In the coming year, my dual studies course in industrial engineering at MANN+HUMMEL will take me, via Istanbul, non-stop to Canada and Brazil. Normally, I work at MANN+HUMMEL in Speyer or visit the Cooperative State University in Mannheim. I am however spending my fifth and sixth theoretical semesters in Turkey and Canada. Through my blogs, I would like to take you with me on my journey, starting in Istanbul.
I arrived in Istanbul in the middle of September. The city is huge and full of people: there are around 50 different universities here, Istanbul has a population of almost 15 million, and you would need between five and eight hours to get from one end to the other in the rush hour! The centre is very western, and apart from its size, is not very different from any other European city. You will find any number of H&M, Zara and Starbucks stores. On the other hand, you also see many Arabs walking around with their fully-veiled wives. The tourist attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia museum, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (otherwise known as the Blue Mosque) and the Topkapi Palace, are certainly very impressive but one really worthwhile experience is to go to a Turkish market, far away from the tourist spots. It is there that you will gain the best impression of Turkish life.
The city never stands still, the streets are teeming with people late into the night. I am mainly occupied with my studies during the week. I therefore only have time for sightseeing at the weekend or on days when I don’t have any project work to do. I am pleased that I am living in the typically Turkish suburb of Osmanbey. One Sunday afternoon, for example, the street was suddenly filled with dancers, and the residents were throwing coins from their windows. This was to wish prosperity and happiness to a just-married couple. You would never see anything like that as a tourist. In every block of houses, there is a so-called Tekkel Shop – similar to a corner shop – that has anything you might need. And if they don’t have it, a single phone call is enough to get it delivered by scooter. Turkish pop music is also something that takes some getting used to, to German ears. Together with Turkish friends, I saw a well-known Turkish singer in concert, and it was quite a culture shock for me. On the main roads, you will find people making music every 150 metres or so, and particularly in the evening at weekends, many people are out walking and dancing.
The Istanbul Kültur Üniversitesi (IKU) is still quite new, and looks like a hospital from the outside. On the façade, there is an enormous portrait of Ataturk opposite a Turkish flag. Inside, there are escalators, a hairdressing salon, a bank, restaurants and a Starbucks. IKU has a School of Industrial Engineering, where I can follow my curriculum from Germany very well.
Why did I decide to go to Turkey? I wanted to go somewhere that people don’t normally go to. In modern business life, for example, it is quite likely that you will go to China one day. It was also important for me to understand the Turkish mentality, as so many people with Turkish roots now live in Germany. Organising my stay was however far from simple. The Turkish Embassy in Cologne is like a bazaar and applying for a residence permit in Istanbul reminded me of ‘Finding Permit A 38’ in the Asterix book. But it was well worth the effort, I really am impressed with Istanbul!