Greetings for the final time! I haven’t posted in a while, which seems to have been the way I started my last few posts. There are many reasons why I didn’t write a final post before I left Turkey. The first main reason is that my laptop’s keyboard broke (completely my fault – I spilled sparkling mineral water on it) and when I finally got an external keyboard, it was difficult to use. The other main reason is that I was busy doing other things. But as I always say, it’s never that you don’t have time, it’s that you don’t make time. And so it was. I just chose to spend my time differently. But today is Sunday, August 30, I am sitting in my parents’ house in NC enjoying vacation, I leave for fall study abroad in Sevilla (and a new blogging adventure!) this Wednesday, September 2, and I have finally chosen to dedicate time to wrapping up this blog.
Firstly, I apologize for not posting the Bulgaria and last-few-weeks-of-adventures posts I promised. I will tell those stories through pictures here, and then spend my last paragraph or two reflecting on my entire 2-month trip.
Here is a summary, in words and pictures, of my last few weeks in Turkey:
1. I went to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, with my friend Eric.
2. I went to a lovely brunch place on the Bosphorus for my friend Rachel’s birthday
3. I went to the farmer’s market in Beşiktaş with friends.
4. I went with my cousins to the pool-side outdoor venue where my parents had their wedding reception.
5. I went with friends to a beach in Istanbul where the Bosphorus and Black Sea meet.
6. I successfully took final exams.
7. I went on a sunset boat ride on the Bosphorus with the other TLCP participants to celebrate the end of the program.
8. I went to Istanbul’s famous Galata Tower, an international parade and a Catholic church on Istiklal Caddesi, the Sulemaniye Mosque, and a poorer part of the city with my friend Eric.
9. I ate delicious food. (George has his head in a jar of hazelnut butter because it was the end of the program and, in his sadness, he resorted to emotional eating. Also he appreciated the irony of the Cola Turka pic.)
10. I flew to Izmir to visit my dad, uncle, and cousins. After a day, we drove to Altinoluk, a town on the Aegean Sea where we a have a summer home. We stayed there for a week and went to the beach every day!
11. I flew back to Istanbul.
12. I flew to one of my two stateside homes, Chicago.
And that was it. After a lovely week in Evanston, I flew to Raleigh, NC, and here I am!
Here are my primary reflections on the program and the overall experience:
I saw a side of Istanbul I had never seen before. Even though I had visited the city maybe 8 times in my childhood to see family, I had never lived there as an adult in a place miles from my nearest family member. And I had never spent 7 weeks in Turkey, let alone even 4 weeks in Istanbul without leaving for other Turkish cities to see other family members.
I got better at making mistakes. By “got better,” I mean that now I get less upset at myself for making mistakes. I have let go of a small bit of my ego and pride. And by “making mistakes,” I primarily mean making mistakes in Turkish grammar, pronunciation, etc. But there is always spilling sparkling water on my laptop, haha.
I was reminded of the value of family. My extended family members cooked me homemade meals, took me out for margaritas, drove me through terrible Istanbul traffic, called to check in every week or so, and, in those and a thousand other ways, showed me the true meaning of unconditional love.
I was reminded of diversity in 2 main ways. 1) I got out of the Northwestern bubble and, while in the TLCP, met people from many different walks of life. Yes, a fair number of participants were undergrads or grads from high-ranking universities. But of course every person is unique, every university is unique, and the stories these people shared with me definitely broadened my worldview. 2) I got out of the Bogazici University bubble and visited some of the poorest parts of Istanbul. Yes, I visited many rich and/or touristy parts, but I also visited some poor sections that reminded me that no matter where you are in the world – even a megacity with a name like Istanbul – diversity in living standards and class standing exists, and it bodes well to never romanticize a city, a group of people, or a single person’s life.
I got better at international travel. Pretty self-explanatory, but no small feat.
I was reminded of the value of friendship. Even though the TLCP lasted only 7 weeks, I made friends who were there for me when I needed companionship. When I or my friends wanted to go on small or large adventures – to a restaurant down the street, Istanbul’s most historic cites, the beach, Bulgaria – we were always there for each other. When my laptop broke and I got irrationally upset, I facebook messaged a friend who came right down to my room and spent an hour cheering me up. When another friend of mine and I both had things going on back in the States that were out of our control, we talked through it over lunch and leant each other much-needed support and empathy. We didn’t pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. And finally, whenever I needed to talk to friends from back home, they always made it a priority to talk to me. In these and a thousand other ways, I was reminded of the value of good friends.
There is so much else the program and experience taught me and reminded me of, but the list above suffices for now. As I wrap up my wrap-up post, I want to say one more time how grateful I am to have received two Northwestern grants to attend the TLCP, the Undergraduate Language Grant and the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Grant. Without these grants, and with even just one of them, my participation in the TLCP would not have been possible. Every experience I have had over the past three years has made me feel more grateful, lucky, and blessed to be at Northwestern, and, more generally, to lead the life I do. I cannot wait to start my fall study abroad adventure in Seville, Spain, and I will post a link to that blog on facebook and send it to those I have promised I would.
Finally, I am so grateful to have friends, mentors, and family who took the time to read part or all of this blog. Even if this was the only post you read, even if you only skimmed, thank you! You have made my first blogging experience positive, worthwhile, and meaningful, and I am truly grateful. Until next time, iyi akşamlar!