Imagine a regular week day in a city where the majority of the almost 5 million inhabitants needs to travel to their work. I can summarize it in one word: chaos. But would it not be more interesting to learn about the Turkish approach to this fact of life? I hereby present you the five main rules a Foreign Student should keep in mind during an Erasmus in Ankara.
Ankara has more than 20 universities spread across the city and each university has its own shuttle bus system . However, the first rule in Ankara is that schedules exist, but nobody adheres to it. This means that the shuttle bus may arrive at 08.15, at 08.40 or not at all. For me as a Dutch student – with a preference for strict time management – this required some adjustment. There is an advantage though: you have a very good excuse for being late. Once you are on the bus, the second rule in the traffic of Ankara manifests itself. Cars always have the right of way. This means that pedestrians have to cross the street either by sprinting or moving flexibly between the cars. Rule number 3? The usual advantages of being a (blond) foreigner do not hold. In traffic drivers are merciless, and pedestrians have to – literally – risk their lives. Once the bus arrives at the entrance of the campus it is necessary to show your Hacettepe University student ID card, otherwise you are not allowed to enter. Of course I did not have my student ID card on the first day, but rule number 4 gives you a codeword for any helpless situation. Say ‘’sorry, I am Erasmus”, and all doors will open for you. And the last rule that might be useful: try to obtain a map of the campus! With 6.000.000m²of land, 14 faculties spread across the area and every store that you can imagine (i.a. Starbucks, a beautician, and a Burger King delivery service), it is a world on its own.
In the end, if you arrive safely at your destination, there are several things that make it worthwhile: the delicious Turkish food, the friendly people and the lovely weather. My tip? I let go of my old habits of always arriving on time, expecting buses and classes to work according to schedule, eating on fixed times and making a plan for the day. During your Erasmus you should adopt the Turkish way of living; this way you will enjoy Turkey the most.