Never a dull moment in Instanbul for exchange student |

Never a dull moment in Instanbul for exchange student

Savannah Shipman
Middle Park high school student

Editor’s note: Savannah Shipman is a Middle Park High School student studying abroad in Instanbul, Turkey. She is writing a monthly column about her experiences.

Sitting on the ferry, looking out across the Bosporus Straight toward Golden Horn with the grand Topkapı Palace on the hill and the Hagia Sophia rising in the background, I let the rush of a foreign wind sweep past me.

Since arriving here in Istanbul, Turkey, I have adjusted into my new home but still stand in awe when I see things that would never fit into my home setting of Colorado.

About two weeks after arriving I, along with the 14 other exchange students in Istanbul, traveled to the Bosporus University for language classes. Every day was an adventure.

On the first day, my host father showed me the way by bus to the ferry stop where I would meet up with eight of the other students, and from there we would be on our own. The Bosporus University is on the European side of Turkey, whereas I lived on the Asian side in a small area called Dudullu. Crossing the Bosporus was spectacular; the very thought of crossing continents just for class was thrilling.

On the second day of lessons, we were expected to travel there and back by ourselves. It was a daunting idea. My host dad gave me all of the bus numbers and the names of places to get on and off, and then I was on my own.

In total, it took two bus rides and a ferry trip to get there, then I would need to repeat it coming home. It was over two hours one way. Getting there was easy; the ferry stop was instantly recognizable with lots of people, buses, and of course, the Bosporus itself. From there I met the other students before getting on the ferry.

After class ended those of us that lived in Asia made our way to the ferry and took it back across. Then it was time that we all parted ways. I went to the bus station and found my bus just before it left. I was thankful that I had a seat because it became packed with people very quickly.

And so we rumbled and weaved through many streets. It seemed to be taking a lot longer than usual, most likely due to the fact that I now had to pay attention throughout the trip to make sure I knew where to get off.

However, just as we passed through an area that I thought I remembered because there was a fake palm tree in the middle of the square, the bus rumbled to a stop along the side of the road. Then driver switched off the engine.

Something was wrong. The driver got out and started to walk around the bus. People leaned out the window and asked him something in Turkish. I didn’t understand any of it.

So I just sat there, watching people file off the bus, a few at a time. They, I noticed, were waving down other buses to get on. Soon I was the last one in the bus. So I got out too and stood near a group of people waiting. I tried asking in Turkish why we had stopped. I couldn’t understand their answer. I then tried to see if anyone knew English. No one did.

I was lost and confused. I pushed away the panic rising up inside of me. I reached into my bag to get my cell phone. I turned around to try and call my host dad. Just before dialing his number, I glanced up and I noticed a bank with a dry fountain in front of it. If I remembered correctly, my host dad and I had passed this when we were walking to find an ATM machine. From here I was within walking distance of my home.

With one last look at the broken down bus, I took a deep breath, then set off up the street. I walked some blocks uphill to another square of stores. With three different ways to go, I decided to continue straight onward. Then around a curve I saw the old warehouse building that I pass every morning to get to the bus stop.

I crossed the busy street, then walked a couple more blocks past the warehouse and saw my apartment building rising in the distance. Since then, I have become accustomed to the ways of travel in Istanbul. If I need to go anywhere, I can just catch a bus with no problem.

So much has happened since my first few weeks. My Turkish is coming along, and I can now say speak in past, present, and future tense using basic sentences. Right now I am working on correcting my simple present tense. My host parents are keen to help me whenever I need it.

School started just after the language lessons ended and it has been a whole new experience in itself. I attend Marmara Koleji, a K-12 private school, along with two of the other exchange students. Everyone has been welcoming and wanting to assist us.

I am enrolled in Turkish Grammar, Philosophy, Turkish History, Math, Physics, and Chemistry. Math and Physics are considerably easy ” they are taught all in English. Chemistry is a whirlwind. The teacher doesn’t know English, and I can’t understand her explanations in Turkish, but every class turns out OK because I take all of the notes then the other students explain it to me. In my last three classes, everything is in Turkish so I am given alternate assignments. As well, there is a university on our school campus where we exchange students have been invited to volunteer teaching English to the preparatory students.

Istanbu is endless in possibilities. I am constantly learning about and joining in a new culture. Every day holds something different, whether it be a new place to see, person to meet, word to say, or food to eat.

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