Name: Sophie Beckett
Department: International Politics
Host Institution: Bilkent University
It’s under week until I will be flying out for my semester abroad at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. I’ve finished exams and my packing as well, which has been a useful procrastination tool! I’m starting this blog whilst still in rainy Wales because preparing to go is a significant part of the experience.
This weekend I’ve been saying goodbye to my amazing group of friends. Particularly sad has been bidding farewell to my third year friends, who will have graduated when I return. In true Aber fashion I threw a goodbye pre drinks house party, though I think it fell short of expectations for some of my more party orientated friends as I’m not incredibly well versed in hosting parties, nor do I know many drinking games beyond Showdance’s “Chicken Goggles”.
I’ve also had to bid a temporary goodbye to my wardrobe. I don’t think of myself as having a particularly large wardrobe, but alas, the DofE style pack that I’m taking would only just fit my t-shirt collection. A problem whist packing is the climate in Ankara. Currently it is hovering around 5 degrees Celsius. When I return to Britain in May it will have climbed to 35 degrees! I’m having to console myself over the short-term loss of my 15 Harry Potter t-shirts with the promise of spending a significant portion of my Erasmus grant on clothing!
Sorting out exchange has been drawn out. After we had applied Bilkent changed their application process, but in the change our applications became invalid, which was only discovered by both parties when our log in details didn’t arrive in November. Cue panicking and a very long Christmas break sorting out the issues caused by this. Everything is finally sorted, and all that’s left is to find out our room assignments on Thursday.
A lot of people ask me if I’m scared about going. My usual answer is: of course I am – I’d be bonkers not to be! The thing about dreams is, if they don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.
I’m going to be in a country where I don’t speak the language, with a veritable war zone on its borders. That alone should be enough to scare anyone. But I’ll also have all the normal challenges of moving to a new place like making friends and finding my way around. Ankara is a big place, and I’m used to tiny Aber or Birmingham.
But I’m just relieved I’m going at all. The placement looked touch and go for a while. The violence preceding the elections could have stopped it. Thankfully, everything seems to have calmed down (cross fingers), though I am keenly aware that the country borders Syria and I am prohibited by the Foreign Office from travelling to any of the districts along the border. At the end of the day, I chose Turkey precisely because I knew it would be a very different experience than anywhere else offered. I’m an International Politics student, I study war every day, but this trip is the first time I am anywhere near one. I’m going to take this as a learning experience, to see how differently Turkish People consider war when it’s on their door step.
So it’s goodbye Aber! I’ll probably pen another post next Sunday once I’ve arrived. It will include the delights of grocery shopping, which makes me very happy as anyone who knows me will know my love for cooking and food in general.