Dancing on the Streets of Üsküdar

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Today began with a morning bus ride over the Bosphorus with the sun beaming over the opaque waters and straight onto the classical red-roofed homes stacked on the steep hills. Our first stop was at T.C Kadir Has University, whose buildings had been ingeniously converted from an Ottoman era tobacco factory into a modern university. We attended a lecture on the shifting geopolitics in the Middle East in a room with gunmetal pipes lining the walls. Afterward, we ate kebaps (yes that’s how it’s spelled) on the bus ride to Aziz Mahmoud Hüday Vakf, a faith-based humanitarian outreach group. There, we discussed their role in the Syrian refugee crisis. A representative from the Blue Crescent, another charity group, also discussed the complex Syrian refugee dynamics within Turkey. Afterward, the representative of Hüday Vakf invited us to his home for dinner. The Turkish people we’ve met have been so welcoming and we’ve been invited to dinner many times.

Later, while exploring Üsküdar, I found an intimate HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party) pro-Kurdish political rally off the shoreline, and I joined in on the dancing! That evening, a small group of us went to dinner with local Turkish friends. I met a very kind Turkish university student who was very hospitable. She didn’t know English, but we found ways to communicate anyway. It was all smiles, and I added her as a friend on Facebook.

When we left, we all had to rush to the ferry, and we barely made it. From there, we crossed the breezy Bosphorus waters and viewed the Istanbul night skyline-- stunning. After getting off, there were a bunch of foolish Turkish teenagers driving abnormally slowly on one of Istanbul’s busiest streets. Somehow they made large popping sounds from their tires that stunned all of us. Turkish exclamations and honks from other drivers followed. On our bus ride home, we had to prepare ourselves for a quick exit as our driver would speed off as people were still stepping off the bus. Overall it was a crazy adventure that showed the eccentricities that make Istanbul the unique metropolis it is.

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GSU TURKEY STUDY ABROAD

This website is simply a classroom project that uses a conventional study abroad trip, student talent, and faculty expertise to fill an important information gap concerning Turkish politics and the Syrian crisis. Overseen by faculty mentors Dr. Abbas Barzegar and Dr. Rashid Naim of Georgia State University, advanced graduate students and undergraduates from various disciplines were placed in small working groups tasked with explore key subject areas. They did this by conducting research before their trip and interviewing experts. During their three-week trip they continued this process as they visited NGOs, think tanks, and cultural sites. Every day they documented their experiences through the content material that can be found on this site. See this brief article about the project for more information.

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