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Imagining Istanbul

Hagar Gomaa, Koç University Exchange, Fall 2013

I just completed the last day of my internship after spending the summer as an engineering intern in Lincoln, Nebraska. I cannot believe that in exactly two weeks time I will begin a new adventure and start over again. I will be returning to my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana for two weeks before boarding my flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

A little bit about myself, my name is Hagar Gomaa and I am a junior studying Industrial Engineering. At Northwestern I serve as the Pre-College Initiative Chair for the National Society of Black Engineers and as the Conference Chair for Model Arab League. My only international travel so far has been to Cairo, Egypt to visit my family and relatives.

I knew that I wanted to study abroad and, as an engineering student, I was concerned that I might not have the opportunity to do so. I was delighted when I learned that Northwestern offered an engineering study abroad program in Istanbul. I’m one of those people who secretly love airports; I get a thrill from experiencing new places and meeting new people.  However, I am nervous to leave my friends and family and sad that I will be missing Thanksgiving (best holiday ever), but after hearing about my friends’ study abroad experiences, I know that it will be worth it.

As a Muslim and Arab American, I have always been fascinated by Turkey as a place where secularism and religion intersect. During my time in Istanbul, I hope to have the chance to experience Turkey in a modern sense through university life, as well as explore the history and religious life of the city. One thing I am excited about is observing my religious holiday, Eid al-Adha, in a Muslim country. It will be the first time that I will officially have no school and celebrate my holiday with an entire nation.

I don’t speak a word of Turkish, so I am a bit anxious, but I am sure that in time I will learn. Of course, trying Turkish food is at the top of my list of goals to accomplish. Other goals include learning the history of the Ottoman Empire, expanding my religious knowledge, learning Turkish, and becoming involved with student groups on campus. I also look forward to celebrating my birthday in Turkey.

I have obsessively been checking the Koc University Exchange Facebook group for the past three months. There are exchange students from all over the world who will be studying in Istanbul this Fall, and I find myself in the minority as an American student. I have a flurry of questions running through my mind, but I push them away and try to focus on preparing for my trip. It’s likely that it will take me the next two weeks to pack, so goodbye until then. Istanbul in T-minus 15 days!

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