Can you please introduce yourself briefly? How long have you stayed in Turkey? Where do you live in Istanbul?
Hi, I’m Tero Lahtinen. I’m from Finland, I’m studying Environmental Engineering. I have been staying in Turkey for 5 months and I live in Fikirtepe here.
Tell us why you preferred to attend Erasmus in Turkey?
I wanted something different. I have been traveling around Europe so I wanted something new. Also, there was already Erasmus students from Turkey in Finland so it was easy to come here because i had friends already.
Why did you choose to come to study in our country?
I heard that education here focuses on environment and water topics, I was interested in these subjects so I came here.
What about your thoughts before coming to Turkey?
About people, I already had friends in here before coming here so I would have no problem about friends.
“There is an observable respect towards the teacher.”
How was your first week in Turkey and in the university?
Well, traffic was really hard for me but I got used to it. There was a lot of transportation chances like metro, bus, dolmuş, metrobüs, tramvay so I had a lot to learn about transportation, then I found an app called TRAFI and it helped me a lot, my friends showed me the places and they told me how to go and where to go too.
About campus, I really liked the campus area, there are a lot of buildings as well as many green areas. The lessons are very interesting but they are really hard. I noticed that if I gave up all my social life and experiencing Turkey, maybe I could have succeeded in all the lessons but I have priorities like experiencing Istanbul and Turkey, so I have some troubles with some classes. When we talk about relationships between students and teachers; In Finland when we discuss with teachers we call their first name but here you say ‘hocam’ (teacher) there is an observable respect towards the teacher. But if I don’t say hocam to them, they understand that I’m from a different country and they also understand other things.
“I’m impressed by teachers and students here.”
What do you think about education facilities in Marmara University?
I have seen laboratories briefly, it is quite different from Finland. I think Finnish Government puts more money on education than Turkey but I’m impressed by teachers and students here.
When comparing two universities’ academicians, are there any differences in terms of their approaches to students?
Teachers are approximately the same as in Finland, they are friendly. But in Finland we had a Christmas party and both students and teachers joined us. We meet in a restaurant, we eat and drink so they are really nice and friendly people, howvever I think might not happen here.
How do you find the courses you take during the program?
Some of the courses were very difficult so I dropped one of the courses and switched with another one. I find the courses very interesting. There is a balance between them. I want them all to be AA but i cannot achieve that without sacrificing future experiences. However since the topics are very interesting and enjoyable, I still want to learn these topics even if I can’t get AA.
What do you think about Turkish education in general?
In Finland, actually I study in a university of applied sciences so here it is more difficult for me. In Finland, the teacher comes and says ‘think about industry and discuss it with your friends’. Here, sometimes I find slides in the Internet and when I come to class, the teacher writes the same slides on the blackboard and we copy them. So instead of spending time copying already existing texts, discussing would be more interactive and effective.
“Communication is not a huge problem here.”
Can you communicate effectively with local people? How did you manage to solve the language problem?
All the time, I am learning the key words to communicate with people and I also use the body language a lot. Sometimes I say: “Can you speak English?” to someone and that person says: ’I can speak a little bit’ but when the person speaks, she/he speaks very well so we communicate easily. Communication is not a huge problem here.
Did you get used to the transportation system of the city and the place you stay in terms of accommodation?
At first I was surprised because there was quite a difference between what is written about the house in internet and the reality of the house. When I read the list there were many things in there, but when I went to the house there were many broken things. But in time I get used to the apartment. For transportation, I am near to my school so, I don’t need to use transportation much. It makes the daily life a bit easier here. Also metrobuses are very crowded.
“ Turkish people are more emotional.”
Can you tell us some cultural and social differences between your hometown and the place you live in details?
I used to live in Finland. There was a small plant next to a high wheeled buildings. Finland is completely silent during the night . That’s the main difference. Now I stay at the 7th floor which is luckily relatively a silent place. Also in the city where I study in Finland there are 250 000 people. Istanbul has 3 times more population than in Finland. That’s a big difference. Culture is also different. I think Finns are very introvert people. If I see a friend after a very long time we probably shake hands, but in Turkey, there are kisses, hugs etc. We don’t have these kinds of thing. I think that’s because Turkish people are more emotional. You can hear much more shouting or clapping in streets than in Finland.
What do you think about Turkish cuisine?
For me it’s a bit limited. Because I don’t eat meat. But çiğköfte is probably what I eat the most. Meze is also great, like humus and all the small things that you get on the plate. Also rice with beans is delicious. People very often say “Oh, it must be difficult to be a vegetarian in Turkey.” I think almost every country has the same difficulty level. Here I can find lots of delicious foods like kumpir.
How is the city in terms of living conditions as an Erasmus student?
Compared to Finland, everything is quite cheap. Beer prices are approximately the same. There are lots of activities if you want to do something. However, I don’t think that I can live in a big city like this for a long term, maybe for two years or for the master’s degree I could stay here but after that I would want peacefulness, the city is too crowded for me.
“The social life is really cheap.”
What do you think about the social life in Istanbul?
It’s very nice! You can go to drink tea with your friends, we don’t do that much in Finland because social life is really expensive in Finland but here it is really cheap. When you go to a cafe, you pay at least 2 € for a cup of tea or coffee. Here, it is like the half.
How is the social life on the university campus?
It’s very nice. People seem to spend lots of time in there. In Finland, we don’t spend much time on campus. We just study or we are scheduled for two hours of project meeting on the campus and then leave. I can obviously say that Turkish people spend more time than Finns on the campus. Also, there are lots of cafes to hang out with your friends and they are full of people. But in Finland, when we go to a cafe, we just get our drinks, we don’t spend much time there.
How is the city for sightseeing?
It’s great. There are lots of places for sightseeing in the city. I’ve been here for 5 months, but there are still lots of places I want to see.
Which cities and places have you visited in Turkey so far?
In Turkey, Bursa, Cappadocia, Marmaris, Kaş, Ephesus and Pamukkale. I will probably go to Şile when my girlfriend comes here. In Istanbul, I’ve been to Ortaköy, Kadıköy, Moda, Beşiktaş and Sultanahmet.
“I would say that Turkish people might be the favorite thing for me.”
What are the things that you like the most in Turkey as an Erasmus student?
Çiğköfte is one of the my favorite things! 🙂 Also people whom I met and I spent the time with. I guess when I go back to Finland, everything will be so silent. Tea culture is very nice in Turkey. But to sum up, I would say that Turkish people might be the favorite thing for me!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of İstanbul?
For advantages, there are lots of things to do or to see like doing scuba-diving or going to a pub or a club. Pubs and clubs are very active in Istanbul. For disadvantages, transportation vehicles are quite crowded. There are lots of things to do but you don’t have enough time to study. I can advise people to give priority to see the places and to be in touch with Turkish people.
“I was surrounded by the dogs. ”
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?
I was in Bursa and went on the teleferik. Then, I decided that I will walk on that mountain. After I went there, I noticed that I really needed to hurry for my ferry. I tried to go straight away from there but there was a sheep herder on the way. I can walk past him but it wasn’t that easy. One dog started to bark. Ok. Not a big deal. Then, there were three more dogs. All of them were barking. I was surrounded by the dogs. The dogs were protecting the herd. I don’t have my residence permit yet that is also one problem since I will leave Istanbul in one month.
Visiting Down cafe and meeting with the people with down syndrome there was also amazing! These activities which were organized for Erasmus students were definitely a part of my amazing experiences.
What do you think of Turkey in general? Did you undergo any culture shock in Turkey?
The biggest culture shock for me is traffic. Also, studying is harder for me in here because I have to get used to very different techniques when I study.
What are the three things that come to your mind when you consider your Erasmus experience in Turkey?
The people, the time I spent with them, amazing trips and çiğköfte.
How did Erasmus in Turkey change your life?
I have never had Islamophobia or anything else. But here, I got very familiar with Islam and the people who believe in Islam. It won’t be such a surprise for me if I see hijab or something else. I want to travel more to the East. Turkey has great eastern cities.
“I was expecting to see a new culture and I definitely was amazed with my amazing trip.”
Did the Erasmus Program meet your expectations, why do you think so?
Yes, I was expecting to see a new culture and I was definitely amazed by my amazing trip. Learning is difficult but i learnt a lot of new things.
“The education is so qualified and detailed while the social life is so perfect! “
Do you have any recommendation for those who are planning to attend Erasmus in Turkey?
If someone is going to attend Erasmus for study, he/she should come to Turkey. The education is so qualified and detailed while the social life is so perfect! There are many people who spend lots of efforts for things such as organizing trips for us.
Have you ever heard that life wouldn’t be the same after Erasmus?
In high school, I went to Poland for an exchange program for a month. It completely changed my life. If someone asked me about my original plan after I graduate from high school I would say “I will go to this university, I will be in this profession, I will be make decent money, I will have a house.” But after this trip, I told myself that this profession will not be rewarding for me. So, I changed my degree program and I decided that I don’t need a house. I need to travel, I want to travel.
Tell us why others should choose Erasmus in Turkey in two sentences
It is an amazing city. You should leave your comfort zone.
I love Erasmus in Turkey because of the nice people.