A Year in Istanbul at Koç University. Reflections from Harvey Jones, History & Politics student at Queen Mary.

Like most people before their year abroad I was nervous. For me, the main worries concerned whether I’d make any friends and whether I’d be able to have fun in a place that was so different to home.

My primary concern was whether I could find friends among people I thought would be so different culturally. But unsurprisingly my anxieties were proven wrong. I met and made friends with people from all over the world; from Pakistan to Germany and of course, Turks themselves. It doesn’t matter where the people you’ll meet will be from, there’ll always be plenty who are good souls and up for some fun.

Cultural differences never came between myself and any friends I made. Additionally, neither did it stop me from enjoying myself like I do back home. Istanbul’s nightlife does not disappoint; with different clubs playing Turkish pop hits, Reggaeton and even one dedicated exclusively to European underground music like UK drum & bass and dubstep.

In terms of the university experience, Koç University does put you inside a bubble within a bubble, but it does provide a great base to explore the country and learn about its culture and the lives of its people. It has amazing facilities and a location to give you a relaxed experience in one of the world’s most populated city’s (estimates for the city’s inhabitants range from 16 to 20 million).

Turkey is a massive country. There is so much to explore before even thinking about heading to its neighbours, such as Georgia , Greece and Bulgaria.

Beautiful Georgia

The food the country offers is incredible. Turks cook aubergine so well. And the chicken döner wrap (dürüm), that you can find covered in spicy red sauce in the south east, is killer. Definitely not an easy country for vegetarians and vegans if you’re going beyond the capital. However, you can still find vegan versions of traditional dishes in Istanbul.

As a student of History & Politics, Turkey was a dream. It’s an age-old cliché but it has been the crossroads of human civilisation for a millennia. It saw the very first homo sapiens out of Africa cross the region, it experienced the Greeks, then Romans before becoming home to the centre of the Byzantines. The Byzantines created one of the major centres of Christianity within Istanbul, then Constantinople, until the Turks finally arrived from across the Asian steppes bringing with them Islam. This rich history has left the country with many a cultural sight to visit in a wide range of environments like the high altitude but flat central steppe region, the Greek Mediterranean coast, the green tea-growing mountains of the north east and the historic Kurdish regions of the south.

Turkey is a place incomparable to its European and Islamic neighbours because of its opulent history of Empire and migration. The level of hospitality and friendliness that will receive you in each corner, however, is consistent.

Your year abroad won’t always be easy. You’ll face the same difficulties as at home and probably new ones. But we all have the ability to work through these difficulties and return as a better, more whole person. Istanbul is a great place for such an adventure. I would recommend this experience to everyone and anyone.


If you’re thinking of going to Turkey and want to ask me a question, feel free to email me: ra16072@qmul.ac.uk

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