Thinking about studying abroad between second and third year? Law student Kanzah describes her experiences while studying in Istanbul, Turkey.
What made you want to do a study abroad year? How did you decide where to go?
I was initially thinking of doing a placement year as I wasn’t ready to graduate next year. The study abroad scheme is quite competitive, but I wanted to explore my degree from an international perspective because, as a lawyer, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to practice.
I choose Turkey because it’s an Islamic country, and I am Muslim myself. I was born and raised in the UK so I really wanted to see what life would be like living in a Muslim country. I would also get to experience rich Islamic history as Turkey is where the Ottoman empire started and hear the Izan play out loud, which is the call to Prayer in Turkey.
As soon as I started researching the university in Turkey, I fell in love with it and knew this is where I wanted to go, I knew it was perfect for me.
How much did it cost to study abroad? How did you budget?
It really depends where you go. I kept track of my spending by giving myself a maximum spend each month. However, you do tend to spend a lot as you travel and spend on different activities and food. Luckily, Turkey’s living prices are cheaper compared to the UK, so I found things like rent cheaper than I would pay in Brighton. I also worked the year before going and saved up some money, but you can also still get a maintenance and tuition loan to help pay fees to the university.
What new foods did you try? Was there anything you didn’t like?
All of the food was halal, which meant I could buy what I wanted without having to ask, I loved having the freedom to eat all the food I wanted. However, I’m a picky eater so I was a bit nervous. I really liked trying the doner kebabs, chicken shish kabab and the Dolma, a leaf filled with vegetables and sometimes lamb. One food I didn’t really like was Monti, a traditional dish in Turkey.
What were the biggest difficulties you faced when studying abroad?
It’s scary going into a new country you’ve never been to before. Not knowing the language, culture, or anyone there. The language barrier was really difficult and I wish I’d learnt some Turkish before I left. Academics wise, remember that although you’re going abroad it does not mean your degree will be easier. My workload was tripled, so you do have to be committed.
How difficult did you find adapting to the local culture/adapting to the language?
I knew a bit of Urdu so I could pick up on similar words. Sometimes it helped and other times backfired, leading to some funny mistranslations. But Turkish people are really friendly, polite and affectionate – I found it a big culture shock from the UK!
One of my favourite things about Turkey is the stray cats on the streets. When I came back to the UK, I got the chance to facetime a cat who greeted me every morning with her because I missed her.
What advice would you give to students thinking about doing a study abroad year?
I would tell other students to apply even if you are not sure what you want to do because you never know where life will take you. I’m so thankful to be gifted such an amazing opportunity and I have become so happy and more confident. I cannot explain how heart-warming it was to meet truly inspiring people and witness so many beautiful things. I’ve learnt how to be independent, get out of my comfort zone and overcome challenges. I’m a completely different person to last year. Studying abroad encouraged me to start my hijab journey and everyone has been so supportive, accepting. I just felt so safe and more comfortable wearing it.