Are we tourists in a foreign land or students looking to find a second home?
These thoughts fill my mind as I prepare to depart Istanbul after a fruitful program. It's been an enjoyable time, certainly fulfilling and definitely enriching. I've seen more European countries over the weekends than I previously have in my short lifetime and gained a new perspective of Middle Eastern and Turkish politics and culture. Lessons at Bogazici were engaging and highlighted the cross-cultural differences not just in academic teaching but also academic administration.
I'm departing this city with many new insights: We can all afford to have more spontaniety in life. I'm slightly conflicted about this. I pre-plan the majority of my travels and arrived in Istanbul with all but one weekend planned out. This meant missing some Bogazici planned trips but it did mean that I hit many places (Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia etc.) which others didn't have a chance to go. I guess the takeaway here is that spontaniety doesn't just come with carpe diem or seizing the moment- it's also about making an active planned choice to jump onto a plane/train and see something new.
People matter: The typical Turkish person's favorite 2 english words are "no problem" which you hear when you place orders, get into a taxi, shop at the bookstore or do anything that requires speaking in a mix of English and broken Turkish. (E.g. Tavuk Iki Menu- Iki Baget Olur Mu? Translate: 2 Piece Chicken Set, 2 Drumsticks, Alright?) Laughing over the limitations of each others' conversational ability and appreciating the utility of hand gestures have been a core part of my immersion (probably the longest so far) into a city with a different language. Smiles and a sense of humor don't only take you far in the grand bazaar, they also take you far in any new city- probably in life.
I will be back in Istanbul, I'm still in love with Turkish Airlines and how the lounge at Ataturk airport captures a broad spectrum of Turkish culinary delicacies without even having to exit the transit area (they even let you play virtual golf). In fact, we seem to have come full circle: I chose Istanbul for Summer because of a previous transit and the next time I'll see Istanbul will be in transit again. Life indeed progresses- or regresses- in cycles.
But the next time I return it'll be different. I'll be able to speak some of the language, I'll know where to go for the best things in town and I'll have friends ready to welcome me to a new home-in-passing.
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Kit Shaun Tommy Koh
<p>A Blue Jay at Hopkins, a citizen of Singapore, a resident of the world: Titles and categories often complicate how we see our place in this world. Above everything else, I see myself as a pilot. Being up in the sky grants freedom, space, possibilities- a reminder that everything can be seen from a different perspective. Be it in education, while travelling or just being with friends- I constantly seek new dimensions, new ways of perceiving, a new- greater- understanding.</p>