The historical and cultural heart of Turkey, as well as its largest city, Istanbul is a stand-out study abroad locale! With a great mix of high-caliber academic opportunities, rich history to explore, and a vibrant culture, this city is perfect for adventurous students looking to have an unforgettable experience abroad.
Istanbul is one of the only cities in the world that lies in two continents simultaneously, straddling the line between Europe and Asia. This diversity has created a rich and eclectic culture that is unique only to Istanbul and unlike anything you will experience anywhere else. Istanbul is also ideally located on the famous Silk Road, making the city a mecca for trade and a gathering point for folks from around the world.
Istanbul also has one of the richest histories of any city in the world. At different times the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires, it also played a crucial role in the development of both Christianity and Islam.
If you choose to study in Istanbul, you will have first-hand access to everything that this city has to offer. Ancient ruins and architectural masterpieces will be the backdrop to all of your adventures, and you will never run out of unique cultural opportunities to experience.Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn.
Culture and Immersion
Historically, Istanbul has been a hub for artists from Turkey, Europe, and the Middle East, and their works fill the many museums across the city. Also central to Istanbul’s culture are the many markets and bazaars, which sell everything from spices to jewelry to furniture. During your trip, be sure to visit a Turkish bath, or hamam. A tradition that began during the time of the Ottoman Empire, these baths offer the perfect opportunity to relax and are also used by locals as a place to socialize.
Istanbul also has a variety of restaurants offering all sorts of Turkish specialties, including kebabs and fresh seafood. The city also has a vibrant nightlife and live-music scene that students will appreciate.
Don’t leave Istanbul without seeing these sites!
- The Grand Bazaar: This market, which began in the 15th century, is one of the oldest and largest markets in the world. Spend a day wandering through every street and alleyway to experience first-hand the authentic lifestyle of Istanbul. The 3,000-plus shops offer a treasure trove of local products to explore.
- Topkapi Palace: This magnificent site once housed the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. Their lavish lifestyle is reflected in every fountain, courtyard, and garden.
- Hagia Sophia: This traditional Turkish basilica was built in 537. Once a church and then a mosque, it is now a museum that houses treasures from throughout Istanbul’s history (including mosaics, carpets, and even the tombs of a few famous sultans!). The building is most famous for its immense Byzantine dome.
- Galata Tower: This tower was built in 1343 and was once used to house prisoners of war from the Ottoman Empire’s widespread conquests. Today, it is a great spot to visit for a birds-eye view of the entirety of Istanbul.
Istanbul’s currency is the Turkish lira. Many amenities of the city, including transportation and museums, are very inexpensive. This makes Istanbul a great location for students, because it is easy to explore all aspects of the city while keeping your expenses low.
If you are on a tight budget, one thing to avoid is eating out or frequenting nightclubs too often. While the occasional treat is ok, too many drinks and platters of appetizers can add up. Instead, look for alternative weekend activities, like hosting your own dinner party.
Culture Shock and Support System
Students traveling to Istanbul will certainly experience some culture shock upon arrival. Language, customs, and etiquette will all be surprising at first, and the adjustment may be difficult. However, the people of Turkey are generally welcoming and hospitable. If you are open to new experiences, you will certainly learn about the rich culture and people of Istanbul. Also, remember to choose a study abroad program that will support you during your travels.
There are many scholarships available that can help you study abroad in Istanbul.
- The Turkish government offers scholarships to international undergraduate and graduate students studying a variety of disciplines.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships