Sinan Akkurt on his semester abroad:
"I am currently studying at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul for a year. I chose Istanbul for my time abroad mainly as I wanted to connect to the Turkish part of my identity more, as a "back to the roots" kind of thing. After the coup attempt last year, many asked whether I will still go. Somehow I never doubted one second, but maybe that is also because I have family here who will live here either way.
Was it the right decision to come? Without any limitation, it was. Istanbul simply is an amazing city with amazing people; there is a liberal and progressive Turkey (still) out here, which many might not expect. I got to explore my half-Turkish origin, spend more time with my grandma, improve my Turkish and experience Istanbul not as a tourist but as a resident. Also, at Boğaziçi University, there luckily (still) is an environment of critical discussion – even about Turkish politics! And turkish politics is for sure interesting from a political science perspective.
Unfortunately, a lot of terrible things are happening too, which shouldn’t be missing in this picture. I saw peaceful protests being ended violently by police. News websites are being blocked and Facebook or WhatsApp sometimes just do not seem to work. The government tries to silence people who criticize it or campaign for a “hayır” (no) vote at the upcoming referendum.
Like some Turkish friends of mine, I wonder sometimes myself why I still like it so much despite all of this. I think the main reason is the realization, or more like confirmation, that people valuing a pluralist society and democracy exist here as they do in the Netherlands or Germany. And that Istanbul, bringing these people together, did not cease (yet) to offer endless possibilities of discovering and doing cool things.
Finding a way to still have a good time, leaving a “HAYIR” leaflet or sticker here and drinking a çay (tea) there. Playing tavla (backgammon) in Beşiktaş and dancing in Beyoğlu. Enjoying the ferry rides between Europe and Asia - with your çay in your hand, feeling the wind and sun on your face, hearing the seagulls above you, and going to places you did not plan when getting up this morning - you cannot but love Istanbul"