Can you please introduce yourself briefly? How long have you stayed in Turkey? Where do you live in Istanbul?
Judith: My name is Judith and I’m from Germany. I’m 22 years old. I’m studying Economics at Marmara University. I’ve been in Turkey for 4 months. I live in Kadıköy, close to campus.
Wieland: My name is Wieland and I’m 21 years old. I’m from Germany, as well. I’m studying bio-engineering at Marmara University. I live in the middle of Moda, Kadıköy. I love it there, it’s pretty good.
Tell us why you preferred to attend Erasmus in Turkey.
Judith: I think Turkey is a very interesting country. Different cultures come together here. But my decision was more about the city, Istanbul. I’ve always wanted to visit there. So many Turkish people live in Germany and I wanted to know their home country and culture better.
Wieland: Luckily, I’ve been to Istanbul before. I have chosen it not just for the city, but also for the country because it has different and new cultures. The idea of new things attracts me.
Why did you choose to come to study in our country?
Judith: In Germany, I’m studying International Economics. The part of International is very important for me. When I looked for possible countries and universities, I found Marmara University and I thought it was suitable for me.
Wieland: Of course, I chose Turkey and especially Marmara University because of the studies but the main thing for me was the culture.
What about your thoughts before coming to Turkey?
Judith: The people around me were very biased about Turkey and feared for me. But I stayed positive and I came to Turkey anyway. The first day of class, I had mixed feelings and I had some doubts but now I’m very glad about my decision.
Wieland: I didn’t think much about it. Before coming here, my parents thought that it might be hard for me but I wanted to come here so badly, so they supported me. I was looking forward to living life like a Turkish guy. 🙂
“The project is a good thing because people can read about the real life in Turkey, how we feel here, not how it is expressed in the media. The people in Turkey are friendly. It’s great to live here. There will always be negative opinions, but they are not true for me.”
How was your first week in Turkey?
Judith: My first week was cool because I came here on the first day of sacrifice holiday. I didn’t know anybody except for my Turkish flatmate Mehmet. He had holidays too, so he had lots of time to show me around. He supported me with a lot of things, and I am very grateful for that.
“I want to recommend this to all future Erasmus students: Meet with as many locals as possible, and try to find native flatmates. You can learn lots of thing from them, and they can learn from you. It’s a unique opportunity for intercultural exchange.”
Wieland: The first days were hard for me, because I had to walk around a lot to find a flat. It can be difficult if you want to have a non-smoker apartment. I didn’t rent a flat before coming to Istanbul, but finally I could find one which suited my criteria. I arrived to Istanbul when all the events for Erasmus students started. We went to a lot of events from the Erasmus Student Network so, I met new people easily.
“I met lots of Turkish people who tried to solve my problems.”
How was your first week in the university?
Judith: It was difficult, because you must deal with a lot of new things. I had to go to the International Office many times. You will learn to be patient and you will notice that everything will work out in the end. On the very first day I already had a lecture and it was interesting to get to know a foreign professor.
Wieland: People are very helpful. I met lots of Turkish people who tried to solve my problems. They are very open-minded. I always met people who wanted to help me. When I asked ‘I want to go to this place or to that building, I need some help’, they helped me immediately.
What do you think about education facilities of Marmara University?
Wieland: It’s different from my university in Germany. Here, I have classes with a maximum of 20 people. In Germany, there are 40 to 200 students in one lecture. Also teaching is very different, as you can for example talk to your professor after the lesson. In Germany, the curriculum is fixed and you know your exact timetable. However, in Turkey you don’t always know what to do or when the class will start. In Germany, we make more presentations, in Turkey we read things on the board and note them down.
Judith: I can add that the classes are smaller here and they’re not that mathematical or analytical, but more about discussions and argumentations. That’s what I like a lot. The level of education is a little bit lower here than in Germany. But it’s not a negative thing because it gives you enough free time to explore the city, meet people etc.
“They are very helpful and friendly towards Erasmus students.”
When comparing two universities’ academicians, are there any differences in terms of their approaches to students?
Judith: I would say that in Germany, there is more distance between students and professors. For example, if you miss an exam in Germany because you are sick or some other reason, it is your problem and you must take the exam again in the next semester. But here, you can go to professors and talk to them openly about your problems. They are very helpful and friendly towards Erasmus students. The first thing they tell you is ‘don’t worry, we will figure out something’ and then you find an unbureaucratic solution for your problem. For example, I missed an exam because I was sick and then I could write it three days later in the office of the professor.
Wieland: I think the main difference is that the professors know their students in Turkey. In Germany, professors will help their students, too. But in Turkey the process is easier, because the professors have less students in their classes.
How do you find the courses you take during the program?
Judith: The classes I took here are useful for my studies in Germany. I can take all the ECTS credits to Germany.
Wieland: I think Turkish courses are very helpful and interactive. The timetable is not the best one, but still it’s fine.
Did you get used to the transportation system of the city and the place you stay in terms of accommodation?
Judith: You have many ways of transportations like ferries, metro, metrobus, Marmaray etc. It is important that you get a public transport card as soon as possible. Traffic is a problem here but if you don’t have to drive, it is OK. For example, one day I got stuck in the traffic because I wanted to visit a friend in another city. You need one hour only to get out of the city, so always plan some extra time because of the traffic.
Wieland: It is a big city so there are lots of people, which is normal. I personally think that traffic is a great thing. I love it. If there is a traffic jam, you can easily cross the streets, you don’t even need to look right or left. The cars are stopping and you go between them. So, for walking, the heavy traffic is perfect. I love to walk around in Kadıköy, as all things are close by. Also, I like the ferries. Even as it is slower than Marmaray, it is very nice to go by ferry.
“The life in Istanbul takes place on the outside, no matter what season. “
Can you tell us some cultural and social differences between your hometown and the place you live in details?
Judith: I study in a city with 70 thousand inhabitants and Istanbul has 18 million inhabitants. This is a huge difference. Turkish people are different when compared to Germans. They have another way of living. Turkish people are warm and welcoming but they can get emotional quickly. The life in Istanbul takes place on the outside, no matter what season. Even in winter, they simply put heaters outside and people sit in the street cafes and restaurants. In Germany when it is getting colder, or generally after 8pm, the city is empty. But the streets of Istanbul are always packed with people.
Wieland: I need to say that I expected it that way, so I wasn’t surprised. I can say that we are quite similar in some parts especially in working. Turkish people try to work a lot. They are hard-working people. I did not see people begging on the Asian side, instead they always try sell something. There are many differences and similarities. Sometimes you focus more on what separates us, but sometimes it is good to see how similar we are.
“I think Istanbul is a perfect place for food-lovers: You can get the best food very cheap and fast. “
What do you think about Turkish cuisine?
Judith: One of my favorite dishes is Mantı, because it was something new for me. In Germany, you can find lots of Turkish dishes like döner, pide, lahmacun etc. I still enjoy those dishes here, but I always look for something completely new, like for example çiğköfte. I love Turkish desserts, especially baklava. The sweeter the better. I think Istanbul is a perfect place for food-lovers: You can get the best food very cheap and fast.
Wieland: I think the main advantage about food here is that you can find great restaurants on every corner. I nearly never cook at home. I just go to a restaurant and eat cheap and perfect food. This is a great thing. So, you can experience something new every day.
How is the city in terms of living conditions as an Erasmus student?
Wieland: It is perfect. You can find everything what you want. I love Kadıköy and I prefer the Asian side over the European side, because everybody is speaking English there and I feel like a tourist. I want to live like a local. I want to feel like a normal person, not like a stranger. You need to consider that Istanbul has a long history and this city has lots of historical places.
“People here spend time for you, as they are very social and helpful. “
What do you think about the social life in Istanbul?
Wieland: The night life is different on the European and the Asian side. On the European side, it is faster and more international. By night, there are no ferries, so you must take the ‘dolmuş’, a shared taxi driving like crazy. It is a funny experience; you should do it. A night out on the Asian side is different. People here spend time for you, as they are very social and helpful. Time is important in Germany. But here, it is different.
You can get in touch with Turkish people quickly. There are a lot of university clubs. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organizes a lot of activities especially in the first week, so that you can meet with locals and other Erasmus students. There is also a diving club in Marmara and I did a lot of activities with them. Also, I went to one of the many ‘hamams’, the Turkish baths.
Judith: I also went to some hamams and I can recommend them to everyone. Besides that, the city offers so many things. You can go to parties and bars. We have seen a lot but now we still say every day that there are more places to see.
Which cities and places have you visited in Turkey so far
Judith: In the first week, we did two trips with ESN Marmara. The first trip was to Cappadocia; it was a bus tour and we got to see a lot of places. We even did a balloon tour to watch the sunrise. Highly recommended. Two weeks later, we did another ESN trip to Pamukkale. We have also seen Ephesus ruins and İzmir. Then, we did a hitchhiking trip together with two friends. We flew to Dalaman by plane. After that, we went by hitchhiking and a little bit of hiking to Antalya. We have seen Fethiye, Oludeniz, The Butterfly Valley, Kaş and the city of Saint Nicholas, Demre. Then, I took part in a scuba diving trip to Marmaris. I also went to the small town of Sakarya to visit a Turkish friend.
Wieland: Besides all the things that Judith already said, I did one other hitchhiking trip to the ancient city of Troy, Bursa and Çanakkale. I participated in two diving trips, one in Marmaris and another one in Kaş.
What are the things that you like the most in Turkey as an Erasmus student?
Wieland: I would say the people. Especially during the hitchhiking trip, we have experienced how friendly and helpful they are. You never wait a long time for a lift. Sometimes people even drive you some extra way, or they invite you to lunch. Another thing is that Turkey has been so important in history for thousands of years. It is the birthplace of three main religions, so you find a bit of everything over here. There are so many ancient cities and historical places. We have already said we need to come back to Turkey and visit more ancient places. You can travel all over Istanbul and you do not get bored while seeing so many places.
“Istanbul is different from other areas of Turkey. It is a place where you can get and find everything and everything can happen at the same time. “
That is a great thing as well. We do not have those huge cities in Germany, you cannot compare it to Berlin. You need to experience it; I cannot explain it.
Judith: Of course, I want to say that Turkish people are great and Istanbul is an amazing city. But the remarkable thing is that I fell in love with Turkey and the landscape of the country. We did trips to the South coast of the country and there you have the amazing mountains, valleys, the blue sea and beaches. I was surprised that Turkey has so much to offer and I know that I will come back many times and visit all the different places of Turkey just for the beautiful landscape and the seaside.
Wieland: If you compare Marmaris and Kaş with their mountains and sea with Cappadocia, you have a completely different landscape there. It is thrilling. In the east of the country, you have high mountains and snowy views, which is again completely different. Also, you can’t compare the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Again, the country has so much to offer.
Judith: Before coming here, people asked me whether I want to travel through Turkey. I always said ‘Istanbul has so much to see, I guess I will just stay there’. But now, I have already seen so many other places and still, I cannot get enough and I want to do more trips to see other parts of the country.
“The Turks say ‘It is only a good bargain if both people are unhappy’.”
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Istanbul?
Wieland: We have already mentioned the advantages. As it comes to disadvantages, there are a lot of potholes in the streets. I got some foot issues because of that. I needed to go to a doctor, so that was a tricky thing. You need to look where you walk, especially on the sidewalks.
Judith: At some touristic places, you must be careful about tourist scams. For example, you pay too much for food or souvenirs, or they even trick you into buying something. My boyfriend almost fell for a shoe shine trick, but I pulled him away.
Wieland: You need to learn bargaining, especially on the European side of Istanbul. The Turks say ‘It is only a good bargain if both people are unhappy’.
Judith: We must be honest about one thing: Istanbul is not the safest place on Earth. You cannot say that this is a paradise city. Almost every month there is some attack, but luckily we got spared for now. Despite bad things happening, you should stay realistic: the possibility of being at the exact place and on the exact time when something happens is very small.
Wieland: Even if there is nothing going on, there are a lot of security checks over here. If you go to the campus, a market or a train station you get checked. There is always a security guard that checks you with a metal detector. So, this is may be a little bit annoying. I do not know how helpful it is. Even if you have never been in an attack, you have the feeling that it may happen anytime.
“Erasmus is not a year in your life, it is a life in a year”
How did Erasmus in Turkey change your life?
Wieland: I think it is important to spend some time abroad to experience something new, something different from Germany. Also, you have the feeling of independency by moving away from your home and family, where you feel comfortable. Another good point is that you have the structure of organization. You are involved in the study and have people around who care about you, like ESN. You have always a chance to keep in touch with other Erasmus students.
Judith: For me, living in another country was like starting a new life. There is a saying: ‘Erasmus is not a year in your life, it is a life in a year’. It is an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and now, the Turkish culture is like a part of me. Also, I will have a special relationship with Turkey as a country and the people whom I met here. I think it is a great chance to recognize both my hometown and Turkey from a different perspective.
Sefa: If you had a chance to live in Istanbul forever, what would you do?
Wieland: I think I would not be here forever because Istanbul is too big for me. I want to live in a smaller city when I am older. I cannot imagine to live in Istanbul like for five years.
Judith: I want to stay longer and see more of the city, but not forever. Studying here is great, but working here would be difficult for foreigners because of the language problem.
Did the Erasmus Program meet your expectations, why do you think so?
Judith: In general, I would say ‘yes’. Concerned with classes, I had to make some changes to my first learning agreement. So, this didn’t go as expected, but I think this is a very normal situation for a lot of Erasmus students. You should expect to struggle at some point but now, everything is fine.
Wieland: I would say “no.” What I experienced here is way better than what I expected. To live here makes you aim other goals and focus on different parts of your life about what you have done and what you want to do. A ‘negative’ thing is that there are a lot of German Erasmus students over here. It is not as international as I expected.
“Get out of your comfort zone, be active!”
Do you have any recommendation for those who are planning to attend Erasmus in Turkey?
Wieland: The process of finding a flat was hard for me, especially as I wanted a non-smoker flat. If you do not know any place, go to a hostel at first. Come a few days before the semester starts, check out some flats and then decide for one. Some flats are not what they seem to be on the internet. Also, changing the flat during your stay is a good option if you are unhappy with the living conditions. As time passes, you get to know the city and it will be easier to find a better place to live.
Judith: My recommendations are: Go to ESN events, they are great! Try to taste all varieties of food. Try to see all the places in Istanbul. Get out of your comfort zone, be active! Lastly, make the best out of everything.
Wieland: Use every second! I know a guy who stayed in Germany for a year, and he used to say ‘I did not come to Germany to sleep!’ So, he got up at 7am every morning and went to lots of places. He made a lot of experiences that way.
Tell us why others should choose Erasmus in Turkey.
Judith: You should choose Erasmus in Turkey because it is an exciting country with so many things to discover. Marmara University is a great place to study and Istanbul is a great place to stay.
Wieland: The first thing that I want to say: Follow your heart! Turkey has a lot to offer. It has an ancient cultural heritage. Also, it is so important for a lot of religions and for events which happened even in Germany. You can get so many things to know especially because it is so different from Germany.
Please complete the sentence: I love Erasmus in Turkey because …
Wieland: I love Erasmus in Turkey because it changed my life!
Judith: I love Erasmus in Turkey because Türkiye çok güzel!