“Welcome to my erasmus experiences. ”
8 Erasmus+ Insider Tips for an ultimate Experience in Istanbul
Erasmus is always a good choice. Visiting a foreign country, exploring new places, boosting your language and making worldwide friends are just some of the benefits you get when deciding to spend a semester or more abroad. Especially, if you choose of going to Istanbul an ultimate Erasmus+ experience is guaranteed.
Some motifs why going to Istanbul for Erasmus+
Growing up in a country like Germany, where different cultures live next to each other and migration is part of the history, it always has been my aim to gain a lot of intercultural experience. After I was able to work and live in Russia, naturally the next stop to make was Turkey. Throughout the centuries large numbers of Turkish people emigrated to Germany. The most famous immigration group is known as Gastarbeiter. Nowadays, around 2 Million people with whatsoever Turkish background live permanently in Germany. Those brave people not only brought a huge amount of cultural and economical input, but also they decided to continue their lives in Germany. Therefore, they are part of my everyday life and something I need to deeply deal with. Wirtschaftswunder, Döner, Kebab, Rakı and also those massive, fun Turkish weddings or parties with loud, oriental music are some of the achievements of the Turkish community I was able to explore in my hometown. In addition, some of my best friends have Turkish heritage. That are some of the reason why I wanted to take my Turkish connection to a next level and go to the roots of it.
During the winter term 2018 I started my Erasmus+ with the goal of getting to know as much as possible about the Turkish German relationship from a Turkish perspective. Luckily, the Marmara University has a cooperation with the Christian Albrecht University in Kiel. Istanbul is large and divided into two parts, an European and an Asian side. I was sure to meet various people from all parts of Turkey, who would tell me about their lives between two worlds or who would describe the feeling of being a member of the Turkish minority. I do not think I spoil anything by saying it was rather easy to accomplish my mission. Additionally, I always wanted to experience daily life in such a megacity as I was sure to get an over the top Erasmus+ adventure in crazy measures. Apart from that, Istanbul is also the right choice, if you want to escape your regional weather.
My 8 tips for your ultimate Erasmus+ experience in Istanbul
There are already several travel guides that will help with the orientation in the city. Here I wanted to reveal my tips on how I have achieved my personal Erasmus+ aim.
Set yourself an achievable goal
As described above I was not only visiting Istanbul but I also had a mission to complete. That helped me a lot to decide what to do and on how to spend my money on. Istanbul is full of superlatives and overloaded with always accessible offers. In order to make the most of your time I strongly recommend on getting a clear idea of your motivation. The International Office as well as our Outgoing Erasmus+ coordinator of the economic department in Kiel were very helpful on that issue.
Enjoy the Turkish hospitality
Already before going to Istanbul I fell in love with the Turkish hospitality. But experiencing this generosity on a daily life base is life-changing. Ages ago I got to know a Turkish woman, Nilgün, from Istanbul and we quickly became close friends. In Istanbul I stayed with her older sister in Kadıköy Moda. Although, I met the sister only once I was welcomed in her house like a family member and never felt any different. I was responsible for the family dog and was invited to every meal every day. However, I felt that famous hospitality not only within my Turkish family but everywhere. In the bakery around the corner one staff member helped me learning the numbers in Turkish, the woman in the nearest Migros happily exchanged traditional recipes, I got invited for drinks and çays constantly and my other Turkish friends, such as Ahmetcan and Jeffy, made sure I see and explore every single inch of Istanbul.
Learn a new language
People in Istanbul are super friendly and they enjoy talking to foreigners about football and politics a lot. Unfortunately, the general English level is rather poor, which is just another reason to learn Turkish. Join the Turkish classes at Marmara University to get a basic understanding of everyday conversations. My ESN study buddy Uğur was very helpful memorising vocabulary and studying grammatical structures. Especially, during the City Game, where we explored Kadıköy I learned a lot of useful vocabs, which normally will not appear in a serious classroom. In addition, Introduction to the Turkish language and culture is an comfortable way of earning some ECTS.
Good luck with your exams!
Although, my learning agreement was fixed in Germany, due to some system errors I struggled with my choice of lectures in Istanbul at the beginning. However, I experienced a fair and transparent learning environment with an interesting academic discourse. My lectures were able to communicate in English and the International Office was approachable for all of my questions. I really enjoyed meeting my local and foreign friends on campus for some çay or to study. Overall, I did not find the lectures too difficult and achieved very good results in the mid term exams as well as in the finals. Often I was studying at Idea Kadıköy, which is a co-working space and open to public. I also had enough time to continue working on my Start-Up, WorkOnKiel.
Find your favourite food and drink
The Turkish cousin is rich and various. It is impossible to try and eat it all. I recommend to decide on one delicious dish and get as much as possible of it. During ESN breakfast and the ESN cultural evening we were introduced to several local meals. My all time favourite is Baklava and cheese Lahmacun, which I cannot get enough of and which was introduced to me by Can. That brings me directly to my personal drink of choice- obviously Turkish Çay. Çay is limitless. You can drink it everywhere and whenever. There is always space and time to drink it out of the typical glasses while sitting on the smallest chairs and discussing current global as well as political affairs and football with locals or foreigners.
Discover some of the secret places
For me Istanbul is the city of the secret places. Sometimes I entered a dodgy looking place, walked to two stories, turned left twice, passed an old grandmother making Mantı, crossed through a hallway, touched five cats and one dog, just to find myself in the most beautiful garden where breathtakingly beautiful people where selling second hand designer clothes or serving incredible Turkish breakfast while live music playing. Places that do not look familiar at first sight, might turn out to be the hidden gems. I recommend to keeping your eyes open. Some guidance on what to look out for you can get during the ESN Old City Tour or the City Game.
Travel to other parts of Turkey
I am not a big fan of group trips. Therefore, some of my trips and vacations across the country were self-organized. This year I went to İzmir, Pamukkale, Ephesos, Gaziantep and Ankara by my own. I previous years I saw some other places like Cappadocia including Kayseri or the Princes Islands located in the Marmara Sea. All of the mentioned places have different vibes and tell a different story about the Turkish people. If you don’t want to travel on your own, you can easily sing in the ESN trip program.
Party with other Erasmus+ students
There cannot be an Erasmus+ without any proper party. Walk down the bar street in Kadıköy or Beşiktaş. I am sure you will be able to find a club playing your kind of music on the day you want to party. In Istanbul there is no such thing as weekend-only-party. My friends and I often went to this one club, where the DJ enjoyed playing the songs we demanded immediately. I love parties where I am allowed to actively participate and I enjoyed dancing with Tolga a lot. Join the pub crawl event organised by ESN to get to know some bars and clubs until you have found your favourite place. This is also the perfect occasion to meet more Erasmus+ students from all over the world.
However, in order to give a full overview on my stay here are the downsides. Istanbul traffic Applying for residence permit Phone registration Marmara University homepage not fully translated to English Lectures held in English and Turkish simultaneously No toilet paper at university Consumption everywhere
Nevertheless, I cannot imagine to pick any other city than Istanbul for Erasmus+. It is vibrant, full of life and offers great choices for every kind of taste. I have met superb people with a large interest to overcome borders between continents, countries and minds. Now it’s your turn. Apply for Erasmus+ in Istanbul.
Kind regards, Anna