When I had the chance to participate in the Erasmus program again, I immediately decided to go to Istanbul after seeing the website of the Turkish event management organization. Despite receiving negative remarks about traveling to Istanbul alone as a woman, I went with my gut feeling that it was a safe and wonderful place to be. I was right – Istanbul is a beautiful city with some of the kindest people I have ever met. Even though a part of Istanbul is still on the European continent, I experienced a major culture shock. The cultural difference was overwhelming at first, and the traffic was extremely dangerous, especially in my district, Beyoğlu.
My first workday was hard for me. My „mentor“ did not try to incorporate me into the projects of the company or help me feel more comfortable in the workplace. In fact, she ignored me most of the time during my internship. It left me feeling very underappreciated and like a burden to her. After some advice from my teacher, I quickly realized that I had to take the initiative and make friends on my own, which was hard since most of my coworkers did not speak English well. However, I managed to make friends surprisingly quickly and started to ask them if I could help them with their work. I ended up doing some cool stuff, like coming up with creative concepts and doing research on possible performative acts for events. I also did lots of translations for various projects (from German to English) as well as proofreading previously done translations. I was thrilled to finally use my event management diploma and put into practice the things that I had learned. My coworkers were really impressed with my work, and I received amazing feedback. I got along really well with one of my male coworkers, he taught me some turkish, gave me many useful tips and once we even did some turkish coffee cup reading together. However, after a while, I became tired of taking the initiative every day and asking for work. Since I hate feeling unproductive, I started working on my thesis and my graduation project, which was a great way to not get bored. As we say in german “ man weiß nie, wofür es gut ist“.
I spent my free time exploring Istanbul’s sights and enjoying all the great food options. I was very impressed with the rich Turkish culture. I went to museums and enjoyed the beautiful sunset. One time I went to a fancy rooftop bar, which was a once in a lifetime experience. The night view of the skyline of Istanbul was breathtaking, the drinks tasted amazing and of course I also had to try the tradional nargile. My absolute highlight was petting the many cats of Istanbul. They were everywhere – in stores, on the street, and even in restaurants. Many times, my partner on the opposite side of the table was a stray cat sitting on the chair watching me eat and waiting for my leftovers.
After all, I am very glad that my mentor gave me the cold shoulder because I learned that the only person, I could rely on to be comfortable was myself. I learned that nothing is embarrassing if you don’t let it be embarrassing, which was a very important lesson for me. Istanbul is a beautiful city that will forever hold a place in my heart. I will for sure return.
(PS : One day I came into the office, and it looked like a forest. I couldn’t stop laughing at the olive branch, which was my size J )