This is our second post in our monthly Q&A sessions with international students turned peerTransfer employees. For our first post, click here.
This time, we interviewed Hilary Dunn from our marketing department. A native American, she studied abroad in Istanbul, Turkey. We sat down with our international woman of mystery last week and here’s what was discussed:
Why did you decide to do an internship in Istanbul, Turkey?
As part of my Global MBA degree, it was required that I complete an internship outside of my home country. I went to school with several people from Turkey and I heard nothing but amazing things about the country. Being an international marketing major, I thought it would be extremely valuable to spend an extended period of time in a country which was so different than anything I had experienced before.
Wow, that had to have been an incredible learning experience. On that note, what did you struggle with the most after arriving in Istanbul?How does one avoid sunburn in Turkey? Two things: sunglasses and swagger.
The language barrier was by far the most challenging of hurdles, it made everything that much more difficult. When I first got to Istanbul, I had no hot water in my apartment so I had to have someone at Mavi call my superintendent. The grocery store had completely different food and the directions were in Turkish so I couldn’t cook anything. Eating out at restaurants was also difficult because the food items were in Turkish. Even though many people spoke English, I was often excluded from conversations since they would naturally speak in their native Turkish. I guess the root frustration was that my lack of Turkish made me dependent on other people – being an independent person this was very difficult for me.
If language was your biggest barrier, how did you overcome it?
Unfortunately, I was only in Turkey for 3 months so I wasn’t able to learn the language as much as I like. With that said, I did learn several words that helped me throughout my time there. I discovered Google Translate a couple weeks after arriving so I often used that to write notes to my superintendent. Looking back at it now, it’s surprising how many times I needed to talk to him! For lunch I would go to a restaurant with a buffet so I could easily see what I was ordering. I learned that many restaurants have English menus so I would always ask for those when possible. When I ate at home, I would just have fresh vegetables, hummus, cheese and crackers. I called my friends and family on Skype whenever I was in need of a good conversation.
Well sounds like you made the best out of a tough, unfamiliar situation. Now that we’ve discussed the difficulties, what was your favorite part of your experience?
Seeing the country! I took advantage of my weekends and I was lucky enough to travel around the country quite a bit. Turkey is absolutely beautiful from the grand palaces and ancient sites in Istanbul to the seaside towns on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas to the natural rock formations and underground cities of Cappadocia. The places were so unique in their own way and the history behind each city and town I visited was unbelievable.
Wow, that definitely sounds like an advantage of going to school abroad. Finally, what words of advice do you have for international students?
Before going to Turkey, someone told me to remember “it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.” That was my mantra the first couple of weeks and it helped me to truly appreciate Turkey for all that it is opposed to judging it for what it is not.
Readers, do you have any tips based on your experiences? Tell us in the comments.