If there was ever a place where rich doses of ancient history could satisfy the occasional hankering for Western comforts, Istanbul might just very well be it. This open-air museum not only displays some of humanity’s finest handiwork, it’s also a modern experiment in multicultural living. As fluid as the four seas that splash Turkey’s coasts, the cultures of Europe and Asia pool together to inspire rapid growth and top-notch education. If you’re looking to study abroad in an up-and-coming metropolis with a flair for the past, study abroad in Istanbul!
How to Study Abroad in Istanbul
The Turkish school system is as delicious as its spice palette. There's history, culture, and one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world. It’s driven by start-up companies of entrepreneurial Turks with an average age of just 27! It’s a country looking for new talent, and there are quality educational systems in place to help new enterprisers succeed. But what to study?
Popular Subjects to Study. Business, quite naturally, takes the top of the list for popular study abroad Istanbul programs. Modern encouragement of entrepreneurship and productivity is attracting a lot of attention from foreign investors. Similarly, a degree in economics and the experience of tackling the problems associated with living and studying in a foreign country can open doors. With sites like the mystical domed Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, it’s easy to be inspired to get a history degree as well. There are also excellent opportunities to study archaeology, and museums will gratify any art history buff.
Short Term vs. Summer vs. Long Term Programs. The academic year runs from September to June, and consists of two semesters. There are English-language courses in nearly every subject, and teachers and peers will all have some level of English. Fall term goes through January, with a break the last week of the month, and spring term starts up again in early February. There are plenty of summer programs as well — but be careful, it gets hot!
Attending Universities vs. Other Program Types. Istanbul study abroad program providers vary, but study abroad advisors at your university can help you decide if you should study through your own university, the University of Istanbul or other universities in Istanbul, or through a third-party program provider based on your course needs and interests.
Student Life in Istanbul
A lot of areas that were previously run-down now sport hip new cafés on their corners. You can browse European bookstores in the morning, and then after a lunch overlooking the water, take the ferry to wander the markets of Asia just on the other side of the strait.
Cihangir remains the stronghold for European culture in Istanbul, and while close to the main pedestrian street, Istkal Caddesi, it remains relatively calm and relaxed. Nearby, yet diametrically opposed, is Beyoglu, a bustling thoroughfare that houses much of the city’s entertainment and nightlife. You can listen to reggae on a rooftop, or peruse the work of contemporary artists at Soda Istanbul.
It’s on the European side that you can also see the oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world. Known as the Grand Bazaar, it employs up to 30,000 people who sell their goods in nearly 4,000 shops along 66 streets. The most popular items are rugs and lamps, but there is also a plethora of teas, spices, and snacks that will set your senses wild. Definitely a great study break distraction!
GoAbroad Insider Tips
The military perks of being the most strategically located city in the world may be lost on you, the casual study abroad student, but Istanbul’s enviable position between Europe and Asia and the insanely cheap travel options to surrounding areas will not! There are Roman ruins, islands, and mountains all just a stone’s throw, and a dozen Turkish lira..
A lot of steps have been made to “westernize”; many Turks see an alignment with Europe as a path towards prosperity and modernity, and they have embraced many of the continent’s qualities and aspirations. There are still strong ideas about women, dating, and politics; however, that may take some getting used to. As long as your mind is open, and you recognize that everyone’s coming from a place of their own experience, it can be hugely rewarding to challenge your own perceptions about the world. Whether or not you adapt some of the Turkish mentalities, you’ll definitely start to question what you know to be true, and that can only be good!
So, pack your backpack and get ready to immerse yourself in this burgeoning culture of East meets West, ancient meets modern, when you’re studying abroad in Istanbul. While exploring the growth that stems from the past, you may just come to realize that the chimes you wake up to are not just a call to prayer — they might just be the calling to the rest of your life.