Study Abroad: Continental Contrasts
“You can’t have it all!” – Yes, you can. The biggest city in Europe offers contrasts everywhere you look.
Two girls take a selfie, one wears extensive make-up, her friend a head scarf. A Syrian refugee with counterfeited crocs-plastic-sandals walks next to wealthy Western tourists. Young students in Besiktas drink traditional Turkish cay and play backgammon, while later they have beer and get drunk. In the evenings the cries of the muezzin mingle with the pop-beats of Pharrell. Asia meets Europe. The Orient the Occident. Catholic churches face mosques, gay couples Anatolians who moved to the metropole.
You head out of the city in a bumpy ride with a dolmus (minibus), where you stand cramped next to this beautiful mix of businessmen, elderly, students, and families and try to keep the balance. Then you reach the American-style Koc University, which maybe presents one of the sharpest contrasts. The students of the most expensive university of Turkey drive brand-new Mercedes, BMWs and American cars. The campus lies impressively on a hill with a view of the Black Sea. It is guarded by an armed security, houses a gym, an outdoor pool, library, American Football team, hair cutter, super market, and: an ice rink!
Most professors have got their education in the United States and it appears that the American Dream is in many minds of the staff and students. The course codes follow the American system, the grading system follows the American system and the college parties follow the American system. Just kidding on the last part: there is a strict no-alcohol policy on campus.
After classes you move back to the city, with all its 16 – 18 million people, the mosques, stray cats, busses, progress, traditions, and contrasts
Istanbul has often been described. However, I feel like no one can capture the city in a single account. There are too many people, too many places, and too many stories.