Author Archives: Shannon

Greetings from Istanbul!

With two flights, one crazy sprint through the Frankfurt International Airport, and 15 hours of travel, I finally made it to Istanbul. But first, my journey began with a long haul flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt on one of the gigantic new Airbus 380s.

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View from the window seat.

After 10 hours, two slightly peculiar meals of German food, and a couple of movies, my Lufthansa flight arrived in Frankfurt slightly ahead of schedule. However, I had to run from one end of a terminal to another and through security again in order to make it to my connecting gate within an hour. Luckily, my connection went off without a hitch and I was able to make my next flight.

For my flight to Istanbul, I soon discovered why it’s wonderful to fly foreign airlines: they still give you food! First, Turkish Airlines passes out Turkish Delights before you even take off. Then, even though the flight was just over three hours long, they served us an entire meal for lunch, with a choice of chicken medallions or beef kebab along with a small salad and dessert.

Once I arrived in Istanbul, however, the arrival terminal was pure chaos. I first bought my visa, then I snuck into the gigantic line that snaked way down the hallway. (I sincerely apologize to those whom I cut in line, but sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.) The line was ridiculously long—I waited 45 minutes before I got through passport control and headed over to baggage claim. With my tight connection and the huge wait at immigration, I was worried that my bag would be lost, but once I saw my purple behemoth suitcase circling around the conveyor belt, I wanted to dance and sing in honor of the lost luggage gods.

I exited the terminal, and after some searching, I was finally able to locate the other people in my pick-up group for a ride to the hotel, where we had dinner and finally got to meet everyone in the program this semester. Overall, there are nine students and three professors—hello, small class sizes!

We’re staying at the Fatih Hotel, which is located near Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul’s textile district. The hotel itself is surrounded by numerous showrooms, ready to sell elaborate ballroom gowns, suits, and wholesale clothing to retailers. After dinner, we wandered around the streets near our hotel, stepping over the trash that was left for pick-up—huge bags of fabric scraps, cigarette buds, and discarded thread.

As we explored near the hotel, the streets were empty, save for the occasional trash pick-up or fast food delivery motorbike from Pizza Hut. It the kind of surreal quality that quite fits when you suddenly find yourself in a foreign country for four months. And so it begins.

A somewhat blurry look at an alleyway in Istanbul's textile district at night

A look at an alleyway in Istanbul’s textile district at night.

Where I’m Going

Since many of my friends and family aren’t quite sure where I’m going in the world, I thought I would provide some background on Alanya, the city that will serve as my second home for the fall.

Alanya is a city on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey that today serves as a major tourist destination for the region, as it is known for its well-preserved castle and idyllic beaches. However, it also has a rich history, with some archaeological evidence that suggests occupation way back in the Paleolithic era, as far back as 20,000 BCE. Here’s an excerpt of the information that I was provided:

Alanya and its surroundings bear the traces of many eastern Mediterranean civilizations – Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Crusader, Ottoman, and more. From the time of Alexander the Great, the port of Alanya was a crucial link in Mediterranean commerce with Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and the Holy Land. Today this long and diverse history intersects with the contemporary landscape of international tourism and with Turkey’s increasing role in the global economy. Alanya’s beaches, ruins, and summer nightlife draw visitors from Western Europe, Britain, Israel, and the former Soviet Union. Its present-day landscape reveals mosques alongside internet cafes, medieval pleasure gardens and Roman ruins amidst orchards cultivated for global markets, and modern shopping malls near the castles and caravanserais of the ancient Silk Road.

However, I won’t actually arrive in Alanya until September 14th! Our program begins with a 2-week orientation tour, where we’ll spend a little over a week in Istanbul and then drive through Turkey, stopping along the way in Iznik, Bursa, Eskisehir, Izmir, Ephesus, and Pamukkale before we arrive at our home base in Alanya.

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I’ll try to post more from the road, depending on internet availability. However, right now my bags packed and it’s off to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt then Istanbul!

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Ready, set, go

I published a new blog post at The Georgetown Study Abroad Blog. Go take a look!

There’s an old dirt racetrack down in Watsonville, Calif., only accessible by the long straight roads that divide berry fields. Every Friday night, crowds flock to the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds, clutching their cowboy hats and hot dogs, to cheer on their favorite drivers. The air quickly becomes thick with the nauseating smell of gasoline and the roar of the engines drowns any attempt at conversation. The track itself is terrifying—a quarter-mile loop covered with slippery mud that flies up to the stands. These aren’t your high-performance, well-oiled NASCAR machines, either. These cars are beat up garage ornaments being put through the most rigorous test—decrepit, declawed beasts with clunky exteriors and engines hand-built to give the most oomph for the least amount of cash…

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Hey, is this thing on?

My daily walk to Pleasure Point

I’ve got about a week to go until my departure date, and I think it’s just finally hitting me what I’ve going to be getting myself into for this next school year.

Holy cow.

Last spring, when I first put this whole plan into action, the idea of spending an entire year in foreign countries remained abstract and tenuous. As an undergraduate at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, I always knew that I would spend some portion of my undergraduate time abroad. In the words of my dean, study abroad is “strongly suggested” and there are few better ways to enrich your study of international affairs than to actually go visit those foreign countries.

And so, after some soul-searching last spring, here’s the plan: For the fall semester, I will study in Alanya, Turkey, at the McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies. Then, in the spring, I’ll spend my semester at Villa le Balze in Fiesole, Italy.

As the days count down, I am ridiculously excited to begin this crazy year of travel. In all honesty, I feel slightly jittery and unprepared. I mean, I’ve got my passport and travel plans and background reading squared away, but the Type-A in me gets anxious with the idea that you can’t completely prepare for everything that living abroad might throw at you. In the meantime, I’m trying to quell that by reading all I can about life in Turkey before I actually arrive in little over a week.

I’ll write in greater detail about my plans for Turkey later on, but I thought this would be a good time to give a run-down about what I’ve been up to this summer, in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

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The view from Healey Lawn, with Copley Hall in the background.

In May, I said goodbye to my beautiful city of Washington, D.C., for the whole next year. Oh Healey Lawn, I already miss you.

This summer, one of the important things for me was to spend time with my family and friends at home in Northern California. Since I go to school on the opposite coast––and would be going to school on the opposite side of the world––I truly cherished spending my time at home. Like getting to see  this goofy guy:

Spotted: One reticent almost-middle schooler hiding in the clothing racks at Target.

Spotted: One reticent almost-middle schooler hiding in the clothing racks at Target.

He just started middle school, and while he’s often embarrassed by me, he’s the coolest kid I know. Case in point: At karaoke, he once told the employee that his name was “C-Dawg” and he was from South Africa before he belted out “God Bless America” to a crowd of Baby Boomer cruisegoers.

In June, my family  took a trip to Alaska, where we stalked Sarah Palin’s house, landed in a ski plane on Mt. McKinley, took an 8-hour bus ride on a dirt road into Denali National Park, got devoured by mosquitoes, and met a handful of the gloriously colorful people who reside in our 49th state.

Back in California, I lived for a good portion of the summer in Santa Cruz, Calif., where I taught SAT and college prep classes in Watsonville and Aptos for high school students through a really cool company called CollegeSpring. (Check them out!)

The rest of my summer included waterskiing in Arkansas, visiting the location of the very first Walmart, interning for a legal-related start-up called MyLawsuit.com, and spending lots of time with my wonderful boyfriend Shawn.

Hi Shawn!

Hi Shawn!

Right now, it’s just a matter of taking care of the last details––you know, procrastinating on packing until the last minute, googling what actually is in a Turkish Delight, and daydreaming about where else I want to travel to during my fall break.