Have you ever been in an exchange studying program? What country have you chosen and why? My Turkish student life was yet another comfort zone story filled with challenges. And cheap trips. Let me explain.
I was an exchange student for one semester in the last year of my Master’s. Which was a challenge in itself, especially financially. Lucky me! But how did I get there?
The whole month of September, I will share 30 stories with you. One story each day. You will find out how I travelled, what countries I called home and how many times I repeated a travel in the same place. But most importantly, you will get to know my comfort zone stories. Would you share yours?
Last year of master’s Studies
As I mentioned in the Denmark article, I enrolled in a master’s for two years. So now it was December 2010 and I was in the first semester of the second year. I was still deciding on the subject of my thesis, so I would meet my professor once a week. One day, out of nowhere, I told her my biggest life regret was that I’d never been an exchange student. And as I was in the last year of my master’s degree, it was too late.
What were the chances that one spot would open up and they were actually looking for someone who can fill the spot on short notice? So I was asked if I am interested to apply. It was in Istanbul. I really had to think this one through. I would get a scholarship but it will just cover my accommodation. And then I would still have to pay out of pocket for a lot of other things. However, I still had money left from working in a salmon factory. At the same time, I had some family and personal problems that I was overwhelmed with.
Erasmus exchange student
Listen to more stories about the paperwork, the visa procedure, the error in my passport, the classes taken (some of them being in Turkish) and how I almost failed one. Plus, the story behind changing my name by mistake, how I found a place to stay and much more about my Turkish student life in episode 29, of Travelling Inside Out.
It was a great time. In hindsight, I didn’t appreciate it enough. And I know that from reading back the articles written in Romanian at the time. But I learn some stuff too, like negotiating the price for my first leather jacket. The same jacket didn’t make it out of Tunisia intact one year later. But you’ll need to read about that in the next article. Oh, and going to the Formula 1 race! It’s still one of the best memories to the day from that time.
The thing I loved the most was the trips we took. Either by myself or organised by the university. And because I was a student, especially an international student, we had amazing discounts for almost everything. I’ve actually had free entry to a lot of famous tourist places. But unlike my friend I visited in Denmark, I didn’t live with the rest of the international students. Not sharing classes with any of them, I rarely knew about other trips.
The only trip I joined in was when we went wakeboarding. But I stayed on the side and took pictures of them. Turkish student life wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t trips within Turkey, but outside of Istanbul. And this is how I managed to see incredible places, like Capadoccia, Edirne and Bursa. We saw mosques, and museums, like the Historical Mental Hospital Museum, the Derinkuyu underground city and many others.
The food was very good, but because I was on a tight budget I rarely ate in town. I would always take advantage of the food when on trips. And to be fair, that’s when I decided my favourite international breakfast is a Turkish one. I do love me some cheese and bread and olives and all the yumminess. As a tea lover, I enjoyed elmali chai quite a lot. The only issue I had with Turkish tea was that it was always served way too hot. I usually have to let it cool down a little before drinking it. But if my host will notice that, they would change it immediately. Hahaha! Living in Turkey for 4 months also meant I didn’t eat any pork. I actually lost quite a bit of weight in my four months in Turkey. Unfortunately, I would put it all back and more in Tunisia.
I was lucky to have a friend visiting me from back home and that is when I visited most of the tourist places in town: from Blue Mosque to Taksim Square, from Hagia Sofia to Galata Tower. Actually, we got lost on the way to Galata Tower so I always said that I will see it next time. And that next time never happened. Because while I was still living in Istanbul, I got lost twice in my discovery of the tower. I was even starting to think it maybe doesn’t exist. Nah, I’m joking. I am just not good with directions. In the last month, I also joined a tour of the Bosphorus up and down and that was pretty cool too. I even went in a hot air balloon, in Istanbul. Remember my obsession with seeing things up top?
But my favourite place out of everywhere I went was Princess Islands. First and foremost no transportation is allowed on the islands. Already a plus. And since I went there in April/May, not so many people were around. It was there when I saw my first sunset in the sea too, something I longed for since I was a kid. Oh, and as a random coincidence that was also where I tried a waffle for the first time. Yes, I was in my 20s when I had my first waffle.
I mentioned in the Norway article that my laptop broke down and I’ve lost a lot of pictures. So Turkish pictures were included in that too. It really upsets me since I’ve also lost the amazing nude pics, I took by myself on a secluded beach on Princess Islands. Damn! Anyway, I actually wrote so much about my Turkish student life in Romanian, that I had a whole category only for those posts. Once again, if you don’t understand the language, check out the pictures.
In the end, I left my Turkish student life a little earlier with a few weeks because I was so over it. I told you I didn’t know how to appreciate it. In doing that, I missed the final party on a boat and probably a lot more by doing so. But the whole experience taught me a good lesson regarding my biases. I actually wrote about it in my 10 travelling stories. But I left because I was about to start the job at an international film festival. The festival that had the biggest impact on my life and I am still collaborating with.
It’s not easy to sum up your experience of four months in one article. So let me know! Do you have an experience that in hindsight was way better than you thought? How do you overcome your biases? And more importantly, how do you overcome life challenges?
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