Visit to Turkey Offers Cultural, Educational Experiences

My name is Elizabeth Davis and I am a Study Abroad Advisor here at K-State.  This past summer Kansas State University was invited by the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue to participate on three cultural and educational visits to Turkey.   I participated on the third delegation, which was July 23- August 3, 2013.Our visit began in Istanbul, which is situated half in Europe and half in Asia.  Geographically speaking, the majority of Turkey is considered to be a part of Asia, yet despite that, Turkey has expressed interest in joining the European Union.  In Ankara, I even saw the European Union flag being displayed next to the Turkish flag.   Most our visit was spent in the Asian side of Turkey.   In addition to Istanbul, we visited the cities of Ankara, Kayseri, Izmir, and Manisa.  We also visited the Cappadocia region of Turkey which is famous for its natural rock formations in to which ancient peoples carved their homes.

The highlight of the educational side of the visit was the visit to K-State’s partner university, Bogazici University, which is located on a beautiful hill in Istanbul.  Bogazici University is the highest ranked university in Turkey, and is extremely hard for Turkish students to get in to – students have less than a 1% percent chance of getting into Bogazici.   Our group talked to some local Turks who were very impressed that K-State would have an agreement with such a prestigious university.  Bogazici University is most well-known for its engineering programs, but they also have departments in humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and education programs, to highlight a few.    K-Staters are able to study abroad for a semester or year to Bogazici through our exchange agreement with them, and the university also offers a summer program.  And despite the fact that Turkish is the official language of Turkey, Bogazici University teaches classes only in English, so there is no language barrier for K-State students.

My visit happened to be during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  I was glad that I had the opportunity to be in Turkey during Ramadan, because while I was familiar with what Ramadan was, I appreciated actually being able to experience it first-hand.   As none the members of the K-State delegation were Muslim, we were all excused from participating from the main Ramadan tradition of fasting from sunrise to sunset.   However, in the evening, we always waited until sunset before eating dinner.  I especially like doing this because during Ramadan, dinner is a very special event each day for which whole families go out to restaurants or make large, elaborate meals to share.  It was quite an experience to see a restaurant packed full of people and dish after dish laid out on the tables, but no one touching anything and everyone being quiet until they heard the call to prayer from the nearby mosque.   Once the call to prayer was heard, people dug into their meal, chatted, and had a good time celebrating ending their daily fast.

Turkey was an amazing place to visit, and I hope to go back some day.  I learned a great deal about the country and their educational system.  It is now my goal to encourage more students to study abroad to Bogazci University.