There’s an aspect of studying abroad that students often overlook while overseas: Studying. Looking over my friends’ pictures in swanky clubs or in front of monumental statues of ex-communist dictators and monkeys, we often ignore the idea that there is an aspect of college-life while overseas. In fact, most students come back from abroad raving how easy classes were, and how much they wished wine classes existed and could be taken for credit at Skidmore.
Now this post will not assert that my experience is the opposite of my peers in terms of academics. Despite common perception, I swear my ceramics class is not overly demanding. I know it sounds tough, but trust me, I’m surviving. However, over the past 10 days, I began feeling, dare I say it, like a real college student.
I know, I know, I have not posted many pictures of me hard at work in the library or in front of a large stack of books. And I’m sorry mom and dad, but if I did, it would most likely be posed. But since my last post, I have spent a lot of my time not sightseeing, not sitting in small cafes, or taking pictures of myself at raging clubs. Rather, I began to integrate myself in life at Bogazici. In turn, I am the happiest I have been since arriving in Istanbul.
A few things have helped this transition from exchange student to American-student-trying-really-hard-to-not-be-an-exchange-student-and-moderately-succeeding. A few key factors have led to this transition:
1) Onur and the Ladies
First a shout out to my homeboy. My roommate from Iskenderun near the Syrian border has been the primary reason for my integration into Bogazici. He reminds me of people at Skidmore: laid back, down to hang out whenever, and sometimes interested in talking politics so long as it’s over a fine glass of whiskey. He introduced me to a group of his Turkish friends who I have since seen every day. Hande, Muge, and Gonca all live together in a different Super Dorm apartment (and basically have a fourth roommate, Buse, who is almost always in their common room). Together with Onur, these people have most likely been the source of my recent happiness here in Istanbul (not to get be too sentimental or anything). The nights we spend together range from attending a fasil (traditional Turkish banquet with unlimited Raki, the national drink of Turkey, and Mezes, or Turkish Tapas, while listening to a live traditional Turkish 5-piece band playing music Americans might associate with that heard in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’). We’ve ‘nomed on unlimited soup at a corba bar (a salad bar just with soup) at 4 AM, drank wine while dancing to 90’s Spanish Dance Music, and watched Turkish Youtube videos gone viral.
As you might imagine, spending most of my free time with them has not only improved my Turkish immensely (actually, I had a Turkish exam today, so we’ll see how that goes), but has provided me with a group of friends who know what typical Bogazici students do. They know where to go, how to get around, and how to have a good time while doing it. Notably, I spend a large chunk of my free time with Hande, a girl I become closer with every day I see her. She and the others make me understand the importance of speaking multiple languages, and appreciate how much effort they put into speaking English even though I am the only one who calls it their first language. I know for a fact I would not be as close with them if their English was not as exceptional as it is, and makes me realize how many people I will never be able to fully communicate with. From them, I learn new information every day that ranges from Turkish family norms to regional differences to the reason why Turks love American fast food. I’ve even picked up Turks way of saying ‘no’ (Nod your head up and click once) as well as new hand gestures to add to my extensive collection. At the same time, I’m teaching them valuable information about America, like how, despite common practice at Bogazici, they should not study abroad in Iowa. Come on, for their one semester in America, they just shouldn’t.
2) Yemek Sepati
Created by 2 Bogazici Alumn, the online service brings food from nearly half the restaurants in Istanbul to your door within 45 minutes with NO SERVICE CHARGE. It is too dangerous, and has led us to order in almost every night. Keep in mind: this is not fast food, but rather real food, real fast.
Past dinners have included: 1. Jack Daniels Burger 2. Falafel 3. Kayseri Maklanar (Yogurt and Tomato Sauce Pasta) 4. Iskender (a Turkish staple). 5. Mercimek Corbasi ve Insalata (Soup, Salad and Bread Bowl) 6. Manti (Turkish Ravioli) 7. Tavuk Doner Durum (An exponentially bigger and better chicken snack wrap). And it all tastes so good.
3) Real School Work
I had two exams this past week (in Turkish and Early Ottoman History) which forced me to sit down for the first time all semester and actually study. I think they went well.
4) FB 306 à FB 107
Onur and I switched apartments after a conflict with one of our other roommates over differing sleep schedules. While we really like this roommate and are still friends with him, it was definitely in the best interest of all involved to move. Now, my room, kitchen and living room are bigger and the view from my window overlooks the hills of Istanbul instead of the other side of the Super Dorm.
While we order in dinner almost every night, our group has the terrible habit of late night munchies while studying or hanging out. However, we all know that 2 AM is the perfect time for our culinary creativity to shine. Recently, I have made everything from Chicken Cachitore to Quesadillas to my version of Mercimek Corbasi (Lentil Soup) which, after serving to the Turks, was deemed ‘un-turkish and thus not Mercimek Corbasi’ because you can eat the ‘swimming mercimek (lentils)’ as Muge put it with a fork, and the soup must be completely liquefied to be authentically Turkish. Sorry Muge, I didn’t think I’d have room in my suitcase for a blender. However, it still tasted damn good. A staple of ours is ‘Secuk’ (pronounced sejuk in English), which is spicy sausage that you sauté until blackened. Sometimes we add mashed potatoes and onion to the mix, but you have no idea how good secuk tastes after a long night out or a long night it. Let’s be real, I will most likely cook up some tonight.
Now don’t think I haven’t left the Super Dorm and became a home-body. Since my last post, I have been to a film festival at the Istanbul Modern Museum to see a film on the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, the Istanbul Military Museum, taken a day trip to the fishing neighborhood in Northern Istanbul called ‘Sariyer’ and then took a boat across the straight to the mountainous region of Istanbul called Anadolu to see the fort built on top of a mountain overlooking the black sea. Additionally, I attended a fasil and I partied Turkey-style on St. Patrick’s Day, making sure to rep Boston in the sea of foreigners who had somehow never heard of the green festival of joyousness and intoxication. Let’s just say the house party of people from probably 20 different countries all singing Irish shanties and wearing clovers on their faces was nothing less than amusing.
Overall, I have been extremely happy in the past two weeks, and cannot think of a better way to spend my time abroad. I knew it would take me some time to warm up to the city, but now that the city is literally warming up (50 degrees and sunny all day every day), life is getting better and better. In the next two weeks, I’m heading to the cities of Edirne and Bursa (and maybe the beach city of Izmir or Cesme), so stay tuned for some pictures and reflections in the near future.
Until next time,