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'Get a Ticket': Mariana Rait on Her Exchange Studies in Turkey

'Get a Ticket' is a new feature on our website where the campus students will share their impressions of the exchange studies and interesting stories from the trip. Our first hero is Mariana Rait, a 4th-year student of the Bachelor's programme 'International Business and Management'. The students spent this autumn in Istanbul where she went for the exchange studies at Bogazici University. Mariana is in awe of everything: the campus over the Bosphorus Strait, magnificent architecture and home gatherings with her groupmates. Find out how her trip is going in the interview.

'Get a Ticket': Mariana Rait on Her Exchange Studies in Turkey

Photo courtesy of Mariana Rait

How you chose the university

I enrolled in HSE University-St Petersburg thinking that I would definitely go on an exchange programme—I had been dreaming about it since my teenage years. In the first year, I applied right away but I wasn't accepted, and then, the pandemic started. But at the end of the third year, I learnt that many fourth-years went for academic mobility in the autumn semester, and I decided to try too.

Istanbul attracted my attention long ago, so I chose this city. Now, for the next four months, I am a student at Bogazici University. Here, all the students of 'Management' have the same courses as we do at HSE University. It has become a decisive factor because for me as a fourth-year student, it was important to pass all the subjects—I cannot reschedule them for the next year.

Turkey is close to me in its culture. Here, people enjoy their life and do not rush anywhere. I am from a small Siberian town; I grew up next to nature in a calm atmosphere so it is important for me. Besides, people are very friendly here and always ready to help—once, I left my earphones in a store, and an employer caught up with me to give them to me.

How the educational process changed

At Bogazici University, I am taking different courses: in consumer behaviour, corporate governance and finance. But it is harder to get in them. Students don't have a universal curriculum: they choose all the courses themselves. This is why the competition is high in every course. To get into a course, you have to write a motivation letter. This system made me worried that I wouldn't be able to get enough credits for one of the courses. In the end, everything has worked out for the best—now, I am taking six courses which I need.

During the double classes, we do lots of analytical tasks. For instance, in the framework of the course in finance, we analyse types of investments. In the course 'Design Thinking and Innovations', we engage in research but not the ones economists usually engage in. The professors call them 'deep listening': when a researcher has a more personal conversation with a respondent without paying attention to their gender, age and so on. This helps to know people better and understand what problems they have.

There are not so many tests. In general, over a course, we prepare a review of an article, have an interim assignment and take an exam. I already know these formats thanks to HSE University. An interim assignment checks the knowledge the student received over half of the course. A review of an article checks the skill of analysing scientific resources.

I have been studying only for a month so I haven't handed in any works yet. But from other students' experience, I know that an interim assignment is usually a test. If you learn the theory, getting a good grade is not a problem.

What you like about the foreign university

Of course, the network! When I went to Istanbul, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to find friends. It turned out—in vain! Here, all the students are a big friend group. Because everyone is in the same situation: study together and face the same difficulties. You can always ask others for help or simply invite someone to lunch.

Of course, I now have my own small friends group—mostly, of my course-mates. We already have a tradition—go to each other's places for dinner. Recently, we went to our Italian friend: he cooked pasta and a very tasty pie. A guy from Turkey brought dolma cooked by his mother. Everything was very nice and home-like.

Besides, I am very excited about the campus where I study. Boğaziçi University was opened in Turkey back in 1863. They preserved the atmosphere of the Ivy League universities: old brickwork, chairs and tables made of redwood... In addition, the university is located right above the Bosphorus Strait. Through the windows, you can see huge supply ships passing by and hear them hoot. Inexpressible emotions!

How your daily life is organised

I didn't manage to get a place in a dormitory. I rent a flat with two girls from HSE University. We had contacted each other in advance and agreed to live together when we had seen each other's names in the lists for the mobility. Searching for a flat was the most difficult issue to solve. Usually, accommodation there is rented for six months but our semester is only four.

We turned to an estate agent for help—we contacted them about a month before our arrival when we were still in Russia. After arriving in Istanbul, we rented temporary accommodation for five days. In the meantime, we had a look at the flats selected by our estate agent and chose the one for us. It turned out quite expensive: we paid for four months in advance plus the deposit and the agent's fee. But accommodation is the biggest expense.

We live in a good district called Beşiktaş—it is very calm and quiet.
Our house is located on a mountain, and the nearest stop is at the bottom. It is a quite good daily exercise. We live about five bus stops away from the nearest metro station. The metro ride also takes little time: the university station is practically the next one, and the whole way takes approximately 40 minutes. Buses and metro are more expensive than in St Petersburg. But you can get a student travel card. With the card, one ride costs only one Turkish lira—it's about three roubles.

It is rarely boring in our house—our friends from the university often come over to watch a film or simply talk. Recently, it was our turn to organise a dinner for our friends. We treated them to traditional Russian food. Everyone was thrilled!

I spend my spare time after classes with my friends. We often walk around the city and take a ride by ferry. Sometimes, we go to drink coffee and have Turkish breakfast in great cafes and roam about vintage stores looking for something unique. There are a lot of antique shops next to the Galata Tower.  

Three things that surprised you in the new country

Their readiness to help

Here, even a stranger can stop in the street and spend 15 minutes to help you. My friend and I were in a shop when a Russian-speaking family approached us. They had no money left on their travel card and asked us to help them to refill the balance. We took them to a store but a cashier didn't speak English. But another cashier nearby saw our confusion, at his own initiative came to us and helped to figure things out. I think that's no small feat!

Magnificent architecture

Istanbul has amazing architecture with a rich history! For instance, the Galata Tower offers a breathtaking view of the city. It was built by the Genoese but some buildings have been preserved since the Byzantine Era. One of them is the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque where you can see the Byzantine mosaic. The Byzantine buildings sit side by side with the architecture reminding of the Ottoman Empire. In our area, there is the Dolmabahçe Palace—a luxurious building made for the Ottoman sultans.

In fact, everything here is sovereign: not only architecture but also the Bosphorus Strait. Besides, Istanbul itself is huge—I think it is even bigger than Moscow. The city is divided into two parts—Asian and European. Once, I went to visit my friends on the Asian side, and it took me an hour and a half. It wasn't even the middle of the city!

Amount of animals

There are a lot of animals here but they are not considered stray. The locals believe that cats are free animals which can live wherever they want. The locals build small houses in the streets for them, pour fresh water and bring food. And of course, the cats are constantly petted. Cats and dogs which live on campus are also considered common. All students take care of them.

Three things one has to do during a trip

Make acquaintances everywhere

I have always been sure that I am an introvert but here, I communicate with everyone: with students, professors and just people in the streets and shops. The more I communicate, the more I immerse myself in the cultures of other people and their native countries.

Go everywhere you are invited to

The mobility programme is not only about studies but also about travelling. That is why I never give up an opportunity to go somewhere. We have buddies—these are students who help us to adapt to a new university and organise different trips for us. For instance, I have recently gone to the Princes' Islands. There was a whole programme: first, we rode bikes, then went swimming and at the end climbed a mountain to enjoy the sunset. In fact, the Princes' Islands are amazing, I recommend everyone visiting them. There are no cars but lots of flowers and beautiful houses. We are already planning the trip to Cappadocia for the next weekend.

Tap into the local culture

I have been in Turkey for only a month but I managed to learn a lot about the local culture. For example, during the breaks between work and other things, the locals drink sweet black tea from small cups—it is the best rest for them. In addition, there are Turkish flags everywhere because they really appreciate their country and are very proud of it. As I've already mentioned above, the Turkish people are always ready to help, even strangers.

What the exchange programme gave you

It seems to me that I grew up here really fast because I learned to cope with difficulties myself. As my parents wouldn't come the next day to help me find a flat. I truly appreciate that here, I learned to communicate with other people and become more responsible.

What you dream of now

First of all, to write my thesis and present it well. Besides, to travel a lot. This has been my first time abroad since 2019. I am older now and that's why I look at it differently. It is interesting now not only to simply have a rest and do sightseeing but also to learn the locals better and get to know their culture through communication. I am thinking about my future plans: I want to enrol in a cool master's programme. Maybe, I'll go back to study in Turkey, I really like it here!