Marta Burza from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland is sharing her Erasmus experience in Istanbul.
I arrived in Istanbul at the end of September to stay for one semester. I was alone, the first time in Istanbul, barely communicating in proper Turkish. It's always exciting but at the same time stressful. Since the beginning, I had e-mail contact with Erasmus Office so I had all necessary information, and when I only arrived I had a meeting at University when I got to know about my schedule, place of classes, my discounts for transportation (It is important in that huge city) and my adventure was about to start. I also met other Erasmus students – we were in touch later and I never expected that I will know so much about Malaysia or the Turkish minority in Germany. Later University organized us a trip to Canakkale and Gallipoli, so we had an opportunity to know each other better (as well as the history of Canakkale).
In Poland, I'm studying Turkish Language and Literature. That's why I decided to do my Erasmus in Turkey. It was obvious to me that I want my classes in Turkish, not in English. Because I'm learning this language for three years and it is not a problem - yes it is :) It was more challenging and more difficult than I thought. I was attending five different classes (some for bachelor degree, some for master degree) and mostly I could understand what's going on, but during some lectures, I had to continuously ask my classmate “What did he say?”, “What did he ask?”, “What is our homework?”. It gave me a strong motivation to study new words, to speak only in Turkish whenever I could, and with time it got easier – it is the biggest satisfaction. And I suppose that it gave my classmate a new level of patience :) But in the end, my professors were always eager to help me, even during classes some of them kept asking if I know whats's going on. Especially few of them I'm gonna remember as one of the best professors I ever met. I went through many books connected with literature, I learned many details about writers and poets I know before very little. I'm glad that I had a chance to study at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University and to attend different classes. Now I'm ready to write my master's degree.
Istanbul is a vivid city (the city is a small word, once Istanbul with its 18 million inhabitants is half of Poland). Cinemas, theatres, language meetings, lots of museums and places to see that half a year is not enough. Apart from this, you can have long walks, try different kinds of food, look for small, family bookshop, tea places which are everywhere and just wander through many districts of Istanbul as the most classic Sultanahmet, less touristic Uskudar on the Asian side, Balat, and Fener, Besiktas and more. I'm not even gonna try to write about Istanbul, but I'm sure that this place is my favorite city now. For an active person, who is not afraid of living in a huge metropole that never sleeps – it's perfect. Students can find here everything they need.
My beloved Üsküdar – One of the non-touristic parts of the city, kind of amazing area with the best panorama point in Istanbul! All my classes were there, and probably that is why I discovered a lot of places in Uskudar. Parks, restaurants, and the best bookshop (sahaf) that I was coming back there almost every week to have a talk with the owners and to buy books I'm using for my master thesis.
I consider myself as a traveler, backpacker, and a person who cannot sit in one place for so long. I always had a strong need to move. So I did in Istanbul. When there was time to study – I was studying. But whenever I had few free days – I was wearing sport shoes, packing my bag, and going to meet new adventure. In Istanbul, more than 300 people were doing Erasmus. I met them via Facebook groups or some organized city meetings. A few of my travels I did with those people, some places I saw alone and some I visited with my friend that came from Poland to taste Turkish cay and real kebab. During this semester I managed to see Çanakkale, Gallipoli, Bursa, Ankara, Eskişehir, İzmir, Iğdır, Doğubayazıt, Van, Mardin, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, I was in a tent next to lake Abant and Bolu. The number of memories, people I met, and adventures could be enough for a book. Maybe it will come out one day :)
When it comes to public transport – Ferries are the best choice. The fastest and the pleasant. I miss them. I was trying to see one new thing every day (It could be small things - the oldest Boza place in the city, or lots of museums), but from time to time I was coming back to the biggest attractions.
Turkish coffee, sweets, and food – I have no place here to write what you should try in Istanbul. Starting with borek and cay, through menemen, kokoreç, different kebabs, lahmacun and so much more.
Bazaar! Better to go there when you're hungry. People take care of you trying EVERYTHING.
For me the most beautiful and calm mosque in Istanbul – Fatih Mosque.