As I arrived in Istanbul I was more overwhelmed by its size than I previously thought I would be. Official statistics put Istanbul’s population at 13 and a half million, but unofficially the numbers go upwards of 17 million inhabitants! Think of that in comparison to NYC’s 8,244,910 and maybe you will start to empathize with my awe upon arrival.
Not surprisingly, I had to deal with a few delays on my journey, putting me a whole day (over 24 hours, actually) behind schedule. One great thing about being part of a CIEE program is that they schedule airport pick-ups for arriving students; however, there is a catch: they will only pick you up on the established arrival day. That means that for a few unfortunate people such as myself, we had to get taxis from the airport to Koç University. Luckily, there is a line of taxis lined up right as you exit the airport, all more than ready to take you wherever your heart desires.
Save yourself the embarrassment that I went through, and walk to the taxi at the very front of the line! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the middle of 4, 5, maybe 6 taxi drivers all yelling at each other because apparently the taxis leave according to their arrival. So, the first taxi takes the first person coming from the airport, and they drive down the line until they get to(wards) the front. If you’re daring enough, you could go the the third or 4th taxi, but be quick!
Another great thing is everyone in Istanbul knows Koç University. When you get to the taxi, just tell the driver Koç Üniversitesi (coach ew-knee-var-see-teh-see) and they’ll know exactly where to go (or they should!). It shouldn’t cost more than 90 TL (Turkish Lira, pronounced “teh-leh”), or else the driver is trying to cheat you. In that situation, I would just give them 90 and then say ayıp! which means “shameful!” and jet out of there (with your luggage of course). Maybe that’s too aggressive for you, I suppose you’ll learn as you get along in Turkey. :]
I’ve been told by practically everyone that I’ve met in Istanbul that Koç is like the “Harvard of Turkey” because it is arguably the best university (other than possibly Boğaziçi University) in all of Turkey. Also, it is so expensive and a private school that only the smartest and richest students of Turkey are enrolled in it. Keep this in mind: The students are all extremely nice, but also more liberal than the general population of Turkey. The university’s reputation can go a long way; letting people in Istanbul know that you are an öğrenci (ur-ren-djee, student) at Koç Üniversitesi will get you quite a bit of respect from Turks.
On another note, classes don’t start for another week, so time for some adventures! 😀