I CAN HARDLY FATHOM that I am going to be travelling to Turkey in just a few weeks. This is a reality that is quickly becoming more apparent with each passing day, now that I am finished with the semester and beginning the practical preparations for my voyage (getting a visa, deciding what to pack, etc.). It is also time, I think, to start blogging, and this first post will cover my purposes and aspirations, both for my trip east and for this blog.
Why Istanbul? As I went through the process of researching where I would like to study abroad, I talked with many, many people: friends, family, academics, travelers. While I initially was thinking about studying in London or Paris, after much consideration I decided that I wanted to go somewhere a bit more separated from the Occident. London and Paris, of course, are amazing cities in their own rights, but I wanted to find a place where I could explore some heavier cultural differences. Around the same time of this realization, I was reading Elizabeth Kostova’s delightful debut novel, The Historian, which is a revision of the Dracula myth that interlaces fiction with Dracula’s historical origin, Vlad Ţepeş, a fifteenth century Romanian ruler. In that book, the characters travel repeatedly to Istanbul, describing the city’s intense beauty and historical importance. These descriptions were so vivid that I decided to do a little research, and in that endeavor I found extensive praise for the city, and fascination for its important role as the traditional bridge between the East and the West. Additionally, I discovered a rising popular interest in the city, such as Newseek calling it “the coolest city on earth,” and Matt Lauer including it in his Where in the World is Matt Lauer? As I continued to read, discuss, and explore, I became more and more intrigued with this city, astounded by the way it is a bridge between not only the East and the West, but also between the ancient and the modern, the religious and the secular. Before long I had developed a powerful, almost magnetic intellectual attraction to Istanbul, and decided I would study there.
I envision this blog serving two main purposes: 1) providing an easy way for me to stay in touch with all of you, and 2) acting as a space where I can explore and preserve my thoughts from Istanbul. Some posts, therefore, will probably just contain basic narration of what I’ve been up to, and some will go a little deeper and include some reflection on the issues I encounter abroad. Also, I am going to try my best to make my posts somewhat hypertextual, so that I can weave my own thoughts into the unwieldy fabric of the World Wide Web.
Another exciting feature is that I’ll be able to post videos and pictures from my trip directly to this blog, so when I visit the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sofia, you’ll be able to see and hear those experiences.
Also, please notice that on any post I make, you are able to comment below it. Perhaps we can get some good discussion going, if people are interested. Notice also that you may subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the space provided on the right side of this page. You then have to check your email, click a link to confirm your subscription, and follow the simple instructions. If you choose to do that, you can configure things so that you will be emailed every time I make a post, or every week. That way, you won’t have to be unnecessarily checking the blog for new content.
And finally, just some practical details: I am leaving from Philadelphia on February 7, and returning in Philadelphia on June 11. My flight goes from Philadelphia to London to Istanbul. That will be about seven hours per each flight, or fourteen hours in the air with a three hour layover in London.
Anyway, I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and cannot wait to get started!