Study Abroad Check-in: Hannah Alongi

Hannah Alongi is studying at Bogazici University in Istanbul for the full 2014-2015 academic year. 

Hannah Alongi is studying at Bogazici University in Istanbul for the full 2014-2015 academic year. 

BFP: How does your plan fit into what you're studying?

Hannah: As an anthropology student just being here, surrounded by everything new, fits nicely into my plan. I am studying sociology, politics and art here at Bogazici University in Istanbul but my learning expands far past the classroom for me. And this is really where my plan comes in. I am working for a culture and social politics organization that does an array of events across the city but right now I am helping to put on the largest documentary festival in Turkey, Documentarist. It has put me in contact with creators, activist and storytellers in Turkey and throughout the world (we have films from over 40 countries!). I have gained new technical skills as well as witnessed various ways to tell the top political stories of the our time. Part of my plan is about exploring the narrative and being here in Istanbul has allowed me to see how that works across languages and artistic styles.  

BFP: What drew you to that specific location?

H: I didn't know much about Istanbul before I got here except its role in the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires but that is hardly enough knowledge to decide to move here for ten months. So honestly, it was a leap of faith. I knew I wanted to study in a city that was predominately Muslim because of an interest that began with a Noah Coburn class freshman year, and I knew I didn't want to go somewhere I had been before.When a close friend of mine told me Istanbul was pure magic I settled on it and I couldn't be happier! 

BFP: What is a good food you've tasted?

H: TURKISH FOOD! I could write for days on the food culture here but since the BFP won't publish all of that I will share highlights. A traditional Turkish breakfast (Kahvalti), generally, consists of: four different kinds of cheese, two types of olives, two egg dishes, tomatoes and cucumbers, honey and jams, fried dough, fresh bread, sausage, and plenty of spreads both spicy and sweet. With endless tea. You share this with a few friends on any day of the week but it always tastes best late on a Sunday morning. 

And that is just breakfast. Ask me later about lunch and dinner dishes. 

BFP: What has surprised you or been the biggest change for you on study abroad?

H: I arrived in Istanbul without a program, a single word of Turkish in my vocabulary, or a clear idea of where I was living. Although this was scary it also allowed me to navigate one of the world's most complicated cities however I saw fit. Today I can confidently say I actively participate in the social and political energy of the city and the good and bad that comes with it. My eyes have burned from tear gas, my heart has broken over the Syrian babies lining our main streets, and my throat has ached from yelling at inappropriate taxi drivers. This city has made me face the reality of war and my own role in it as an American. This has been ten months of realizing the layers of identity both for myself and the Turkish friends around me. And there was no way I could have known any of that before I got here.