Being an exchange student in Izmir
If you’ve been following aNadventures for a while, you may know that I was lucky to spend 1.5 years as an exchange student in Izmir, Turkey. I recently talked to Stephanie, a friend from my school who also chose to study abroad in Izmir. I asked her about her experience so far and she shared some interesting insights:
Why did you choose to spend a semester in Izmir?
For my exchange semester I was looking for a country with a contrasting and challenging culture. Turkey seemed perfect, as on the one hand it differs quite a lot from Germany, on the other hand there are still many connecting factors in German-Turkish relations and I was curious to explore them from the opposite point of view. Besides, it was a big advantage, that although not being part of the European Union, Turkey participates in the Erasmus program.
I have to admit that when I thought about Turkey, it was Istanbul that immediately came to my mind. After talking to friends, however, who had experienced both, Izmir and Istanbul, I decided to apply for Izmir, as everyone was praising the city for its quality of life.
What are your impressions after your first months in Turkey?
Meanwhile I have been in Turkey for 2.5 months, but right from the beginning I felt “home” here. People are really open-minded and friendly and they go out of their way to help you, even if you’re a stranger – a fact that I definitely want to keep after returning to Germany. Also, after having travelled to many different places (Istanbul, Bursa, Antalya, Cappadocia) I cannot emphasize enough how diverse and rich of culture Turkey is.
What’s your favourite Turkish dish so far?
This is a hard one. Turkish food is just overwhelming. There are so many different kinds of kebabs, a large variety of deserts and also the pastry assortment is just incredible. What I really like, however, is kumpir, a big roasted potato that gets sliced in the middle and stuffed with your choice of salads and vegetables. Thus every kumpir is individual and tastes differently.
Tell us about a particularly special moment.
Before coming to Izmir, I travelled to Istanbul and Bursa where I met Nurettin. However, he told us to call him baba, the Turkish word for “dad“. After our arrival in Bursa, my friend and I were walking through the city and suddenly heard some music playing. So we stopped and through a window we saw a group of elderly men singing and playing instruments. While we were still wondering if our staring might be considered impolite, baba waved and showed us to come inside. Unfortunately their concert was finished shortly afterwards, yet, baba told us that they would meet again the next day at 4 pm and that we should return at that time, too. We followed his instructions and the next day we did not only attend the music gathering in the afternoon, we also went for a walk through the city with baba, had Turkish coffee with him and during prayer time we accompanied him into the mosque. For dinner he bought some grapes and pastries and in the evening his daughter arrived. Not only did she call upon us to dance to the traditional Turkish music but she also read our fortune out of a coffee cup. In the end, we got back home at midnight, having spent 8 hours with baba and his friends and family. This alone seems quite strange, yet, it gets even crazier if I tell you that they did not speak a word of English or German and at that time my Turkish skills were also quite scarce. This encounter perfectly embraces Turkish hospitality and international understanding and that friendship worked quite well!
What would be your recommendation to anyone wanting to visit Turkey?
If you want to travel to Turkey, my best recommendation would be not to book an all-inclusive-package in a tourist centre. Turkey offers so much more than that! I would recommend travelling around and experiencing many different places. The bus system is really well developed, the busses are modern, comfortable and wifi and board service are included in the rather small fare.
Izmir is the place to be because…
… it offers everything: the mountains, the seaside, big city life but also idyllic places to relax.
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your experiences. Thank you, Turkey, for being such a wonderful place.