Bailey Nicolson (she/her) - Stanford in Istanbul
Major: International Relations
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: At the Suleymaniye Mosque in the rain!
Questions and Answers with Bailey
Why did you choose to study abroad in Istanbul?
Istanbul has always been on the top of places that I wanted to travel to in the world! The city exists at such a nexus of cultures that there's so much history to be understood in so many facets. Stanford provides a good environment to explore the city in a an enriching way to connect and learn from other Turkish students at the university you stay at!
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Istanbul?
Beyond warmer weather (I was expecting to be able to wear short-sleeves! Sariyer, where Koç University is, get really cold!), I was expecting to be living closer to the city. The transport time to get into Istanbul sometimes turned out to be almost 2 hours, but Koç University is also in a really beautiful location that overlooks the Black Sea- lots of great chances to hike and go to the beach!
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Istanbul?
Many classes count for credit for different majors. As an IR major especially I was able to get most of my classes counted for my major requirements! There's also a lot of classes that you can take that are so much more interesting to take when you get to contextualize what you learn with field trips and being able to explore things around Istanbul. One of our Art History classes was taught in different points of significance throughout Istanbul- it's so much more enriching to learn about the Hagia Sophia when you're inside of it!
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that some of the most enriching experiences I can have while traveling are ones that are spontaneous and often solo. My trips into the city that were impromptu and independent were the times in the trip that I truly felt like I was in the city and able to take in everything around me. At first, venturing to new neighborhoods and areas were confusing and stressful to navigate by yourself, but became so much more fun and rewarding as we got to learn the city better. The process of things becoming more familiar to was so rewarding and illuminated the ways that I can grow from being in new environments.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered and what did you learn from it?
Sometimes it was difficult to make time to get into the city- with classes being scheduled most days, it was hard to commute over an hour each way and still do homework and such. But a lot of it was also a process of learning to manage my time better and more carefully thinking about in what capacity I could balance seeing and exploring Istanbul and doing well in my classes.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment for me was having to operate on a level of higher self-awareness. As Americans traveling to a country where the dollar goes a lot farther, we possessed a lot of privilege that was important to be aware of when we entered different spaces. Additionally, in a polarized political climate, anti-Western sentiment was also an important thing to remain aware of in talking and meeting people. Being aware, being humble, and being appreciative of hospitality was important to my experience there and helped me develop patience and understanding in dealing with complex situations.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Istanbul?
I absolutely loved talking to strangers and making friends at our university. Everyone had such interesting experiences and perspectives coming from all over Turkey. Some people had really interesting perspectives coming from Kurdistan or Syria and existing in ethnic groups that carry a lot of stigma in Turkey. Everyone we met were so incredibly hospitable and open to showing us different parts of their lives in Turkey. The friends we made at the university were certainly the most valuable and educational aspect of my time in Turkey.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Istanbul?
Going to the Independence Day parade at the 99th anniversary of Turkey's founded was so incredible. We were invited by a friend from our class, who introduced us to his friends and taught us a lot about different things we were observing throughout the parade, like all the Ataturk memorabilia, and singing, and the different types of people (and their political affiliation) who were attending the parade.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Transitory, fulfilling, active, eye-opening, cats.
What was your favorite food you had in Istanbul?
Baklava is the obvious answer, but beyond that, manti (Turkish dumplings), and any and every döner kebaps were always so good!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My digital camera! Would highly recommend bringing some way to document all the cool things you will be able to see.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Istanbul?
Turkish alt rock is SO good!! Seksendört ended up being a favorite!