It will now be a month that I have moved from a quiet suburb of Rijeka to the lively Istanbul, for 10 months. It is all Žmergo’s fault: since I have volunteered in the organization, I decided to volunteer also abroad using the EVS program (European Voluntary Service). Those 10 months will be spent in Arel University, a private university where I will be working on European projects and where I will be helping Turkish students to join this kind of projects in other European countries.
What can be said about Istanbul? Many will say (me included) that is the most beautiful city in the world. Istanbul has a special atmosphere and you can feel the city at its best during the warm seasons when you don’t have to tag along jackets and scarfs while visiting museums and mosques (yes, Turkish winters are really cold). I don’t really know if there is any other city in the world where the tradition and the west live together so harmoniously, where the prayer spreads in the streets five times a day, where the fragrances from the bazaars and the restaurants permeate the city and where history can be literally touched. If you have been to Istanbul and haven’t visited the Haghia Sofia, The Sultan Ahmet mosque, the Grand bazaar, the Spice bazaar, the Topkapi Palace, Istikklal Caddesi, Taksim or the fishermen at Galata bridge, it would be better if you stayed at home. These are the must-see places of Istanbul and they can be seen relatively fast (it would be good to reserve at least half a day for Topkapi palace). The city center can be easily reached from Ataturk airport by metro, and the best transportation to use in the city are the metro-bus, tramway and metro. Paying is really easy: get yourself the Istanbulkart and use it for all the public transportation in Istanbul, even for the boats that go to the Asian part of the city. Be careful when you cross the streets: you have never the priority to cross! The Turkish drivers will kick you off the road without any hesitation.
How to be understood? Using hands and feet. Except in the center of Istanbul, elsewhere there are not many people who speak English fluently. Be patient.
And Arel University? Enormous private university located so far away from the city centrum that you don’t really have the feeling of living in Istanbul. The women and men dorms are separated and fenced so you won’t be able to enter the dorms if you don’t live there. Only the campus is as big as all the faculties in Trsat in Rijeka and within it you can find a few coffee bars, a restaurant/canteen where you can find really good food, a swimming pool, a few sport halls and a gym.