need Turkish health insurance, you will need a Turkish tax number (bring your passport to the tax office!), you will need to fill out a ridiculous inefficient online application for an appointment that you will not go to, you will need a bunch of passport photos (bring like 10 + a digital version.. also just bring a bunch of copies of your passport/visa for other things), and you will need to put up with a lot of weird bureaucratic stuff. Don’t worry, you’ll be equally as confused once you get here! Welcome to Turkey!
Another whole thing is the cellphone business. The first day we were in Istanbul we actually spent 1-2 hours just going from cellphone store to cellphone store. Fun stuff. Anyways, a cellphone! You will need it. There are essentially two options: 1. Get a cheap Turkish cellphone and SIM card and use that for the whole time or 2. If you have a phone with a removable SIM card, buy a Turkish one and get a plan and use your own phone until the 120 day limit when you will have to register your phone with the Turkish government. I opted for option #2 because the convenience of having internet while out and about and not having to deal with those tiny little keyboards was too tempting. I will update in 100 days to say whether or not this was the right option.
So there you go! A crash course in what to expect when you’re expecting…to go to Turkey with IES Abroad!
For a more personal update, I am so incredibly happy to be here. I’d almost forgotten how much I love the people and this city and every moment I’m here – every ezan I hear, every piece of baklava I eat, every time my roommate and I stuff our faces with pide that has been rubbed by a wooden spoon with a ball of butter attached to it and remember that we are actually in Turkey – I am reminded of that. It’s been so fun to go out to different neighborhoods – Karaköy, Ortaköy, Kadıköy (all the “köy”s), randomly meet people on the street and have them show you the best place to get iskender then get beers, build a relationship with the guy at the pazar who constantly has a cigarette dangling from his mouth so that you can get all the yeşillik you need for 3TL. It feels like Turkey has welcomed me with open arms and I am so happy to be embracing it back.
Next time: Boğaziçi! What’s the deal with this whole registering thing? How far away is it? Is it actually filled with cats? (preview: yes) My first day of class is tomorrow so I’ll get all the deets on that too. Until then, görüşürüz!
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<p>Hi! My name is Hannah and I'm sophomore at Oberlin College majoring in History with a minor in Middle East North Africa Studies. I'm interested in international relations, good books, food, photography, cats and traveling. I'm looking forward to spending a semester in Istanbul absorbing the culture and history of the city while improving upon my Turkish.</p>