We all arrived to Istanbul on June 1st, excited to launch our academic-focused “Study Abroad Turkiye” tour of Turkey, which would last until the 12th. Our group was composed of four professors and seven master and phD students, and we were to visit sites in Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara, Nigde, Çorum, Konya, Kayseri, and Cappadocia, catching 10 scholarly lectures on a variety of topics pertaining to Turkey on the way. As we threaded our way through Turkey on vans, planes, trains, and a boat, we were able to see and experience the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Efesus, Hittite archaeological sites, Çorum Museum, Rumi’s tomb, the Kaymakli Underground City, Fairy Chimneys, the Grand Bazaar, and much more. We enjoyed floating between Europe and Asia, on a cruise down the Bosphorus Sea.
Our visits to historical locations were led by trained guides who enhanced our visits with their expertise. We were also able to visit İzmir’s Gediz University and Konya’s Mevlana University. Our lectures, given by university professors, included discussions about minority groups in Turkey, such as the Kurds, the Alawites, and the Bektashis. We also listened to presentations on Turkish politics, Sufism, gender, the tension between modernity, secularism and religion, and Turkey’s bid for inclusion into the European Union. Mercifully, we always had time to ask lots of questions. Because we were in Turkey before, during and after the June 7th elections, almost everyone we met wanted to discuss politics.
However, the most wonderful part was the time we spent together bonding as a group, and meeting new Turkish friends. A particularly lovely highlight was spending two days with families in Nigde. They offered us an evening full of surprises, including a musical program at a home, in which children danced traditional dances from around the world, including several from Turkey. That night, our group split into smaller groups, and we were invited to sleep in actual families’ homes. While Istanbul is the city with the largest population, and Ankara is the capital city, we agreed that Nigde is the heart of Turkey. Our families in Nigde really offered us the quintessential example of the warmth of Turkish hospitality, and we left loaded with gifts, but most importantly, delightful memories and new friendships.
As an academic, I really appreciated the combination of scholarly material and actual visits to a range of significant places. I highly recommend this trip to other students, professors, and those interested in an intensive learning experience in Turkey.
Dr. Sophia Pandya, Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach