Student Journeys

Reflection on my field trip to Istanbul

Reflection on my time in Istanbul

Prior to taking the module “Politics and Development in the Middle East” and going on the accompanying field trip to Turkey, my knowledge and perception of the region were limited. As a product of the United States education system post 9/11, I was taught to view the Middle East as a war-torn and dangerous place. However, my experience in this module opened my eyes to this region’s diversity, potential, and greatness.

The field trip to Turkey was precious to my education and personal growth. Although I had learned a lot about Turkey previously, actually experiencing it first-hand was a completely different and unforgettable experience. Istanbul, in particular, was a city that exceeded my expectations. The differences between the Asian and European sides were striking and immediately noticeable upon disembarking the boat.

We were fortunate enough to have a knowledgeable and friendly local tour guide who showed us around the city and explained the cultural differences between the sides. I found it fascinating to learn how the Asian side was more liberal while the European side adhered to more traditional Islamic values. Seeing the city through the eyes of a local was one of the trip’s highlights for me.

The lectures we attended from professors at a local university were equally enlightening. Their personal perspectives on Turkish society and history were invaluable, and I found it refreshing to learn from people who were directly immersed in the culture. The lectures covered various topics, including economic and development comparisons between Turkey and South Korea, social change, and women’s employment in Turkey.

The lecture on women’s employment in Turkey was particularly impactful for me. While Turkey is considered a highly developed country economically, women still face significant challenges in the workforce despite being a highly educated and valuable part of the population. This lecture highlighted the importance of challenging our assumptions about development and measuring it differently.

Overall, this module and field trip have taught me much about the Middle East and its specific nations. I have realised that no one-size-fits-all description of the region exists and that each country has its own unique culture, history, and challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity to have seen this first-hand and expanded my understanding of the world.

Graciela Arias Hambleton

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