Turkey: my reflection on the field trip

Firstly, the field trip to Istanbul allowed me to make new, amazing friends with people I have been on the same course with for two years but have rarely, if ever, spoken to. Unlike other trips I have attended, I went to Turkey without any close friends to spend time or share a room with and therefore was able to make connections with people I hadn’t been close to before. This will make the rest of this year more enjoyable as I have new friends with whom I shared great experiences that we can reflect on and create more in the coming months. It felt especially important given the difficulty we all faced in our first year of university due to it being 100% online – the only thing that would have made this better would have been if it had happened earlier in our university journey.

The most significant part of the trip for me was experiencing the rich culture in Istanbul, a city unlike anywhere I have travelled before. The city’s Middle Eastern and Islamic influences were clear, and it was great to learn about this from friends, academics and tour guides. I enjoyed all the areas we visited as the comparisons were fascinating to witness between the more cosmopolitan European side of the city and the most conservative, traditional Asian side. 

Our day at the university was very insightful. Learning about Turkey’s history, international influence, foreign policy and aspirations for the future helped me build a picture of the region and how decisions have affected the population.

Concerning my studies, this field trip has allowed me to put my knowledge into context and reminded me that you could not learn about something like international relations just from reading and writing. As someone who enjoys academic writing, I can often overlook the importance of more societal factors when producing work and thinking about finding solutions. This trip has reminded me that context is everything – and to be effective in development and progress, you must work within the current climate when starting to look for solutions. I also learnt much more about Turkey’s relationship with the EU, their geopolitical issues and advantages and gender relations. I hope to keep in touch with academics from the trip to continue learning from them and potentially work on projects with them in the future.

Overall, I will treasure this experience as I made great new friends, learned a lot about a new culture and heard from academics about the nature of international relations in Turkey. In the future, I plan to visit more of the Middle East to continue learning but also to enjoy the culture, as Turkey was undoubtedly one of my favourite places that I have seen. I recommend any future students with the chance to visit to take up the opportunity as it is currently the highlight of my university experience so far. 

Esme Bartholomew

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