Turkey straddles the land between Asia and Europe. For thousands of years, this position has allowed it to absorb aspects of both eastern and western cultures and has made it a fascinating place to discover as a traveler.
Any high school student traveling to Turkey will quickly see, it's an incredibly unique and diverse country, full of new smells, sounds, and tastes. Though there aren't quite as many options for high school abroad in Turkey as in, say, the UK, there are a couple. And for those students who decide to take the leap and spend high school abroad in Turkey, you'll be rewarded with a truly off the beaten path experience -- especially as a teenager!
Turkey is great for students who are interested in history, archaeology, experiencing a unique culture, incredible food, and making new friends.
While in Turkey, most high schoolers will choose to learn about the country through one of the following program types:
- High school exchange
- Youth travel tours
High school exchange
One option for high schoolers traveling to Turkey is to do a high school exchange, where you'll spend a full semester or year attending a Turkish high school and living with a Turkish family. This definitely requires some commitment to learning Turkish, as language immersion is a strong aspect of these types of exchanges.
Similar language and culture immersion programs also run during the summer-time, where students will spend up to 6 weeks learning about Turkish life and the language.
There are many charitable endeavors for high school students to partake in during their time in Turkey. What could be more idyllic than swimming through the Mediterranean Sea while making a difference? Programs in wildlife conservation enable students to study and protect marine mammals and turtles along the country’s shores. High schoolers wishing to stay on land can work with children in need. Activities with children include teaching English, playing games and doing arts and crafts.
Youth Travel Tours
Travel tours are the perfect option for high school students who want or need to spend less time abroad. These programs allow students to simultaneously make new friends and learn, all while having the adventure of a lifetime.
Tours usually include the highlights of Istanbul's markets, Cappadocia's hikes, Ephesus's history and Antalya's coastline. Most tours have a particular focus like community service, conservation or adventure. Meanwhile, educational components like art, language, and history are incorporated.
Students from all nationalities are encouraged to obtain a visa before entering Turkey. An Electronic Visa is acceptable for high school students participating in tourism programs that are less than 90 days.
To obtain a student visa in Turkey, high school students will need an acceptance letter to a Turkish language school or university. Additional requirements include a passport expiring 60 days after you plan to leave the country, bank statements proving means to support yourself and a passport sized photo.
Housing options in Turkey differ based on the study abroad program you select. Traveling tour programs often utilize hotels and hostels while perhaps including a homestay as a part of the schedule. Volunteers for social programs may stay with a local family or at hotels with other participants.
If you’re flying from North America to Turkey it could cost you between $800 - $1,100 USD. Students coming from Europe will spend between $150 and $300 USD.
The cost of living is lower in Turkey than in European or North American countries. High school students who spend time in rural areas rather than city centers will find themselves spending even less money. An average daily budget for students in Turkey could be as low as $20 USD.
Turkey is a large country that experiences several climates. The coastal regions generally experience warmer weather while the interior and eastern sectors of the country are a big cooler. Turkey experiences seasonal weather with summers reaching comfortable highs and the winters experiencing mild lows.
Be mindful of the culture while packing for your time in Turkey. Clean, modest dress is always the best choice. Female students are advised to keep shoulders, upper arms and upper legs covered, especially while visiting religious sites. Bring a versatile sarong to cover shoulders, legs, or hair.
- Light, breathable clothing
- Bug protectant
- Warm/waterproof jacket
- Solid walking shoes
- Sarong (women)
- Conservative clothing (no booty shorts, please!)
- A power and voltage converter
While the majority of Turkish citizens are Muslim, Turkish society is both secular and modern. By following a few guidelines high school students will have a fun and successful trip in Turkey. Overt displays of affection in public (PDA) aren’t recommended.
Female students should be aware that even simple gestures can be misconstrued as overly assertive or flirtatious, so be mindful and perhaps lean toward demure. Women are recommended to dress modestly by covering their upper arms, upper legs, and shoulders.
Staying Healthy in Turkey
It is recommended travelers receive hepatitis, polio, typhoid, tuberculosis, tetanus and rabies vaccinations before traveling to Turkey. Also, talk with your doctor before traveling to Turkey about potentially receiving preventative medication for malaria. High school students are encouraged to take precautions against mosquitos like covering the skin in high-risk areas and using bug repellant. Keep away from animals you don’t know, especially dogs and rodents, which have been known to carry rabies.
It is recommended you drink bottled water while in Turkey. Check that all your food is properly and entirely cooked. Be wary of salads, as they may be washed in non-bottled water, making them hazardous to a traveler’s stomach. Traveler’s diarrhea is common, so stay well hydrated and visit a health professional if symptoms don’t cease after a week.
If you are staying for an extended period of time be sure to bring any medications you may need, as they may not be available in Turkey. Major cities have modern medical facilities while smaller cities may be less well equipped.
High school students traveling in Turkey should follow general safety guidelines. Avoid local demonstrations and grab a friend if you’re walking somewhere at night. If you are in a crowded, touristy destination, keep your valuables close to deter petty theft. It is advised students should make multiple copies of their passport and visa and only carry said copies while out. Passports should stay somewhere locked and safe in your residence. Women should be vigilant, as use of the date rape drug has been reported.
Be wary of individuals inviting you to a bar or restaurant that they know. Be sure to ask for a menu first before any items are brought to you. It could be part of a scheme to overcharge and intimidate you to pay exorbitant amounts.
It is particularly important to be aware of your surroundings in Turkey, as terrorist groups have been active in the country. Instances of religious violence have been noted against Jewish and Christian individuals and their places of worship. It is best to avoid Turkey’s southern border with Syria due to violence in the area.