Home Turkey My Academic Life in Istanbul

My Academic Life in Istanbul

by Carmen McClelland

View from the biggest mosque in Istanbul

 

I am not sure how much anyone knows about Boğaziçi University, so I will fill everyone in. It happens to be one of the most beautiful universities that I have ever seen, and I go to a stunning college at home. I am currently taking five classes: Ottoman Cultural History, Early Medieval Turkic History, Elementary Turkish for Foreigners, Medieval English Literature, and Introduction to Sociology. It is a heavy load, but I feel that I am up for the challenge.

You may be able to tell by my classes that I am a history major. Yes, it is a dream being a history major and living in Istanbul. I just finished reading an article about the purple silk used in the church mosaics during the time of Emperor Justinian. Not only am I fascinated by what I read, but I am able to go to the Hagia Sophia and see exactly what was mentioned in the article. I am taking Turkish because I want to be able to immerse myself in the Turkish culture as much as I can, and knowing as much of the language as I can will only help. The English course is for a requirement at my school, and the sociology course counts as a prerequisite for occupational therapy graduate school. It is a very eclectic semester.

All of my classes are taught in English, thankfully. In my Introduction to Sociology class, there are 290 students, much bigger than any of the classes that I take at home, and I am the only foreigner. The professor calls me “the foreign friend.” It was difficult the first week because he spoke in Turkish the majority of the time. He explained to me that it wouldn’t be like that normally, but since the majority of the students are freshmen, he wanted to make sure that they understood everything. He still will speak in Turkish when there is an important point, but he will say it in English first and then in Turkish to make sure all of the students understand. I never thought of myself as someone who sticks out, but in that class, I stick out.

I am also the only foreigner in my English course. It makes perfect sense to me because why would an American take a class on Medieval English Literature when he or she is in Turkey? Well, I am. An American teaches it, and she is brilliant. I have learned so much already from her class. It was funny because she asked me if I knew what a word meant, and I didn’t have an idea because the meaning was completely different from what it means in modern English. She laughed and it made everyone in the class feel more comfortable because if I, the native English speaker, wasn’t completely getting something, it made all of the Turkish students feel better. I never would have thought of it like that, but it makes perfect sense.

I again love the fact that I am able to learn about different things in the classroom, walk out of class and see the Bosphorus. It puts everything into perspective. I will look around and see ruins from the conquest of Constantinople, and I realize that I am living in history. It surrounds me entirely. I don’t know where else I would be able to experience it. I have traveled around Western Europe, but this is different. There is something that is so magical about this city that I can’t put into words.

The old fortress from when the city was captured by the Ottomans with a little bit of the modern side

The old fortress from when the city was captured by the Ottomans with a little bit of the modern side

Pure beauty

Pure beauty

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