The student body at Koç University presents a diverse mosaic of culturally rich individuals, painting a truly global image. The institution hosts a number of talented full-time and exchange students from Asia, adding value to its numerous faculties. Students form countries like India, China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia hailing from top ranked universities of the region, are continuing their studies at KU. Some of these students would like to share their experiences with you.
Ganesh Chelluboyin, Exchange Student from India
It was a pleasant and sunny September day as a plane landed in Istanbul, with myself on board, highly expectant about what Turkey had in store for me. Nevertheless, I still quivered with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, for I was alone for the first time abroad, in a country I scarcely knew about before having arrived.
I knew Koç University was a long way off from the airport, and I boarded a bus that would take me near the university. Soon, however, I was faced with a problem I had not anticipated – cash payment for the fare was not accepted, and I did not have whatever card everyone seemed to be swiping. Nobody spoke English, and I was unable to make myself be understood at all in the situation. Fortunately, a youngster came to my rescue at that point and paid the fare for me, and also refused to be compensated. It was an amazingly kind gesture; barely a few hours had passed since I arrived in Turkey and my impression about the amiability and hospitality of the Turkish people was formed. After three months of being here, that impression only grew to be more positive; I can vouch for the Turks as being the friendliest people I have met.
Soon after, I began being immersed in Turkish culture, food and language and it has been a euphoric experience ever since. The rich diversity of uniquely Turkish food – from lahmacun, pide and kebap, to baklava, dondurma and tavuk göğsü – has been beyond impressing. The emphasis given to art and history here is also very admirable; I have found myself regularly visiting museums and attending weekly events at the Koç University Cultural Center. Travelling to Ephesus and Cappadocia, I got to observe the remarkably well-preserved archaeological sites there, and I gained a newfound appreciation of ancient civilizations and their stories. Overall, I must say Turkey has turned me into a cultural aficionado!
I had previously assumed Istanbul was quite homogeneous ethnically and culturally – but I discovered it was anything but. Istanbul is a melting pot of several different cultures and traditions, with people from many different parts of the world. Even people coming from Eastern Anatolia within the country have brought with them their own ideas and traditions. The diversity is reflected in place names such as Arnavutkoy (Albanian village), Yenibosna (new Bosnia), Belgrad ormani (Belgrade forest) and Polonezkoy (Polish village). I was also surprised to know there are more Syrian refugees within Istanbul than the whole of France! Istanbul is truly more cosmopolitan than I had expected it to be – and it is a place where foreigners can comfortably make their homes.
I believe more people from India should visit Turkey and vice versa as well. Turkey and India have had connections throughout medieval and modern history, and some aspects of the culture here are quite similar to that back home. In fact, the Turkish and Hindi languages share thousands of words in common, some examples being dünya (दुनिया), sabun (साबुन) şikâyet (शिकायत), dükkan (दुकान) and peynir (पनीर).
I am very glad to have chosen Turkey as the country for my exchange semester. Metaphorically, I must say Turkey is the most perfect cake I have had, with Istanbul being the cherry on that cake. As my experience here has been tremendously positive, and my stay here is sadly soon coming to an end, I shall definitely return again sometime with friends and family.
Suraya Yusof, Singapore: Masters in Archaeology and History of Art (Full-Time)
A little over two years ago, I journeyed across Asia to Istanbul for a semester exchange at Koç University. Aside from the rumors of dolphin sighting on the Bosphorus and the honeyed words of salesmen from the Grand Bazaar, I had little knowledge of the historical and contemporary city. Needless to say, I was thrilled to read Ottoman and Turkish Art History with expert professors and deft course mates.
Coupled with adventures in travel and exploration of Turkey, the experience emboldened my desire to understand in-depth the art and visual culture of the Ottoman Empire. Now that I am here as a graduate student. The program has introduced me to courses that parallel my research interests, brilliant and inspiring faculty, and admirable, highly-motivated grad students. In few months I spent here, I have yet to face a dull moment, though I doubt I will. Coming back to Istanbul with past experiences, and a few familiar faces by my side also means enjoying the city closer to a native than a visitor. Once a foreign language, Turkish is beginning to melt in my mouth. Its sweetness matched only by baklava with pistachios. Istanbul has become my home away from home. I am looking forward to the year (and a half) ahead, but I hope time is in no hurry.
Murtaza Kanchwala, India: Masters in Business Administration (Full-time)
I believe that due to its geographical location, Turkey has been at the crossroads of the world which can be seen in its multi ethnicity and the architecture where similarities can be found with Indian architecture as well. Apart from the said, the weather, the landscape and the beaches will want to experience more of Turkey and this is one of the reasons why I came here. People are exuberant and helpful even though there is a language barrier, but that can be bested with smart phones and internet. The cuisine is extremely delicious with full of flavors and the fact behind this claim is the Grand Bazaar which is famous for its spices.
Life at Koç University is relaxing and cheerful as the campus has all the amenities that a student could ask for. Furthermore, due to Koç University’s involvement in numerous international exchange programs, I had the opportunity to make friends from around the world. I also joined the Network of Asian Students at Koç University (NASK), organized a movie night for international students and learned the culture & tradition of diversified student body. After I finish my studies here, I plan to spend some time to explore other famous areas of Turkey and acquaint myself better with the country.
Yao Hsiao, Taiwan: Bachelor of Liberal Arts (Exchange)
Coming to Turkey for exchange was actually a surprise for me. I was excited but also quite nervous before I came, since I know nearly nothing about this place. However, all the lovely experiences started right after I arrived. Istanbul itself is charming in its richness of culture and history. For me, the mixture of modern and nostalgia is what makes the city so captivating. Another thing I find lovely here is that people are so talkative and open to strangers. Also I found the dolmuş to be very interesting, primarily because of how people pass their money to one another in order to give it to the driver. The trust-based payment mechanism was unique and I have never experienced it anywhere before. I also love the nice weather and beautiful nature here, especially the seaside and sunset. Gorgeous!
As for Koç University, I just love it. I’m so glad that I am here as an exchange student. I was stunned by the beautiful campus and its surrounding view, which is completely different from my home university located in the city center. Also the people I met here are nice and sweet, always willing to help and speak with me. I’m grateful that we are well taken care of by the university professors, the OIP, the mentors, and other friends. Besides, most of the student events and clubs welcomed exchange students and they made the campus life here even better! I truly enjoyed every moment here at Koç University. I definitely would love to visit this beautiful country again!
Kaede Kimura, Japan: Bachelor of Sciences in Biology (Exchange)
I came to Koç University, because I was first of all interested in living in the historical city of Istanbul. I love eating from traditional street vendors here, especially the grilled corns that are sold all over the city. Also, drinking Turkish tea in small glasses with sugar is a nice habit I have acquired. Although it seems trivial, I couldn’t have known of these charming points, had I not come to Turkey.
Apart from this, the natural and scenic beauty of Turkey has captivated me throughout. The landscape is quite diverse. In Central Anatolia and Cappadocia region, there are rocky lands with a few trees. In the Mediterranean coastal towns, you see the olive trees and orange orchards everywhere. Along the Black Sea region, there are beautiful thick forests. Koç University is also located in a forest area overlooking the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. Being this near to nature provides an amazing opportunity of visiting the nearby forests, which I find to be much similar to the ones back home in Japan. Not only the general vegetation and trees but also some animals, frogs and birds, belong to the same genera. But there are some differences of course, and I believe this mosaic of similarities and differences paints an awe-inspiring picture. Apart from that, I find life at Koç to be very happening. More often than not, there are extra-curricular activities on campus. Be it a concert or an academic lecture, they provide an immense learning and entertainment opportunity.
Muhammad Moiz Siddique, Pakistan: Masters in Business Administration (Exchange)
Although Pakistan and Turkey have a lot in common, Turkey being a blend of Eastern and European culture has a lot more to offer. I’m truly fascinated by the rich history since Istanbul served as the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Living in this city makes you feel really close to the old times while enjoying all the amenities. Istanbul has a variety of delicious foods to offer from the baked potatoes (kumpir) in Ortaköy to the fish restaurants near Bosphorus, from the expensive gourmet restaurants to the traditional Turkish breakfast in Garipçe, a small fishing village not far from campus. You can have anything and everything in this city. I have seen the whirling dervishes and visited clubs in happening streets of Istanbul. Yet, this place doesn’t stop to surprise you. Being a photographer myself, I can testify that it’s a heaven of landscape. This is my first time here but I have already planned my next trip.
One of the things that I love about Koç University is that having a campus in cleaner environment surrounded with trees. Apart from that, my MBA exchange semester has become more profound with the professors who are among the top as corporate and academic experts. They have a solution and an opinion on making a pin to the project Space X. It has been amazing academic journey with the best faculty, supportive peers and very friendly administration.
Istanbul’u seviyorum (I love Istanbul)
Yeow Hong Yeo, Singapore: Bachelor in Business Administration (Exchange)
Did you know that only 5% of Turkey is on continental Europe? It sure does not feel like so. Culturally, Turkey is an amalgamation of influences both Asian and European! Coming from Singapore, where everything is so clean, orderly, and sanitized, I initially had a culture shock. Now, I have come to accept the spontaneity and dynamism as part of life. “An-yeong, konichi-wa, ni-hao”, I have learnt to love to be addressed in all East-Asian languages here. Turkish people’s desire to connect with the ‘guest’ no matter how different she/he may look, the passion and the unique hospitality has been a distinctive exchange experience for me. Also the diverse international student body at Koç University presents an amazing opportunity to learn only about the Turkish culture but also cultures from other nations in Asia and Europe. I am taking Turkish courses at Koç University and try to apply it with my classmates, which help a lot in experiencing the essence of culture from the students who are living it to the fullest. From the blinding white rocks of Pamukkale to the bright warm smile people in Bursa, I will definitely remember the sights, the sound and the people I have met here in Turkey and at Koç University!
Hoan Nguyen, Vietnam: Bachelor’s in Social Sciences (Exchange)
To be completely honest, Turkey wasn’t my first choice for an exchange semester. Now, however, after almost two months here, it turns out to be the best choice I would say. Hospitable people, rich culture, authentic cuisine, and beautiful landscapes are what I love most about this country. Living in Istanbul, I am overwhelmed by the dynamics embedded in its everyday life, ranging from mixed architecture to secular religion, from disorganized traffic to maze-like bazaars. And then studying at Koç University, I am very much impressed by the way I am taken care of – much attributed to the personal mentors! Also, there is everything on campus a student would ever ask for: social clubs, sport centers, library, cafeteria, you name it. What else I can say? I just can’t tell by words how much I am enjoying my life in this country. Why don’t you just book a flight here and see it yourself!