Arriving to my host country: my initial thoughts and feelings

James Conkie
Exchange to Fatih University, Turkey
Semester 2, 2015

Despite choosing to study and live in Turkey for 6 months I actually knew relatively little about Turkish culture, history, language, everyday life and food except that they ate a lot of bread and meat which could have very possibly been one of the major reasons I decided to come here. I had very few initial thoughts about living in Turkey except that I expected to be, on multiple occasions, very confused and overwhelmed. From my experiences of traveling it is very rare that your expectations are actually met, however in my first encounter with Istanbul I was instantly confused and overwhelmed. My plane arrived in Istanbul 2 hours late which meant I had finally gotten out of the airport around roughly 1 in the morning. This meant that there were no more buses or trains running so my only option was a cab. The cab driver spoke no English but he knew how to get to the district where my accommodation was, unfortunately that was all he knew. We spent 3 hours driving around a spooky looking industrial area both of us swearing in different languages.  On 3 different occasions we drove down dark dead end dirt roads tailed by stray dogs barking at us and I’m not going to lie, I thought I was about to be robbed. Despite these thoughts reality prevailed and we finally found my accommodation at 4 in the morning. The next morning I awoke and decided to adventure around my new hood, I quickly realised that the area I was living had no coffee shops, no restaurants, it had nothing but factories, the student accommodation I was staying in and 45 minutes down the road was my university. My initial feelings of being confused and overwhelmed had been replaced by frustration and feeling underwhelmed.

I have now been living in Istanbul for one month. I am currently living in a central area of Istanbul called Taksim in a small flat with two Turkish guys. I have adventured all around Istanbul and although my Turkish vocabulary consists of only 6 words I feel at home here. Istanbul is endless; it takes me 2 hours by bus to get to university every day. I have made some lovely and dear friends, found my regular bars, cafes and restaurants. I have Formed good study and health routines than after a night of bar hoping have successfully destroyed these routines. I have done some adventuring around Turkey and every day I adventure around Istanbul. As I said I feel very much at home here despite only being here for one month.

The other day I was flipping through one of my note books when I found a sort of diary entry I had written when I first got here stating my initial thoughts and feeling. It made me laugh. The contrast of my perspective between then and now was so different. I wonder how much it will change within another month?