Sunday, November 29, 2015

Türkiye - take two

Herkese merhaba!

So as you may be able to tell from the title, I have some good news.
To quote myself from the post I made on March 14, 2014 - a day I will never forget - upon hearing of my finalist status for NSLI-Y when I knew I would be going to Turkey for the first time, I'm not one to randomly type in all caps with a boatload of exclamation points, buuut…


Some things just warrant that sort of excitement, I suppose.

This upcoming trip is an idea I've had in mind for quite a long time, pretty much ever since I knew that Gianna and Krista were going to be in Izmir for this year with their NSLI-Y year program. It was always a goal and a dream I've been aspiring towards, whether that was by scrupulously squirreling away a good large chunk of my graduation checks, getting my job here at the Beloit Phonathon, or obsessively safeguarding every single bit of spare change I can find.
And it's finally going to happen. Just typing that, just saying that, just looking at the itinerary from Turkish Airlines in my email, fills me with the purest joy and jittery excitement that I can barely begin to contain.

Though I would be lying in the extreme if I claimed to not have a lot of finalizing left to do in my plans, the rough idea is this: On December 30, after having been home in Ann Arbor for about two weeks for Christmas, I have a (thankfully) direct flight from Chicago to Istanbul. I plan to stay in Istanbul for about three days to do a bit more sightseeing there than I got to the first time around, and spend some time with some AFS connections of mine in that lovely city. Around the 2nd or so of January, I will probably take a ferry from Istanbul to Bursa, that beautiful host city, my third home away from home, where I will be for about a week, visiting my Turkish host family. Around the 10th or so of January, I will head down to Izmir, likely by train or bus, and stay there for about a week to visit Gianna and Krista primarily, but also hopefully meet up with a few Turkish friends I made at the YES end of stay orientation who live in that area. On the 17th of January, I fly back to the States, with only a brief connection in the Istanbul Ataturk Airport to contend with, and will head straight from there back to Beloit to have but a night of rest before I begin the second semester of my freshman year.


Airline/Flight NumberDepartureArrivalCabinClass
   TK000630.Dec.2015 / 21:15
CHICAGO/O'hare Intl. Airport
31.Dec.2015 / 15:55
İSTANBUL/Ataturk Airport
   TK231317.Jan.2016 / 10:40
IZMIR/Adnan Menderes Airport
17.Jan.2016 / 11:55
İSTANBUL/Ataturk Airport
   TK000517.Jan.2016 / 13:40
İSTANBUL/Ataturk Airport
17.Jan.2016 / 17:55
CHICAGO/O'hare Intl. Airport

^My itinerary.

Lately, reflecting on how much I was thrown for a loop on the Spain and France trip last summer by not being used to such a touristy type of trip, I've come to realize the diversity of kinds of trips that exist. The kind of being a tourist in the extreme is certainly one - one that I had not yet experienced before last July. The kind of trip that is not even really a trip at all, the kind of actively immersing oneself in a local culture and language as much as possible, exchange, is one. The kind that is returning home, or to an ancestral place, somewhere that may have been home in the past but is not anymore, or has always been a home away from home - the kind that I usually take to Italy - is one. And I think returning to a host country for an exchange or otherwise longterm immersive experience is definitely one. This will be the first time I experience that kind of trip; to date, I have not returned to either of my host countries; in fact, the only country that I have been to more than once, aside from Italy, is Mexico, where I've been on vacation twice with my family. Therefore I'm sure that this trip is sure to be an interesting experience in that regard.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share.

A more general update on life and what I've been up to will be forthcoming, likely in a few weeks' time once I'll be back home, done with my finals, and hopefully a little surer of the various plans regarding my trip to Turkey.

For now, I thought I'd just share this beautiful news to the world, and the crazy happiness and anticipation I feel associated with it. :)

Kendinize iyi bak! / Take good care, everyone!

^A favorite Turkish song of mine.

Now a few of my favorite places from the first time around - this is the view of Bursa from the Teleferik ride up Uludağ.

And this is the inside of Bursa's beautiful Ulu Cami. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beloit College

Hey, guys!

So since I haven't really discussed this topic much on my blog yet, and since I figured that, having just finished my registration for next semester's classes, it might be a pretty appropriate time to talk about this, I'll tell you all a little more about the quirky little liberal arts college at which I have decided to pursue my undergraduate education, and why I picked it specifically.

So, according to our good friend Wikipedia (figured that might be a good place to start), "Beloit College is a private liberal arts college located in Beloit, Wisconsin. It is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and has an enrollment of roughly 1,300 undergraduate students." What else can I tell you all for some basic background info…? It was founded in 1846. We have our official mascot, the Buccaneer, as well as an unofficial turtle mascot. Our colors are blue and gold. Back in the last century, as I've been learning in my freshman seminar class "Ponder College (in which we've learned how colleges structurally operate in the US and the culture of the liberal arts)," Beloit was well known for the "Beloit plan," a curriculum introduced in 1964 that comprised of three full terms and a "field term" of off-campus study. Although the college no longer operates on the Beloit plan academically, many aspects of it remain, including emphasis on experiential learning, learner agency, and especially the "liberal arts in practice." Some of our stronger fields here include more heavily field-oriented disciplines such as anthropology (Beloit's program is one of the best in the country) and geology, though fields are generally quite strong across disciplines. One of the main draws here for me was that, due to the emphasis on liberal arts in practice, study abroad is more or less ubiquitous, with over half of the student body studying abroad for at least a semester.

I guess that's a good start for general background intro.

The way I personally learned about Beloit was quite random. A college counselor at my school had suggested it to me before, among many other small liberal arts colleges, so I decided to sign up for a Beloit college visit when an admissions representative came to visit my high school. I heard about it, I liked what I saw, and decided to add it to my list of schools to apply to. Seeing as there was no additional writing supplement, I decided to go ahead and submit my application almost immediately for the November 1 Early Action deadline, which at the time was three days away. It was the second college I heard back from and the second to which I was admitted - thankfully with a hefty scholarship deal.

As the college admissions process went on, I had my various ups and downs, successes and disappointments. By March, it was increasingly looking like Beloit would be where I'd end up. I had much less luck in admission to my Regular Decision colleges than my Early Action ones, and the college that until that point had been my top choice, Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, rejected me (which to be honest, I'm still kind of salty about…xD) Overall I'd like to think I handled the disappointment decently well, but that rejection in particular definitely hurt. 

In March, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I did an overnight stay at Beloit, in which I stayed in a dorm with a few hosts and got to audit a few classes the next day as well. I definitely enjoyed the environment and atmosphere, and although I didn't have any sort of crazy epiphanies along the lines of, "I know I belong here and can't see myself going anywhere else," I definitely felt very much at home and in my element in the school's dynamic and international, yet small liberal artsy feel. About ten days after that overnight visit, I committed to Beloit for a number of reasons: Out of the colleges I was admitted to, Beloit was hands down the most affordable option thanks to the generous aid and scholarships I'd been offered; I very much enjoyed my experience during the overnight visit; and I knew that for my undergraduate experience, I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college, as knowing myself I felt like that would be where I would be most comfortable and able to pursue my passions in a compact but dynamic environment. So I committed. And I can safely say that I have not regretted it. 

As I've reflected on in conversation with some friends I've made here, I feel like in a way I benefitted from the fact that I came here without the ideal of the school built up on a pedestal in my mind, from a "this is my top choice dream school and I know that I belong here and can't see myself going anywhere else" type attitude. I'm not saying this in reference to my experience here specifically, as it has been quite positive so far. But I definitely feel that it allows for a bit more wiggle room to deal with any…not necessarily disappointments, per se, but just struggles and flaws that one will realistically encounter, if that makes any kind of sense. 

In terms of academics, as I mentioned before, I've been greatly enjoying myself, and have greatly enjoyed the courses I'm taking this semester, aside from a few occasional annoyances. I have found them (dare I say it?) overall much easier and more manageable than my hellishly hectic and fast-paced high school experience in IB (any WiHi/IB kids, you will be relieved). 
And next semester, I am hugely excited about…

At first glance, I think one could easily write it off as a total nerd schedule, and you know what? I welcome and embrace that. :D My inner language and culture geek is singing, and I am very happy to go to a college that will allow me to pursue my passions to this extent.
I have fulfilled three out of five general domains that one must fulfill before the end of the fourth semester at Beloit already, and when I couldn't get myself into any classes to fulfill the last two, I figured I might as well enjoy myself. And that I will. :P 

In terms of general friendships and connections on campus, I feel pretty good. I'm part of a few different friend groups, which has been nice in giving me chances to connect with different kinds of people and pursue different sorts of activities. In my experience, I haven't found it to be that cliquey - overall, people are pretty down to Earth and accepting in all kinds of different ways. I feel great potential for the friendships I've already formed. :) 

In terms of activities and involvement on campus, I also feel pretty good. I'm involved in "Living the Questions," a spiritual life organization dedicated mainly to philosophical discussion surrounding open-ended questions, Spanish Club, Russian Club, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), and I also recently got a job (my first real job!) at the Phonathon, in which we call alumni to ask for donations. 
There's not much to do in the town of Beloit itself, as it's quite small, and the downtown area, while cute, is more or less limited to a few different shops and restaurants. But thankfully, Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee are all within a pretty manageable distance and easily accessible through discounted bus fares available to Beloit students. I'm hoping to make it out to Madison with a group of friends one of these coming Saturdays. 

That's about all that comes to mind as general background information and outlining of my own experience. 
I hope this was, if not enjoyable or interesting, at least informative reading for some of you all. 
If anyone is interested in Beloit, please feel free to get in touch with me any way you'd like to ask more specific questions!

Take good care, everyone. I'll be back if I have any interesting updates to let you all know about. 
Bye for now! 

^a really catchy Russian song my friend Josh showed me a few weeks ago and that has been stuck in my head ever since 

^the album of an incredibly talented collegiate a cappella group from the University of Pennsylvania I've gotten into lately, called Penn Masala. They do mashups of English pop songs and Bollywood hits, and will make you fall in love with their talent and gorgeous voices. Listen. Do it. 

Campus back in the fall colors.

World Affairs Center (WAC), one of my favorite buildings on campus. 

The college logo.