Istanbul, Turkey: Initial Impressions

Istanbul, Turkey

Rachel in Turkey!



Submitted by Rachel Whitcomb, Global Ambassador in Istanbul, Turkey

Merhaba (Translation:Hello) from Istanbul! After AIFS’s quick excursion to Athens, the 17 of us in the program made our way to Istanbul to begin orientation/registration for our 7 weeks of studies at Boğaziçi University. While about half of us are here for history, many people are taking classes as diverse as sociology, business, marketing, psychology, literature, philosophy, and of course, Turkish.

Any time you are placed outside of the world and life you experience every day, the first things you notice are the differences. That’s why we study abroad; to experience something different, to see how life could be lived differently. The first two days in Istanbul I was alert and akin to all of the things that made this city different than anything I knew in the United States.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul sunset from a rooftop restaurant


This city is beautiful, huge, and full of wonderful things that make it unique. The biggest challenge I’m facing is that we can’t drink the tap water. Bottled water is very cheap and available nearly everywhere, but it’s very hard to allow myself to buy it without any guilt (I come from a school where we’ve banned the sale of bottled water in an attempt to protect the environment). But there are ways to help with the plastic consumption- as long as you’re willing to work. My suite-mates and I bought these 10 Liter jugs to feel a little less guilty for buying bottled water:

Istanbul, Turkey tap water

Bottled Water in Istanbul



Speaking of liters, I am reminded frequently of how America is one of the only countries that still isn’t using the metric system. It’s something we don’t think about- we just look at the thermometer or the speed limit or think about weight in pounds, but it’s those things you don’t normally have to think about that throw us the most when we are abroad.

Through our initial explorations of the city and the first few days of class, I’m noticing how things are less “planned out.” For example, our adviser here had little to no agenda for orienting us in the city and played our adventure out by whatever felt at that moment. Additionally, bus stops aren’t exactly where they are marked on the street, class start and end times are more estimates than finite, and event start times are rarely when the event actually starts. While these grey areas are sometimes frustrating, the independence and freedom that come with less rigidity is wonderful, and something I hope to bring back into my life in The States. I’m looking forward to embracing this lifestyle in the coming weeks abroad!

Oh, and of course, the Turkish coffee is to die for.

Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish Coffee!