Lin Kong - 2015 Program Participant

Ortaköy Mosque in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, Turkey

A view of Ortaköy Mosque in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, Turkey

Why did you decide to study abroad?

It applied to my major, international studies.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s Direct Enrollment program in Istanbul? 

The program has what I was looking for to fulfill my interests and knowledge of my major study.

What surprised you most about Istanbul?

People are extremely hospitable and friendly. I felt secure and was brave to do solo walking tours.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Turkey?

I wish I could know more Turkish and more history, because historical artifacts are everywhere; without this knowledge, they are just stones and ruins to you.

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

The staffs are always available to help each student. The workshops and walking tours erased my barrier to learn more about the local way of life.

The Galata Kulesi in the Karaköy quarter of Istanbul, Turkey

The Galata Kulesi, or Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower in the Karaköy quarter of Istanbul, Turkey

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

I could communicate with the locals, although my Turkish is broken. The locals like to talk once they learn you know Turkish, even only a couple words. The difficult thing was that they could still talk a lot to you, and you could not understand.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were always reachable. They provided language and cultural workshops, and encouraged us to explore the country.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

I usually had couple classes in Bogazici University, then during lunch and dinner time, we would have meal-discussion with classmates, the topics were about international studies. Then if we had free time, we would hang out and explore the city. Otherwise, we would either stay in school library or apartment for study. If we had holiday, we would have a trip with program mates, classmates, and friends.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it? 

I had residence in an apartment, which was located within the program center. I liked everything about it, the apartment was fancy, even more than a hotel.

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to Istanbul?

Don’t bring too much clothing there, because everything is cheap, beautiful, and very good quality. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable sneakers (you will walk a lot). For girls, please do NOT bring too many shorts or mini skirts. Bring one light jacket and scarf, just in case. If you like wear skirts, bring a couple long skirts, especially if you want to go to Fatih, a conservative neighborhood of Ottoman Istanbul. If you bring a credit or debit card with you, the best way to enjoy your shopping is to withdraw more cash as possible, and make your payment with cash instead of swiping your cards, because of the transaction fee and currency exchange fee.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part was to memorize the route, from my apartment to the school, from school to any attraction sites, because I found out road signs are rarely obvious in Turkey.

Hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia

Hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia, a historical region in Anatolia

What is one thing you would do differently if you could do it all over again?

I would want to do some solo traveling.

What was your favorite part about Turkey? 

Can I say dondurma (Turkish ice cream)?

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

The biggest benefit is that I feel like my mind is more open to different values and ideologies in the Middle East, which I could never understand before. I feel more humble. The experience in Turkey also changed my view of Middle East.

How has studying abroad impacted your life? 

A couple classes I took via the program really changed my mind about globalization. I pick up on how others view the same global event differently with their values and ideology, now everything makes more sense to me. 

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would like to go back to Turkey. I hope they will open a study abroad program in either Edirne or Bursa, which used to be capitals of Ottoman Empire before Istanbul. Besides Turkey, Tunisia would be my other choice, because my major is related to Middle Eastern studies.