Türkiye Cumhuriyeti welcomes You!

10/7/2014 Blog by Damian Kashfia, UW Bothell IAS: Global Studies, Bogazici University Exchange

One month has passed since I left Seattle for Istanbul, population 14 million. For so long, I have wanted to get away from Washington and really immerse myself in a new environment and oh man, I definitely think I accomplished that.

Ankara may be the capital of Turkey, but Istanbul is truly where the action takes place. The economic and cultural center of the country, Istanbul is always evolving, the city itself is the definition of change. Everywhere I go, I constantly see the new and old in an embrace; centuries old buildings lined up next to beautifully designed high-rises holding offices to multi-national companies and banks, people shopping in brand new shopping centers mushrooming around the city then going to a cafés that have been around for over 100 years, etc. It may be a cliché, but Istanbul is truly an East meets West city. To gain an idea of the atmosphere of the city, just imagine Europe and the Middle East having a baby. It’s really a cool sight to see such contrasts as women dressed conservatively abiding by modest dress prescribed by Islam stand next to advertisements with scantily class, or hearing the call to prayer from mosques as people sip fine Turkish wines from local eateries. Needless to say, Turkey is quite a different place from the U.S., at least from Seattle.

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Istanbul, Turkey

A Brief Overview of my First Month          

When I landed at Ataturk International, my first thought was how was I supposed to leave the airport because for the first time in my life, there was no one by my side to help me out and no one waiting to pick me up when I landed. Once I exchanged some dollars into Turkish liras, I went out and somehow managed to communicate with a very friendly taxi driver who spoke next to no English and simply gave him the address of my apartment. 2 and a half hours and God knows how many traffic jams later, I reached what was to become my new home. There to greet me was my Turkish roommate, Eyup, who has since become one of my friends, in fact I could safely say he was my first friend here.

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My neighborhood

For the first few days after I landed, I went out just around the area of the apartment located in a nice, middle class area close to the tallest building in Turkey, Sapphire. The neighborhood, located in the area known as Kagithane, is in my opinion a nice area filled with a plethora of shops, cafes, grocery stores, bakeries, and small restaurants, all within walking distance of the apartment and only a 12 minute walk from the metro system. What I’m really looking forward to is the opening of the metro line for Bogazici University, so then I can just take the metro instead of the bus, but then again I’m not complaining about a 30 minute bus ride either compared t over an hour back in Washington.

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Surprise birthday party with new friends

Thankfully after about a week, my slump felt to be coming to an end. As the days progressed, my roommate began taking me out (he’s 29 and told to me that he is seeing me more as his little brother than his roommate) and showing me around, even introducing me to some of his friends. Then my German roommate, Tobi, came from Cologne. When he arrived, things really began to pick up as we began going out more and meeting more exchange students, a majority of which seemed to be coming from Germany. I don’t know why, it may have to do with the large Turkish population in Germany, but it seems that German students are really attracted to Turkey.  After some days had passed, I had already developed my circle of friends and without me even thinking such a thing was possible here, they had organized a surprise party for me for my 20th birthday which I originally thought would be the first birthday I spend alone! I really could not believe what had just happened. It was really one of the coolest things I couldn’t even have thought of.

As the days, I began going out more and socializing and meeting up with new friends. I was really starting to explore the city and develop a life of my own in Istanbul.  And before the semester was about to begin, a large group of exchange students, including some of my friends and myself, took a trip to the Cappadocia region in eastern Turkey.

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Cappadocia, Central Turkey

 

The trip started out a little disappointing, but quickly took a turn for the better and it was a beautiful area filled with amazing designs and landscapes designed by Mother Nature herself. One of the best things about this trip was not only seeing a new face to Turkey, but also developing stronger connections I had already established with others, and in some cases, creating new ones as well.

Bebek, near university

Bebek, near university

Once we came back, the semester immediately began and I can honestly say it wasn’t a drag at all. Bogazici University is an incredibly beautiful university, and great part of this is due to location, location, location. The university is located on a cliff overlooking the Bosphorus Strait from the university derives its name (Bogazici literally means Bosphorus in Turkish, hence Bosphorus University).  The area the university is in is also great, surrounded by countless cafes, shops, and restaurants, so when you finish your classes there is really no rush in going back home when you can soak in the laid back atmosphere of the area. My professors all seem to be personable

View from Bogazici University

View from Bogazici University

people as well, very fun and engaging which makes the classes enjoyable and makes all of us in the class actually want to participate.

All in all, my introductory time to Turkey is definitely going to be something I will never forget through the trials that I was put through and the new life I developed on my own. I can confidently say that if this first month has been a sign of anything, it’s that there will be countless surprises, both good and not so good, that await me in my one year here.

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti welcomes You!

  1. Hi Damian, great article! I cAme accross it because I am looking for other Khachfi’s (spelled a thousand ways after transliterated from arabic). Any idea where your last name originates from? My grandfather and his family is originally from Iskenderun, Turkey but most migrated out in the 1930s.

  2. Hi Damian! How are you? Are you still there :-)? I’m curious how things are going, now that you’ve been at BU for a few months. This week at UWB we’re doing a lot of outreach to first-year students, to encourage them to get involved in co-curricular activities. Those who stopped by at our study abroad table were intrigued to hear that we have a student spending a year in Turkey. Hope to hear from you soon!

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