By Erick Widman
Ready to Study Abroad in Turkey?
Lyle Rauh spent three amazing weeks studying abroad in Turkey on a trip led by one of his college professors. Read on to learn all about his experience and what you can expect from your own trip to this gorgeous country!
Lyle’s January study abroad program started with a preparatory class on his destination country the fall beforehand. It laid a foundation of knowledge and understanding that helped the students on their travels. And while this was a study tour, Lyle wasn’t flooded with information from professors, lectures, and books—he and his classmates were able to focus more on traveling and connecting with the sights in Turkey.
As part of the program, Lyle turned in a travel journal at the end of the trip—this is a helpful way to provide structure and keep students focused.
There were some downsides to a shorter study tour, Lyle found—you won’t have as much of a chance to get to know anyone locally. As well, there’s a trade-off to traveling on a bus with other students and a professor. On the flip side, the size of the group can keep costs down. Lyle notes another downside is that as a group traveler, you’re conspicuous—and college students in particular can be loud and annoying to the locals.
Lyle’s study abroad in Turkey program started in Istanbul. He notes the Hagia Sophia should not be missed: “It’s an architectural marvel…[The dome] seems to float there.”
This beautiful structure is a prime example of brilliant engineering, and has a fascinating history. You can see evidence of the battle of religions that have taken place over the centuries; some of the original Christian mosaics remain from before the Hagia Sophia became a mosque.
The Justinian Cistern also is a fascinating spot to visit. This is a beautiful underground reservoir built by the Roman emperor in 500 CE that’s also known as “The Sunken Palace.” It is filled with huge pillars (and great lighting to impress tourists) but still has an ancient, mysterious atmosphere. The Cistern used to be the main source of water for the city, and the beauty and engineering of the place is unmatched.
Leaving Istanbul, the tour headed south along the coastline of the Aegean and ultimately into the Mediterranean. They stopped at modern day Ephes—parts of this city have been reconstructed to look as they did thousands of years ago, which is a treat compared to merely looking at ruined foundations of what once stood. Lyle and his classmates were able to explore the main thoroughfare, which gave him his best taste on the trip.
Ancient Turkish Ruins and Cultural Lessons
Turkey is an endlessly fascinating place for visitors interested in history. According to Lyle, “You can’t throw a stone without hitting some kind of significant, ancient site, with layer upon layer of history.”
And for those interested in archaeology, you can see and even have the chance to take part in ongoing excavations throughout Turkey.
Lyle’s study abroad in Turkey program was led by a local guide from Aeon tours. Not only did he speak English brilliantly, but he also was their cultural connection to the country. While Lyle wasn’t able to meet many locals, he had the chance to understand and appreciate Turkish culture through his guide, who also became a friend.
If you study abroad in Turkey, you’ll want to visit some of the caves, which Lyle calls “funky natural formations.” He raves about the amazing Ihlara valley, where the rock is very soft, with numerous manmade caves (in addition to regular wind-carved caves). These caves were stunning, and boasted huge rooms and tunnels that connected them together.
Lyle highly recommends that you visit Cappadocia. For those interested in ancient church history, this spot was home to a number of important writers and theologians. But this isn’t all that’s featured in this region: Lyle loved being able to stop by at the stands along the road and pick up freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice. Lyle describes the local food as “delicious, hearty and simple” with lots of seafood—especially trout. For dessert, Turks love fresh fruit; they also had their fair share of kebabs and cuisine that’s similar to Greek food.
Overall, Lyle highly recommends that all students take a similar study abroad trip. There is much to be gained and little to be lost on such a surprisingly affordable excursion.
Of course, we all should heed the wise words of Mark Twain: You’ll always regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do.
How About You?
Have you been to Turkey before? What should we see?
Image credits: Sev and Dirk and Lyle!