Prior to coming abroad, visiting the Hagia Sophia sat firmly near the top of my bucket list. In fact, the opportunity to see the building had a major influence on my choice to come along on this study abroad experience. I remember seeing pictures of the building for the first time in Leon Satkowski’s architectural history course my sophomore year and immediately being amazed by what I saw. Most, if not all, of my colleagues shared that sentiment, making it difficult for us to wait to see the building so far into our stay. Ozayr didn’t make our wait any easier, however.
We passed the church many times in our first month in Istanbul. Ozayr conspicuously set our meeting point on the first day of class to Sultan Ahmet square, which stood right next to the Hagia Sophia, and used that location as a meeting point countless times after. He would intermittently insist that we had to wait to visit the site as a class, prolonging our wait. Cruelly, on the day we finally got to visit for our history class, he made us keep our eyes closed until we reached the inside.
When we opened our eyes we stared upward with our mouths agape. The space was immense. Never before had my neck ached simply from the act of observing a building. After letting us take the moment in Ozayr grounded us by starting a class discussion where he benignly asked us what we were thinking. For the first time in our trip none of us had anything to say. Some tried to squeeze a word or two out, but we were mostly silent. We were genuinely left speechless.