Istanbul was Constantinople, but it is now known as Istanbul, not Constantinople, and that’s nobody’s business. Unless, of course, you want to intern abroad in Istanbul! With one foot in Europe and one in Asia, Istanbul is (quite literally) the bridge between the two continents as well as Eastern and Western cultures. Throughout history Istanbul has reigned, for nearly sixteen centuries, as an important global cultural and economic center; so, in a city that has seen the rise and fall of multiple empires, why not try and conquer an internship abroad?
Internships Abroad in Istanbul
Due to its unique location, Istanbul’s economy is as diverse as its residents. This is good news for prospective interns, who can intern in almost any industry in Istanbul, from manufacturing to tourism. However, not all internships in Istanbul are created equal; you’ll be hard pressed to find better internship opportunities than these:
International Relations. An international internship in international relations is a given, right? With Istanbul’s ties to both Eastern and Western cultures and a history steeped in international relations, there is hardly a better place for internships in the latter field than Istanbul. International relations internships in Istanbul commonly take place in NGOs, where interns may work in social responsibility programs, conducting research and helping with communications. Istanbul is literally a goldmine for international relations internships.
Education. You may not be fully certified yet, but with a short orientation and an eagerness to help teach anything from English to physical education, interning in Istanbul as a teacher’s assistant may be the perfect opportunity for you to play around with pedagogy. As a teacher’s assistant, interns work primarily in boarding schools with students kindergarten through 12 grade students, lending a hand to local staff by teaching English lessons and any other elective-type courses.
Tourism & Hospitality Management. Since being named a European capital of culture, Istanbul has seen huge growth in the tourism sector. It’s now the world’s fifth most visited city, welcoming upwards of 12 million tourists to explore and experience all Istanbul has to offer annually. With so much tourist traffic, there are as many internships in Istanbul in tourism and hospitality management as there are tourists roaming the streets! Interns generally work in local hotels and restaurants or with local tourism offices in various capacities, from concierge and customer service to serving or bartending and communications and marketing.
Life in Istanbul
Between two continents, 14 million residents, 2,600 years of history, and about 3,300 square miles of city, there’s little room to be bored in Istanbul. You’ll be able to find bumping nightlife, with plenty of clubs and bars along one city block, and a more subdued atmosphere just around the corner. No matter your mood, Istanbul’s got something for you. The European side of the city is more commercial, where most of the city’s banks, stores, and corporations are located, while the Asian, or Anatolian side, is more residential, with fewer tourist attractions.
With Istanbul’s extensive network of trams, metros, buses, and ferries, it’s feasible to live on one side of the Bosphorus and commute to the other daily.
A walk through the neighborhood Sultanahmet, and much of Istanbul, is a walk through history. Interns can (and should) visit the Hagia Sophia; originally a Christian basilica built by the Roman Emperor Justinian I, it was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans and is now a museum. Interns seeking refuge from the congestion and fast pace life of the city can take a ferry to Prince Islands, a little archipelago off the coast in the Sea of Marmara. Motorized vehicles are banned on the islands, so interns can take a nice bike ride to explore the different islands and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Turkey is a largely Muslim country, so interns will therefore hear the ezan (call to prayer) multiple times daily. However, it is also a secular state, so women are not required to cover their heads in the workplace. Mosques in Istanbul are open to all visitors, but you should avoid visiting during prayer-time or anytime it is busy with worshippers. Dress is a little more conservative in Turkey, but women are only asked to wear headscarves when visiting mosques, like Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.
Salary & Costs
Internships in Istanbul are generally unpaid (so what else is new?). However, some companies will offer modest stipends in addition to housing assistance and meals. The cost of living in Istanbul is lower than you might think, especially compared to other large European cities. Since it is fairly affordable city, interns can live comfortably off a stipend, which is usually around $250 per month.
Accommodation & Visas
Depending on the internship placement, interns can live in shared apartments or dorms with other interns and/or students, or with a host family in a homestay. Living with a host family is a great way to experience Turkish hospitality first hand, and pick up a little Turkish along the way. Keep in mind most homestays are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
As an intern in Turkey, you’ll need an education visa to enter the country. This visa cannot be issued in-country, and instead should be issued at least a week before you arrive in Turkey. Check with your local Turkish consulate for requirements and necessary paperwork, which will need to be submitted in person. Getting a Turkish visa can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, so keep this in mind and start the process as soon as possible to avoid any problems before your internship in Istanbul begins.
Benefits & Challenges
Blend of Cultures. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. As an intern in Istanbul you will experience a wonderful blend of East and West across two continents, but culture shock and adjusting to life in Istanbul might prove a little challenging. If the Ottomans could do it, so can you.
Conquering an internship abroad in Istanbul is its own reward, one worth every risk.