Can you please introduce yourself briefly? How long have you stayed in Turkey? Where do you live in Istanbul?
I’m Markus Heckmann. I’m in my third year of university, studying Politics. I have been living here since September and probably I will be here until June, maybe a little bit longer. I’m living in the Asian side, Ataşehir. I’m from Germany.
“Turkey is different from the rest of Europe.”
Tell us why do you prefer to attend Erasmus in Turkey?
Erasmus in Turkey is something different for me. In Germany, we are at the center of Europe and we know everything around us. I was in Italy, Netherlands and even in Russia and I wanted to see something new. I think Turkey is different from the rest of Europe.
“Istanbul is like a special city with its traditional and modern cultural texture.”
What about your thoughts before coming to Turkey?
I just wanted to visit Turkey especially Istanbul. If it wouldn’t be Istanbul -maybe like Ankara- I wouldn’t come to Turkey. Between two continents, Istanbul is like a special city with its traditional and modern cultural texture. It is also safe to stay here. I just wanted to come to Istanbul!
– Normally in European cities most of the people live in the capital city of the country but, in Turkey Istanbul has more popularity when compared to the capital city, Ankara.
The biggest city in Germany is Berlin and there are four million people.
Did you undergo culture shock in Turkey?
I would not say it is a shock but it is different from Germany. Germans are planned and organized and we do not have buses coming half an hour late. Mostly, it can be a stereotype but somehow true. In Germany, people would hate each other if they came late to meetings about one hour, but it may be considered okay here. Also, we have bigger home culture. People spend time with families by sitting and eating all day and asking people to come to our homes in Germany. However, you do not spend time at home, go outside and sit all day in a cafe.
How was your first week in Turkey and in university?
My first week in Turkey was really stressful. I came from a small town, Konstanz living my whole life in there and it’s like eighty thousand people living in Ataşehir. Actually, Marmara University has more students than Konstanz inhabitants. But, the weather was great and it felt like I am on a holiday. The first week in university was complicated because our department was so unorganized. It was really hard to find classes and the schedule. The attendance is compulsory in Marmara. We do not have such duties in Germany except for attending the exams. Also, we have one and half hours lessons in Germany. Here, it can be more than two hours with a break.
What do you think about the education facilities in Marmara University?
You’re trying to do your best but, I have the feeling of it could have been better. Sometimes the management does not know what the student wants. The students do not have much right to speak in when decisions are made.
When comparing two universities’ academicians, are there any differences in terms of their approaches to the students?
Most of the academicians get on well with the students and establish the authority in classes. Discussion sessions take place between the Erasmus students and the lecturer because of the lack of speaking among the rest of the students. In Germany, lectures are not teacher-centered and seminars mainly organized with discussion sessions and collaborative activities.
How do you find the courses during the program?
I like the courses. Thanks to the advices of Turkish students I have picked the best courses as an Erasmus student.
– Did you search well the courses before coming to Turkey?
I searched them but, my grades were not good enough to be accepted to Boğaziçi or Bilgi so, here I am. But, I am happy to be here!
“I have realized that I can speak Turkish, it is so surprising!”
Can you communicate effectively with the local people? How did you manage to solve the language problem?
While waiting for this meeting, I was in the pide shop over there. I was one of the few customers and the guy came to me and we talked a little bit in Turkish. I have realized that I can speak Turkish, it is so surprising! But, Turkish people have this tendency to speak too fast. I have spent two years with Turkish students in Germany and I also took the language courses which mainly focus on grammar points here. I’m trying to build up my word knowledge.
– When you try to speak with local people in Turkish, how do they react to you?
People mostly speak like blah blah blah (highlighting that he doesn’t understand the spoken language)… I answer them like “Efendim? Türkçe biraz biliyorum.” (meaning: “Sorry? I know a little bit of Turkish”)
Did you get used to the transportation system of the city and the place you stay in terms of accommodation?
I have been staying in a shared apartment with two Turkish students studying also in Marmara University. But, it is sometimes a little bit difficult the to live in Ataşehir. It is far away from the usual destinations of the city like Kadıköy, Üsküdar or Taksim. Even so, I got used to it. I would not make the same choice if I could have a chance again but, I have already been here for one semester and I am not willing to move out. As it comes to the transportation system, I have a lot of experiences of public transportation. On the way, I am just sleeping, chatting or using the app Duolingo to spend time. As a German who comes to Istanbul from a small town, it is really stressful and frustrating. The duration of waiting for a bus is maximum half an hour in Germany. Also, the situation is the same in metrobuses. Although metrobuses are coming with full of people, the rest of the people in the stops insist on getting in such a huge crowd. But, the ferries and metro are really great!
Can you tell us some cultural and social differences between your hometown and the place you live in details?
It’s difficult because Istanbul is so much bigger than my hometown, Konstanz. I can say about my place that there is a big lake and it’s very near to Switzerland, the boundary of Switzerland takes just 5 seconds from Konstanz. In the city, we generally use buses or bikes for transportation. We go everywhere with bikes.
The fact that everyone is so used to getting together and doing something easily is something that I was little bit surprised at first; for example, one person comes from Taksim, another from Kadıköy and they get together and make a plan quickly. Then, I think I had more parties in my hometown. In my city, we usually go somewhere near to the lake and we get beer, barbecue etc. It’s a party for us!
“There is so many things to taste in Turkish cuisine “
What do you think about Turkish cuisine?
I really like Turkish cuisine. Especially Börek, Kebap and Iskender are my favorites. I like almost every taste. I said almost because I don’t like eggplant. But there is so many things to taste in Turkish cuisine :). Desserts are too sweet for me. Actually, I’m not a dessert person in my life. But the problem is you just use Turkish cuisine in Turkey. There are not many restaurants from other countries’ cuisine. They are only few.
“Istanbul is a great city! You can do lots of stuff or go to wonderful places..”
How is the city in terms of living conditions as an Erasmus student?
I think it’s good. Istanbul is a great city! You can do lots of stuff or go to wonderful places, but it’s hard to get any information about the things in English. For example, there is limited information about the city in English. The information is generally in Turkish.
“You have so many festivals! Almost every week.. That’s incredible!”
What do you think about the social life in Istanbul?
You have so many festivals! Almost every week.. That’s incredible! -Unfortunately, the festivals are generally in European side of Istanbul. Also, you have lots of cultural festivals but, I could only get to know them from my friends. Istanbul has more festivals, of course considered to my hometown. But I can add that the festivals in Istanbul are more individualistic. In Konstanz, we have a public dinner. In the dinner, everyone brings food to the center and we eat them all together.
How is the social life in the university campus?
We don’t have so much social life at the university. Compared to my university, There’re not many things I can say. In my university- because it’s just one campus, we have so many parties or student facilities at the center of university. But now, I’m organizing an international student club in Anadoluhisarı campus. Since there are so many Erasmus student in the campus, I’m trying to make a connection and communication between each other and native people.
“The best city for sightseeing is Istanbul.”
How is the city for sightseeing?
I can obviously say that, the best city for sightseeing is Istanbul. Istanbul has a rich history and culture so, there are so many historical and cultural things. But, I’ll say it again, the signs are generally in Turkish. If you are not pre-informed about museums or churches, you can’t find them easily, they’re hidden in Turkish. Also, I believe that historical values could have been restored better.
How is the nightlife in Istanbul?
Kadıköy has a lot of bars and pubs, and there are lots of people inside them. Taksim also has a lot fun. But I can say that the nightlife is going down because not many people go outside.
Which cities and places have you visited in Turkey so far?
I was in a trip few weeks ago and I went to Cappadocia, Marmaris, Pamukkale, İzmir (Ephesus).. Each place was amazing I want to go back to Cappadocia again, rent a car and travel around. We didn’t have much time to see everywhere there since we almosth only had 2 hours or something and that was all. We went to Bursa with my friends, we rent a car and that trip was perfect but Turkey has many places to visit, and going everywhere is difficult.
“You can sit and drink tea all day long.. It is relaxing!”
What are the things that you like the most in Turkey as an Erasmus student?
I like the tea culture here! You can sit and drink tea all day long! It is relaxing!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Istanbul?
You can do everything you want here. Art, history, music, travel you can find many things to enjoy. There is traffic as a disadvantage 🙂
What are the difficulties you encountered and the happy moments you experienced during the program? Can you tell us a memorable moment you went through?
When I first came here, I went to Sultan Ahmet Mosque and saw around and ate ‘simit’ it was just relaxing and I enjoyed every moment then. Another time was when we went to Arnavutköy with one of my friends, we were looking for a Roman architecture but we could not find it and we searched for it nearly all day, it was like a real adventure for me. The frustrating one was about Turkish bureaucracy. When I tried to get my residence permit. It was too long and a little annoying for me to deal with all the work.
How did Erasmus in Turkey change your life?
I think it was good experience for me. I had many Turkish friends and we tell each other ‘aynen kanka’ which means ‘yes bro’. I developed my stress management thanks to traffic. Additionally, speaking a different language like English in another country is really difficult but you manage that somehow.
Did the Erasmus Program meet your expectations, why do you think so?
I expected a little bit more partying. I expected to see more international students like from Italy, France and even Dutch people, but there were not many.
Do you have any recommendation for those who are planning to attend Erasmus in Turkey?
You should definitely get in contact with someone here, it can be both a Turkish and an Erasmus student. I also help Erasmus students here when they come, I pick up them from airport, explain everything so that the process will be less stressful for them.
“You should definitely come here. Even just for the sea!”
Tell us why the others should choose Erasmus in Turkey!
You should definitely come here. Even just for the sea! In my hometown we had to go to Spain or somewhere else to see sea but here everywhere is sea 🙂 Turkey is a different experience with its culture, people, places etc…
Please complete the sentence: I love Erasmus in Turkey because …
You will have many opportunities for everything.