Student Journeys

Misconceptions of Turkey

I had always wanted to visit Turkey, which I had seen as the “Paris for Muslims” in some sense. However, I had some misconceptions about the country being conservative due to its secular nature. Upon visiting, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my assumptions were wrong. The country is stunning and one of the most beautiful things I experienced was hearing the adhan (call to prayer) out loud. However, I did notice that the city is divided into two parts, the Asian side and the European side, with the Asian side being more liberal and the European side being more conservative, due to the presence of Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque.

During my lectures, I was taught about feminism and development in Turkey. The professors explained how there was a significant shift in behavioural patterns before and after the Ottoman Empire. We also learned about the different administrations that governed Turkey and how figures like Erdogan were perceived by the communities. One interesting point made was how Erdogan’s policies affected the way people lived. For instance, students were able to drink on campus before Erdogan’s policies, but it is now considered a criminal offence. This made me realise how subjective religious-based policies can be and how they can change people’s lives.

Overall, my perception of the Middle East has expanded, and I have gained a better understanding of how policies based on religion can affect people’s lives. The trip has been a valuable educational experience, and I feel that it has supported my educational journey far more than learning behind a desk ever could.

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