Istanbul Reflections

1. Emily

Istanbul. We arrived with the intent of staying a while and the accompanying mindset that we could take our time and savor the process of getting to know the place thoroughly. I bought a kitchen knife thinking I would be in that kitchen for enough meals to necessitate a good knife. We made light hearted promises to “come back here” or “go check that out.” We began a process that was intended to lead us smoothly into our studio projects. All of this, the promise of an experience we had been anticipating for so long, was cut short by the incomprehensible actions of a single person with a much larger and darker cause than could ever be construed from the surface reading of such an ephemeral event.

This is not to say we were entirely cheated of an incredible experience. Almost cruelly, we had just enough time to fall in love with Istanbul. It is a very endearing city. The people are incredibly generous. Maybe it’s the long and tangled history and politics of Istanbul but it seemed to me that the people respected and understood each other on a deeply human level. Or maybe it was the language barrier; interactions become beautifully raw when there is no common language.

For the sake of my own reflection, here is a list of things that have and probably will stick with me most about Istanbul:

Public transportation. This city does it right. The subway system was impeccable, coherent and reliable. The busses were clearly marked, stop by stop. The tram system was integrated into the street scape well. The funicular was convenient and very cool. Best of all the ferries were diversely owned and operated, ran frequently and reliably, had heated interiors and served copious amounts of cay. All of these conveyances were well connected and mindful of the city and each other and, as a result, were heavily utilized.

Street food (street-meat). I will miss the simit dearly. I have never seen a free market operating so densely and successfully as it did in the context of street food and fast food. There were quite literally simit carts every five feet at times. The chestnut vendors perfumed the air with aromatic spices. The shear proliferation of carts, kiosks, stands, folding tables and hand held trays stacked with food was astonishing to the point of hilarity in some areas. As long as you have a single lira, you will never go hungry in Istanbul.

Sky line(s). It is a very, very spiky skyline. The minarets mingle with the cell towers to create a forests of spikes rising into the sky and, unlike other cities which one must leave to appreciate the overall form and massing of, Istanbul has many skylines which can all be seen from the very heart and soul of the place: the Bosporus. I will miss sipping cay and gazing at these spikes from the deck of a ferry boat very, very much.

And in no particular order: The generous people, the cats, the dogs, the sound of clinking spoons in cay cups, the outrageous inclines, the falafel, the bad wine, the frequent power outages, the mosques, and the many calls to prayer echoing across the water.

2. Jacob H

I will never forget my first gaze upon Istanbul. From the plane I witnessed the sun set over a surreal landscape. There stood a city that has taken over the mountains, divided and surrounded by the sea. A glimmering welcome to my new home. Right then I knew this place was special and like nothing I’d ever experienced. Although my time in the city ended sooner than expected, it was no less magical than that first glance.

During these two weeks I was given an unforgettable experience with a group of friends that I can now call my family. Immersed within a culture so different from our own, with open hearts and minds we dove head first into the City of the Worlds Desire. I was taken by the cities vibrant and chaotic atmosphere immediately, amazed by everything going on around me. Feeling like a typical foreigner–stupid grin on my face at all times– I didn’t think the city would embrace me the way that it did. The constant stream of cheap çay and street food was great, but my interactions with with people here is what made my time special. In Istanbul it doesn’t matter where you are from or what language you speak, but it is hospitality and kindness that bring us all together. I can’t help but think about Fiko when writing this, the epitome of the love I experienced while in the city. Never once did I walk out of café domingo without the biggest smile on my face, her brightness shining over all who went in her one-of-a-kind shop.

Despite all the love I had enjoyed during my time in Istanbul, the opposite end of the spectrum still persists in this life, leading to our early departure. I’m incredibly saddened by the lives lost on Istiklal Caddesi and of all those lost in these recent events. I know that I’ll be back to this amazing city one day and that life goes on. Istanbul will be there waiting for me, continuing on as it always has and always will. 

3. Adam

The time that we spent in Istanbul was cut short by unfortunate circumstances and difficult decisions that ultimately have the best interest of all the students, faculty members, and family members in mind. It is impossible to not miss the Bosphorus cruises, friendly people, mosques, ҫay, and everything being extremely cheap. Our last day in Istanbul was a celebration of all of these things that ended with ferry ride to Kadiköy just to turn around and head back to Kabataş. It felt surreal saying goodbye to a city that I quickly learned to call home while looking back on the Galata Tower and rows of buildings cascading over dramatic topography.

Istanbul will be a city that I will always remember for the minute moments that happened, unlike Rome that is more focused on seeing major monuments. Istanbul has its impressive monumental mosques like Rome has churches, but for me these don’t make the city of the world’s desire. The city of the world’s desire is created by the atmosphere created by the Bosphorus, the dynamic views and paths created by the topography, and the warmth expressed by people all over the city. One of my favorite places that has all of these aspects is the Detay Böfe located on the south west side of Üsküdar where you can sit on cushions and drink ҫay while watching the sunset.

Although we had to leave the “City of the World’s Desire” there is a silver lining, “El Foro” or Madrid. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to spend a month getting to know one of the most influential cities in the world. We have gotten to call Rome, Istanbul, and Madrid our homes for nearly a month each and have been taking immersive courses to give us a better understanding of the dynamic experiences that each place offers, and I’m excited to see what Madrid has in store for us.

4.  Norman

It has taken a while to write these words as I want to make sure I had settled and given Spain a chance to make me love her. I have come to the realization that nothing will be able to take the place of the experiences gained in Istanbul and the feeling the city gave me. Spain is a beautiful place with all the comforts any of us could ask for. It has not been the smoothest of transitions but slowly I believe it will become home very soon. Well received, many of the students studying with accent and staying at master homes have welcomed us with open arms. Within the first few hours of being at the residence, we were outside playing basketball with people we had just met moments ago. There is another game scheduled for tonight, however, I doubt I will make that as tight review deadlines have us all very busy. It’s ok though, I am sure they will understand, we all have deadlines.

There have been many changes to accommodate our stay, though appreciative of having my own room to work, I miss the camaraderie and family dynamic created by most of us living under one roof. There is no longer a huge apartment for us all to gather and enjoy the joys of Netflix and be as loud as we want.  My single room feels desolate and uninviting, however, having my own shower and a bigger bed makes up for it. I think there is a lot of potential for us to enjoy Spain, yet it remains impossible not to compare it to the beautiful chaos of Istanbul.

As the day urges on I can’t help but wonder how things would be if we didn’t leave. We would probably be sitting in café Domingo right now with Fiko practicing Turkish and eating free fudge balls and drinking çay……really could use a cup right now. Ciao, I mean Güle Güle, wait…..Hasta Lluego and Goodnight.

5. Amanda S.

Although our time in Istanbul was shorter than expected, it had a profound effect on each of us who were fortunate enough to call the city home for three weeks.  Personally, I have never been so deeply affected by another city before.  Every day seemed to present new challenges (in the best sense of the word).  Whether it be adjusting to the culture or studying the city through our courses, I found myself intrigued with Istanbul.

Part of what made my experience in Istanbul so astounding was the constant juxtaposition between the recognizable and the unfamiliar.  In Istanbul I was faced with the Bosphorus instead of the Pacific, food that I have grown up eating with family at a table was now able to be purchased right off the street, and the familiar sound of church bells was replaced with the call to prayer.  Istanbul as a whole fits these two descriptions.  It is of course a vastly different culture and environment than anything I have ever lived in or experienced before.  The language alone is enough to make someone feel displaced.  However, this was never the case.  There was a sense of home that seemed present in the city.  In my opinion, this comes from the people that occupy the streets.  They were never hesitant to listen to me struggle to pronounce words and then kindly correct me on my Turkish, run to help people who had fallen in the street, or simply strike up a conversation.  I believe it was Ozayr who said Istanbul was a city where the citizens look out for each other, and after my time there I whole heartedly agree with that statement.  There was never a moment where I didn’t feel like the people of Istanbul were welcoming me into their home.

The small activities that became so ingrained in our daily routine stick with me the most, however.  Never would I have expected drinking çay and getting a chocolate muffin, taking the time to pet that stray cat that lived outside my apartment, or hearing the metro announcing the “Taksim-Kabataş Funicular” to be the things that I would miss from Istanbul.  Of course I also miss the magnificent skylines and architecture that filled Istanbul, but that isn’t what made the city so quickly feel like home.  I will look back on my time in Istanbul and recall these moments which occupied the streets themselves and my days that perfectly capture my experience of the city.  I cannot wait until I am  fortunate enough to return to Istanbul, drink çay while taking a ferry across the water, mark time by the call to prayer, fall in love with every animal on the street, and simply explore all the other wonders the city has to offer.

6. Olivia

Istanbul – in it’s liveliness, chaos, charm and foreignness – was a breath of fresh and inspiring air. Within just two weeks, myself and the 16 wonderful friends along with me on this journey fell in love with the the daily çays (especially at Fiko’s), the vibrant kedi and köpek filled streets, the breezy ferry rides across the Bosphorus and so much more. The city pulses with energizing and perpetual life. It is difficult to summarize or reflect on the time spent in Istanbul. Below are a few moments that I will never forget.

First walk down Istiklal/Dinner at Dürümzade: We popped out from the metro at Taksim square and were greeted by the vast night sky on top and glimmering lights of shops and vendors all around lining Istiklal Caddesi. We took everything in. It seemed surreal, and still does. Contagious smiles were all around.

First Ferry Boat Ride: Karaköy to Kadiköy was the first ferry boat ride we took all together. We sipped çay and sailed across the Golden Horn to Asia. We walked around and Ozayr pointed out a delicious spot for yogurt and honey. Later in the week, we went back to Asia, picked up some yogurt and honey and watched a beautiful orange sunset over the historic peninsula. Definitely one of my favorite memories.

Bringing a Kedi Home: There was a cute cat that we often found sitting outside of our apartment/in our apartment lobby. So, naturally, I tried to bring it upstairs to our room a few times…We lived on the 5th floor and usually it really did not appreciate me lugging it up 5 flights of stairs. One of our last nights in Istanbul I got the cat all the way up to the 5th floor. We named it “Street Peanut,” gave it water, a chicken sandwich and lots of love for the night. My mother/roommates should really thank me for refraining from bringing a Turkish kitten home with me.

I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend in Istanbul, the people I met there, and the values that I learned there. The horrific events that occurred on Istiklal were deeply saddening and incredibly eye-opening. I am reinforced with the idea that life goes on – life in Istanbul will go on. The city will always stay in my thoughts. I will be back!

7.  Amanda A.

Less than a month ago we made the trip from Rome to Istanbul; it was a bitter-sweet trip for me because I had really enjoyed my time in Rome.  Once we landed however, that bitter-sweetness vanished and I was overcome with awe and excitement.  From within the van I could feel the liveliness of this new city, the density was remarkable, and the sight of minarets piercing the sky as we crossed the Bosphorus was absolutely breathtaking.

The amazement did not stop there.  That night we went for a walk from Taksim Square down Istiklal Cadessi where we grabbed dinner at Dürümzade.  We crowded around a tiny table, sat on stepstools, window ledges, and the sidewalk while we experienced our first of many dürüm (a mouth-watering meat wrap) and spicy peppers until our stomachs ached.

It was not just this night that left me jittery with excitement, every moment in Istanbul was unforgettable.  The culture and way of life were so different from anything I had ever experienced previously.  The first night in our apartment we were jolted awake by the sound of a man singing – the call to prayer.  This sound became a time-telling device for us as we wandered the city.  The views, smells, and sounds of Istanbul were so curious and beautiful.  I cannot even begin to accurately explain the experience of sitting on a ferry boat crossing the Bosphorus and hearing calls to prayer echoing from all directions; it will undoubtedly give you chills.  And the çay!  It became a staple in our daily lives, it was rare to go a day without not just one or two, but at least three cups of çay!

Istanbul will give you chills, it will make you cry, it will inspire you.  Istanbul is the city of my desires.

8.  Cameron

Although our period in Istanbul was cut short, I loved every second of the time spent in the city of the world’s desire. I have gained such an appreciation and respect for this beautiful city, its lively culture and resilient people. Prior to this trip, I had little idea of what to expect. Compared with Rome with which you hear about and see in movies, books, etc., Istanbul was a mystery to me. Apart from a basic Google search that resulted in mostly pictures of the Hagia Sophia I had little knowledge of the city and culture.

After arriving and experiencing the city, I was immediately captivated not by these prominent attractions that seem to define a city on paper such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque or Galata Tower, although incredible to experience, but rather the unique energy and rhythm of the city. Istanbul is able to be completely chaotic and lively while simultaneously making you feel relaxed and at ease. It was this energy, the accumulation of the little things that make the city tick, which made Istanbul feel like home right away. I will never forget the distinct views, noises and tastes that shaped each day we had in Istanbul. Whether it be the endless cups of çay throughout the day (at least one being from Fiko), the call to prayer pulsating through the streets, the adorable kedi and kopek of the streets, and the rich sunsets viewed from the ferry, everything added to the chaos that I was lucky enough to call home for these three short weeks.

From our time in Istanbul I learned that a city is so much more than its landmarks, it is able to be resilient and engaging because of the people and culture that make it a home. Istanbul welcomed us with wide arms and open hearts and I am truly grateful for the time we all spent here. Görüşürüz Istanbul!

9. Amy

My time in Istanbul was absolutely remarkable. As a study abroad student, I could not have asked for a better city to explore or for better company in doing so. I will remember Istanbul as a massive and complex city that, amazingly, managed to feel warm and welcoming to my classmates and I. I am grateful for the new sights, sounds, and smells, and tastes that Istanbul showed me. More specifically, I’ll remember fondly ferry rides to Asia, endless cups of cay, calls to prayer, cats and dogs on the streets, plushy carpet in mosques, a sea of houses spread across hillsides, climbing tiny spiral staircases, the smell of durum wafting from crowded streets, seagulls flying above the Bosphorus, steep and narrow streets, and Istanbul’s lovable disinterest in sequence and order. As I Mentioned, so many things about this city were new to me, and I am grateful to have been introduced to this great volume of “newness” by truly kind and generous Turks. I’ll remember with gratitude the instructors and students who whispered translations to me in English when I took yoga classes, and those staff at our favorite restaurant whom took the time to learn the names of my classmates and I. These moments are so valuable to me, and will shape my definition of Turkey for the rest of my life. While I’m on the topic of people, it’s only fair to mention that my experience of this city was constantly brightened by the positivity and sense of adventure expressed by each of my classmates. Without them I cannot say that this experience would have been half as rewarding. I can’t wait to return to this city and build upon my amazing experience, because while I feel I have learned lots about Istanbul, I am certain that my Turkish education will continue in the future!

10. Jake W.

The prospect of going to Spain was, and still is an incredibly exciting. The city of Madrid has thus far been pristine and picturesque but I can’t help but continuing to compare it to the city of the world’s desire, however, I know I shouldn’t.  Now maybe I am being too honest for this blog post but Istanbul is by far and away the most intriguing, chaotic, spontaneous, vibrant and wonderful city I have ever spent time in and I miss it. It hit hard the second the jet turbines kicked in on the tarmac and we were thrusted away from Istanbul as quick as we had come.

The old saying goes something like, “don’t be sad it’s over. Be glad it happened,” and this sentiment could not ring truer here. We all left with a treasure trove of sights, smells, friends, photos and oversized blankets to help us catalogue our time. From our initial journey along the Bosphorous ferry tour featuring the absolute brightest rainbow any of us had ever imagined to our favorite coffee shop proprietor and local best friend Fiko and everything in between, Istanbul was a constant introduction to the wider world, expanding our minds to the beauty of the organic entropy that the city captures so well. I’m now alarmingly comfortable with harrowing street crossings, I have a constant hunger for Dürüm, and I think I may be a bit of a fabric snob. Istanbul inspired me to really explore water coloring for the first time, tested my body language reading skills (because no way in hell I could pick up Turkish), and the city put all of our pre-conceived notions to the test. In the end, there are too many take-aways to give a simple reflection but if I close my eyes I am able to picture clear as day minarets and domes piercing the sky on a deep navy gray landscape as the sky brilliantly bursts with a perfection of color and swooping birds.

Istanbul was melting pot of cultures and history and architecture and taught me so much in such a short amount of time. Even now I’m toying with the prospect of hanging out in Istanbul for a few weeks after all is said and done over here in Madrid. In the meantime, studio awaits.

11. Danielle

On our first ferry boat cruise through the Bosphorous, we saw a rainbow in the sky. The first street kitten I pet, I didn’t start sniffling afterwards (I am quite allergic). The first public toilet I used was simply a hole in the ground. All these instances seemed like good omens to me, that our time in Istanbul would be magical, unpredictable, and bizarre. Turns out I was right, and these memories from Turkey, no matter how small, have resonated with me more than expected. They may not be hilarious or meaningful to someone other than me, but perhaps that’s why they’re so special.

In Anadolu Kavağı, all six roaming dogs that Cameron and I were petting followed us the whole way down the hill, in full sprint like a stampede. Later that afternoon, our whole group ate lunch on the harbour with the most incredible view of the sea and its surrounding green landscape. Of course, we were accompanied by a few kitties who wanted some grub.

A few of us explored the Anatolian side of Istanbul one of the first nights, and we discovered a rocky pier where we sat and watched the sunset all the way from the golden horn until dusk. The horizon glowed with such a soft and beautiful color palette and with the most breathtaking silhouettes of the Haiga Sofia and Blue Mosque.

Julia and I were scoping out our project site, Besitkas, and found the prettiest planter full of tulips that had yet to bloom. The next day, we saw them blossomed and pink as could be.

How incredible to see tulips in their country of origin.

Michael, Bella, Julia, Olivia and I were served a homemade Turkish breakfast, made right from the kitchen, in a family’s backyard. We were surrounded by the mountains, by goats, by the call to prayer, and by each other’s lovely company.

Although we had to cut our time short in the City of the World’s Desire, I learned something very important: friends who go down a giant slide together, stay together.

12. Bella

Have you seen Anchorman? Do you remember the scene where Ron Burgundy is screaming and crying down a pay phone, banging his hands on the walls of the booth, and, in anguish, utters the iconic line: “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” Well, I have totally been there.

We had history that morning, and we had all relished the (slightly) later starting time with sleep or çay. Poğaça in one hand, sketchbook in the other, I hopped on the metro at Şişli like every morning. This was becoming routine, natural. The rhythms of the train and the pleasant voice announcing the next stop were comforting. The walk down the hill to Accent allowed for a view of the Galata Tower, the sun hitting in such a way that a watercolor seemed forthcoming. Efe prepared us for an upcoming walking tour of Byzantine churches that morning. More çay was needed. And some Galata Kitchen. Ozayr had emailed the night before that he wanted us to meet before Visual Culture so we all migrated up to the studio and settled in chairs — beanbag and otherwise.

“When I was in college,” Ozayr began, eliciting some wary sidelong glances from those of us that had heard that line from our parents before. All bets were off at this point. Comprehension struck us, full in the face, that this was not an ordinary chat when he made it clear that people were nervous for us, and that they had every right to be. However much I knew that, it seemed at odds with the peaceful train ride of that morning. We were in a dilemma, not wanting to let go of Istanbul, but not wanting to be swept up in turmoil.

But that day, like life, must go on. Soon enough we were on our way to Zorlu Center, a massive shopping and living complex in Zincirlikuyu. Upon stepping off our bus, I realized that I was dramatically underdressed. Here was Dior next to Lanvin across from Prada. Oh, and Istanbul Fashion Week was happening opposite. As we walked near to the tents housing the shows in order to get a better angle of the building, I saw FaceHunter ( photographing on the playground. I blanched and freaked out. A lot. And then we played on the playground. For an hour.

If all that was not enough to push me past the safe emotional spectrum, the next stop was the firm of the architects behind the Zorlu Center, Emre Arolat Architecture. We saw their studio, models and were giving a presentation upon which I learned that not only were they responsible for a great number of projects I have used as precedents in past workshops. Particularly the Sancaklar Camii, which apparently we were going to in two days. It was like seeing FaceHunter all over again. What was going on?

As the bus dropped us off at our final destination, the Şişli Camii, and we all made our ways back to our individual apartments, my breathing was a steady hyperventilation. I was Ron Burgandy, slamming my fists against the inside of a phone booth and screaming, not sure whether to feel mournful or ecstatic or resentful or serene or nervous or any emotion in between. I was in a glass case of emotion. I had no idea what to expect from the coming days. I had no idea that in two days a bombing on Istakalal would necessitate our hasty exit from Istanbul. How could I, when I had no idea what to expect from the past day? What had I just experienced? I had no way of answering, so I pet a cat and got some durum.

Until the next time, you stay classy, Istanbul.

13. Garrett

As a child, I grew up hearing of istanbul only in passing as some far off, ethereal concept of a place akin to Timbuktu. As I grew older, it sank into the background of my memory, and as such, my idea of the place as a city grew little. It wasn’t until Sitting down and speaking with my professor about this semester a year ago that I really began to see it as a place with distinctive culture, history, architecture, food and so on. As such, I came to this city with little expectation or perspective on what it would be like. I think, that this is why our first day there was such a magical experience. From the first moment I glanced out of our plain window at the city below, the my mind was consumed by one word: VAST. The sheer sprawling mass of the city stretched from horizon to horizon, filling my view. Never before had I experienced a mega city in such grand fashion before. Sure, I had visited New York, but we entered from the highway not the sky. The impact of this amazing view was compounded by the setting sun whose last rays glittered brilliantly off of the waterways and bodies that defined the cities geography. Upon landing, we were whisked away via vans to our apartments under cover of darkness. Getting only momentary glances of the wondrous city outside, a bit of blue mosque here, a glimpse of Topkapi Palace there and endless miles of high rises sending out their radiance to the night air. After throwing our baggage into our apartments, we set out for Tacsim Square to meet with our professor for a late night walk down the bustling shopping street, Istiklal Cadesi. This was my first ground level, personal experience of our new home. To say it was foreign was an understatement. At first, it was downright alien to me. Never before had I experienced such a diverse assemblage of buildings, people, food, music, noise, smell… It hit me like a ton of bricks. This was Istanbul, and over the coming weeks, that alien feeling of the spaces gradually dissipated, and I sank into a comfortable rhythm of daily life. I came to love those unfamiliar people as well as their cuisine, their language, their metro system with its endless escalators, and even the skittish cats and dogs that populate its streets. Though our time in Istanbul was brief, it has left an indelible mark on my outlook of the world, and instilled in me a deep desire to return to that magical place.

14. Julia

Well, I was not expecting to be writing my reflection on my time in Istanbul at the end of March, and I most certainly was not expecting to be writing it while in Madrid.  I don’t exactly know how to put all of my thoughts, feelings, and reflections about Istanbul and my time there into coherent words and sentences, but I will try my best.I knew a little bit about Istanbul before I signed up for this trip, mostly just from some precedent studies I did for a studio class.  I remember being so enamored by what I read and researched about the “City of the World’s Desire.”  Then I heard about the Rome Istanbul Study Abroad trip and immediately wanted to apply for it.  Then I got accepted and I remember going to our meetings beforehand about trip details and Ozayr talking about Istanbul.  You could just sense his passion and love for the city when he would try and describe it, though it seemed like he never really fully could.  “I love Rome so much, but Istanbul….”  After experiencing Istanbul like I did (if only for a few short weeks) I soon came to learn that Istanbul cannot be described in words. It cannot be fully understood through readings, pictures, stories, books, but can only be fully understood through experience, and what a wild, one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, unreal experience it was, in the best way possible.

The experiences that I had with Istanbul will stay with me forever. I can recall them perfectly in my head; what was happening, what I felt, both emotionally and in a physical sensory way, I can imagine it and remember it so vividly, but I can’t accurately put it into written, or even spoken words.  Sure, I can try and write or talk about the delicious taste of çay, that never grew old no matter how many times a day I drank it, the warmth of the Turkish sun on my pale, foreign skin as I bathed in it while relaxing next to the beautiful Bosporus, the different mosques we visited, the cuteness of the stray cats and dogs, the personalities and friendliness of the locals, the sounds of a city always alive and moving, etc.  But there are components to these memories that can’t be simplified down into adjectives.  As a result, I get to share these private moments with the City of the World’s Desire, and that is something I greatly cherish and am eternally grateful for.  I’ve never fallen in love with anything as fast and hard as I fell in love with Istanbul, and I know I’m not the only one.  Istanbul has some strange, indescribable power to connect with people on such a deep level.  Before I even began packing to leave, I was overcome with a yearning to return.

I’d like to give a huge appreciation shout out to the leaders of this program who, instead of immediately freaking out and taking us back to America the morning after the suicide bombing on Istiklal occurred, worked so, so hard for days and nights to arrange our relocation to Madrid to finish out the semester there.  This program would (obviously) be nothing without them and it’s because of their passion and desire to create an incredible abroad experience for us, that we were able to move to Madrid to continue this experience instead of returning to Minnesota to be stuck in Rapson Hall.  (Not that I wouldn’t LOVE that…..).  Going through life, you learn pretty quickly that there will be many things that will happen to you or affect you in some way that are just completely out of your hands and you have no control over, and you just have to deal with them in some way, whether it be letting it overcome you or turning it into something good; I would like to thank them immensely for choosing the latter route.

15. Jake T.

When I reflect back on my time in Istanbul my emotions get the better of me. My memories draw me back into a world entirely different than my own. I can’t help but feel nostalgic on my brief time in the city of the world’s desire for it has a firm grasp on my heart. Istanbul is much more than a destination; it is a modus vivendi, a way of life. It continues on in its physicality, its continual existence, with its rich strata of history. Perhaps more importantly, Istanbul continues on in the minds of those fortunate enough to visit and experience its wealth of history. I am very happy to count myself among this group of people.

However brief my time was in the city, I was able to begin understanding the intimacies of its culture. For me, the city was not unique because of its stratified history, its food, or even its monuments. What truly makes Istanbul special is its people. As much as I would like to think that my words would do my time here justice, I know they cannot. However, I believe I can borrow some words from one of the city’s greatest treasures, whose words I have come to cherish, the photographer and writer Ara Güler. To loosely paraphrase, he writes:

I came away from this adventure with one of the most valuable lessons of my life. I had the opportunity to encounter an entirely different and untainted world—one that is defined by compassion… The people of this world, who face life with such personal strength and endurance, posses a complete philosophy of life and character that is strong as a rock. During my time here, I acquired a great love and respect for the people and the their honest and honorable stance in the face of the difficulties of life. If my readers could meet them, I’m certain that they would love them too.

Thank you for the opportunity to change the way I think about the world, its vast cultures and most importantly its vast and wonderful peoples.

16. Michael

As I sit here trying to come up with a complex analysis of my time spent in Istanbul, I am realizing the amazing thing about the city itself. It is brutally honest. It doesn’t lie about its history or what it is. It does not try to make a false façade of identity. It has enough time to realize, like most people do with age, that trying to be something you’re not, only leads to disappointment. Identity is a complex cycle of creation and demolition. In Istanbul this cycle created something that can simply be explained as extraordinary.

Istanbul welcomed me like no other city has been able to do. From moment one I was thrown into a lively and engaging atmosphere. As I got to experience the city and I got to interact with its components, it was revealed to me that not only was this city complex, it presented its heart to everyone who passed through its gates. Its heart beats with a persistent and distinct rhythm. This rhythm can only be attributed to the 14 million people who live and influence how the city functions. I got to meet a few of these people and through my experiences I can honestly say that Istanbul is the greatest city in the world. From the moment an army of people helped Julia after her debit card was eaten by an ATM to the moment we all wished our local coffee shop owner our best before departing to Madrid, we have all grew into the city’s inhabitance. We all embraced the culture around us, because honestly we had no choice. The city embraced us and in return we embraced back. During this embrace the city left an imprint on us. We are forever marked with the time we were able to spend in this magical city.

Although I was sad to leave, I know that Istanbul will continue to hold onto its truthful identity. The same complex and intricate city will still be there to welcome me, but will also include some new things to explore. In My Name is Red Orhan Pamuk wrote, “The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion . . . open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colors, details and irony.”


  1. Pingback: Update from Madrid | hmayer

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