The trip to Turkey initially promised both a great academic and social experience. Upon arriving at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in the evening we boarded minibusses towards the city of Kocaeli as the core part of our trip was centered there.
The following morning, we headed to the Kocaeli Academy for Solidarity which was a walking distance from our hotel. We were met by the lovely staff, academics, and students from Kocaeli University as well and were treated to much-needed refreshments. The day’s sessions ranged from presentations on Turkey’s history dating back to the Ottoman empire all the way to the current (controversial) government headed by Erdogan. Other topics that were presented on included women’s rights, Turkey’s financial situation and the state’s relationship with the media.
One of the most striking things I found in Turkey overall and in part emphasized by the day’s presentations, was the struggle between Islamists and secularists. However, the day’s presenters did extremely well in presenting a contextual framework albeit in limited time, where one can attempt to understand how Turkey’s contemporary issues have come to be.
Our final 2 days were spent in Istanbul doing the classical tourist thing: tourists (just made that up). After charting a ferry from Kadikoy, we entered Turkey’s city center. We visited the famous Blue Mosque, the grand bazaar, and many other places. On our final day, we visited Taksim Square, Gezi Square, the site of the 2013 protests.
Overall, the trip was very impactful. Many of the students found the rare opportunity to bond with each other in ways London does not accommodate. Our host Ishmael was uniquely fantastic. We all appreciated his patience and endeavor to make our trip truly worthwhile.
By Muna Hassan