Ismet Joan Üner - 2015 Program Participant

View of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey

View of the Bosphorus from the Boğaziçi University campus

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

Living abroad was always an opportunity I had looked forward to when I entered college, as I’m passionate about travel and love learning languages. I couldn’t wait to explore a new city with a rich culture and history. I was also excited to study in a different university environment where I could meet a diverse group of international students.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s direct enrollment program in Istanbul?

In order to learn more about my Turkish heritage and improve my Turkish, I decided to travel to Turkey through IES Abroad and enroll at Boğaziçi University, a world-renowned institution in the heart of İstanbul. After all, there is truly no better method than complete immersion to learn a new language. After having met the faculty director, Vehbi Baysan, for IES Study Abroad İstanbul in the fall of 2013 when he visited Wellesley College, I discovered that my dream study abroad experience was possible. Direct enrollment at Boğaziçi was exactly the program I was searching for, an academically rigorous environment for me to pursue courses for my neuroscience major and the unique opportunity to learn Turkish in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

I was also very drawn to the amount of personal support and guidance that the IES Abroad program offers their students. Their exciting three week intensive Turkish language and culture orientation was a helpful and fun way to start our study abroad journey.

View of Cappadocia, Turkey

Week-long trip to Cappadocia organized by Boğaziçi's Erasmus Student Network organization

What was your favorite part about Istanbul?

Istanbul is truly one of the most breathtaking cities, with the fascinating blend of ancient and modern architecture, the rich history, the beautiful Bosphorus, the spectacular nightlife, the outstanding cuisine, and it is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. I could probably go on and on; there isn’t a dull moment in this walkable, vibrant city where there’s always somewhere new and exciting to explore. Boğaziçi University’s campus is also unbelievably gorgeous and is in close proximity to many fun neighborhoods. The Boğaziçi campus draws upon its community, making it a richer, larger than life experience for students.

What made your program experience unique?

The opportunities to go on an international IES Abroad field trip is a truly unique aspect of the program. The destination in Spring 2015 was Jordan, but in the Fall 2014 it was Morocco. I also thoroughly enjoyed the guest lectures on Turkish culture and history during the three week orientation period. Our center director, Vehbi Baysan, took our IES Abroad group on many walking tours around Istanbul, which were also a major highlight of our orientation.

The IES Abroad center had beautiful apartments, and although I lived on campus I always enjoyed spending time at the center with the other students. It was also wonderful that IES Abroad students, myself included, had the opportunity to continue learning Turkish throughout the semester in another Turkish intensive course (for credit) at the center. We were given the option to enroll in a Turkish speaking-intensive class once a week as well.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The IES Abroad staff gave great advice on how to navigate the craziness of Istanbul city life during the three week orientation. The staff was also very helpful during the complicated student residency permit process by assisting us in making our appointments, gathering the necessary documents, and coming with us on the day of our appointment. The staff was also very warm, approachable, and accessible during work hours at the IES Abroad center, and 24/7 via email and phone.

Seaside quay in Arnavutköy, Turkey

Seaside quay in Arnavutköy

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I loved that got the chance to really discover the many interesting neighborhoods in Istanbul, but I wish I had gotten the chance to sightsee more places in Turkey or travel to other neighboring countries. If I could do it over again I would have been better about saving more money for travel and planning my weekends more carefully.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

I would usually get up around 9:30 a.m., as my earliest class was at 11:00 a.m., and have a delicious breakfast of menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs with tomatoes and pepper) and Turkish coffee downstairs in the Superdorm café. Then I would start my daily 15 minute walk to class, where I got to gaze at the most stunning view of the Bosphorus.

Depending on the day I would only have class until about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. We would usually eat lunch at one of the campus cafeterias where each meal was only about $0.75. There are also some great options to eat at reasonable cafés and restaurants around Boğaziçi. Most afternoons I would head to the sports center next to the Superdorm, where there was free workout equipment and an outdoor track.

Twice a week I would have evening rehearsals with the Boğaziçi Classical Choir. As the choir was lead in Turkish, this was yet another great opportunity to practice some new language skills. In the evenings I would usually get together with friends for dinner and we’d find a place in the dorms or on campus to relax together and do some work. We would usually spend Friday and Saturday nights out in bars or restaurants around campus, and then maybe go out to our favorite clubs in Taksim Square afterwards.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

I really enjoyed the spontaneous moments during the week where my friends and I decided to go out and sightsee in Istanbul or head to a new café and spend the day there. There are so many fun neighborhoods to explore that it was almost impossible to get to see them all, but we tried! Some of my favorite memories were days where we would take ferry rides to the Asian side to shop and have dinner in the cool neighborhood of Kadıköy.

Bursa, Turkey

Weekend day trip to Bursa

What was your housing like? What did you like best about it?

I was very pleased with my time in the Superdorm on campus. We had 24/7 security, a daily cleaning service for our common areas (and our rooms if we requested), a delicious yet reasonable café downstairs, as well as a laundry service and a small grocery shop. I really enjoyed the fact that I was only about a 15 minute walk to my classes and that I was close to all the events that were happening on campus.

Now that you're home, how would you say studying program abroad has impacted your life?

Studying abroad in Turkey was one of the most exciting experiences I could have ever hoped for and more. Something I’m really thrilled about though is that my Turkish is now good enough that I am able to successfully communicate with relatives who know very little English. Also, living in an exotic and bustling city like Istanbul has definitely made me a more confident and independent traveler. I’ve learned how to be able to integrate and thrive in a new and interesting environment in very little time.