Being abroad, whether for a couple weeks or for many months, allows for one to reflect on how they live their life at home. It provides a sense if appreciation for the many things we take for granted in our life while also allowing us to adapt to a different way of life.
Learning how to adapt is what makes studying abroad such a valuable experience and has helped me grow exponentially. That being said, there are some things about living here in Turkey that drive me a little crazy and make me miss being home.
First and foremost, I do not have an oven. Now for some people this may not be a big deal, but I love to cook, and not having an oven for me is like a painter being without a paintbrush. Of course, it has challenged me to expand my stovetop recipe repertoire, but there is something about a dish right out of the oven that I look forward to when I get home.
However, the number one thing I used to take for granted was being able to drink tap water. Although it is not a big deal here, there is nothing worse than waking up in the morning parched and realizing that there is no drinking water in the flat.
Another aspect of Istanbul that makes me appreciate home is the lack of sidewalks. Now, I’ve already mentioned in a previous post about how crazy traffic can be here, so that combined with very few areas to walk safely makes any little errand a bit of an adventure. Of course, I love some adventure in my life, but I’m not looking for an adrenaline rush every time I walk to the grocery store.
Speaking of grocery stores, there are very few places here that resemble a Sprouts or Trader Joe’s (which is where I do most my shopping at home). There is no almond milk, cashew butter, frozen yogurt, and lots of other items I’m used to seeing on the shelves. Obviously you have to make changes to your shopping list when abroad, but that doesn’t make me miss my super special California groceries any less.
City life in general is something that took me awhile to get used to. Although I’ve been living in San Diego for two years, it is quite a mellow city in comparison to Istanbul. Here, it is nearly impossible to find a moment of silence to just sit, reflect, and relax as there are always cars, horns, and people out and about. Even in the middle of the night, I often find myself awakened by a vicious catfight in the courtyard behind my room. In order to escape the chaos, I have to take a bus for over an hour to the Belgrade Forest just outside the city, which is quite different from the ten-minute drive it takes to reach a peaceful beach in San Diego.
Lastly, I’ve realized how little I used to pay attention to simple interactions with other people, like asking for directions or small talk with a person waiting in line. I speak extremely limited Turkish so if I need to ask someone for help, I have to find someone who speaks English, which is not always easy. Although this obstacle doesn’t bother me, sometimes I wish I could express myself effortlessly instead of struggling to get my meaning across. Likewise, none of my friends speak English as their first language, which can make conversations a bit difficult. Again, this is actually a part of cultural exchange that I love, but occasionally I want to be able to speak at a normal pace and include some slang and have people understand exactly what I mean without an extra explanation.
As I said before, learning the skills it takes to adapt to a new place is what makes studying abroad worthwhile. Yet, it has also helped me realize that there are some things about home that I most definitely take for granted. Writing this post has made me think about all the things I can’t wait to get back to. However, for every thing I have thought about that I miss in California, I’ve thought of ten that I will miss when I leave Istanbul. With classes winding down and finals on the horizon, I will surely be embracing every moment I have left in this amazing and epic city.