Lots of people dream of studying abroad in Italy or France — traveling across Europe on the weekends and taking holidays to Portuguese beaches with friends. Although this life does sounds like a picture perfect dream, I knew it wasn’t the study abroad route for me.
Because I am majoring in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East, I knew I wanted to study abroad in that region of the world. However, finding what is called a “nontraditional study abroad location” can be tricky because many programs simply don’t offer them, are only available at certain times, or are always on the brink of cancellation.
Luckily, with AIFS, I was able to find a program that fit my needs perfectly. At my study abroad fair I discovered that AIFS offered a program in Istanbul, Turkey for a full year, semester, or summer term. With my schedule, the summer term at Boğaziçi University was the best option and is the one I participated in.
The university was excellent, the area we lived in was very safe, and the culture was vibrantly alive all around us. Learning to navigate our way though the day to day life in Istanbul was easy with the help of the AIFS onsite staff who helped us learn about public transportation, provided us with debit cards and cell phones, and even explained how and where to do our laundry while abroad.
Studying abroad in a nontraditional location gave me many opportunities to interact with locals since I wasn’t always surrounded by tons of other exchange students from the United States. I was able to interact with local residents, and I had many chances to practice speaking Turkish, since not many people fluently spoke English.
If you are considering studying abroad in a nontraditional location I definitely recommend taking a leap of faith to study and learn about a place less travelled to. It can be nerve-racking thinking that you will be far removed from your normal support system and comfort of speaking English, but I can promise you that you will build up another support system in no time, make lasting friendships, and be able to pick up at least a little — if not a lot — of a new language. If a full year abroad in that location sounds like too much for you or your family, remember that you always have the option for a single semester or summer.
This post was contributed by AIFS alum, Aysel Demirbag, who studied in Instanbul, Turkey with AIFS for a summer session.