I was born and grew up in the city of Kayseri but my family is from Giresun, a Turkish city by the Black Sea.
Since my high school years, I have been aware that my friends, who were older than me, were traveling the world using their student status, but I was not totally informed about how this process works. This was making me so excited and I admired them, because the world seemed so big and unreachable to me. During my 1st year here at AGU, I attended a conference on the Erasmus+ program and it gave me the courage to study abroad.
I wanted to take part in an exchange program, because I strongly believe that the years following university will never be the same for the rest of our lives (let’s assume we have years ahead of us after university :). In my opinion, people can only identify their character by pushing themselves in different environments, situations or cultures. I think traveling is the easiest and most fun way to do so. You can see your strengths and weaknesses during this kind of experience. So I saw the Erasmus Student Exchange Program as an opportunity for me to discover myself and have an idea about living abroad.
I was already nervous because of sanctioning visa processes with the embassy. It took 60 days for them to approve my visa application. I was so nervous that I personally gave up with it and did not expect to spend the semester at CTU in Czech Republic. But they finally accepted it. Then I started to be nervous because I just realized that I was about to spend 5 months abroad. 😉
I cannot possibly make you understand how I felt when I first arrived in Prague. I was told and taught that the western culture is different from ours in many ways. But I had not witnessed this difference myself. I could not always attend the activities of the International Student Club because there was a bit too much… Czech Beer! As the consumers from all around Europe say, the best beer with the best price is in Czech Republic, which is maybe the consequence of the foundation of beer culture in Czech Republic. During the first month I kept wondering how I would spend 5 months here, as I couldn’t even make any friends. But as I spent time in the city and discovered the beauty of Prague, I found a lot of things to do there.
Czech Technical University – National Library
The most exciting thing I experienced during my first month there was the moment I learned that my friends were coming to see me in Prague. It was very relieving at that time. We spent 4 days visiting Europe. 2 of which were in Prague.
Budapest, Vienna and Prague (from top-left)
In general view, classes at CTU were interesting and easier than in AGU. What I liked about the final exams was that we had 3 chances to pass them. There were 3 available slots for each exam and we could choose either one of them or try our best in each of them (I attended at least 2 of each exam to be able to pass :/).
Relations with professors were better than I would expect. I would expect them to ignore us and not spend too much time with us since we are temporary Erasmus students. But for example, in the first Signals and Systems class, the professor showed us a project he had done and I liked it. When I went back to my room after the class, I wrote him an email to know whether he would help me do a similar project during my student exchange period and he responded with very long email saying that he was totally okay with that J He helped me for 1-2 months and suggested some readings but I failed because I could not fully focus on the project while being in an Erasmus environment, you know (too much fun around) 🙂
I took 2 inspiring classes there, which shaped my future goal. One was Solar Energy Applications Systems and the other one was MATLAB. The first one made me certain that I wanted to work on renewable energy resources in my future and the other one taught me a perfect tool for engineering, which is Matlab programming, which I will use a lot in the course of my academic career.
I had a lot of time to discover the city and spend time in local places. By spending time in streets of a city, I believe, people get emotional connections with the city. I experienced it in the USA as well before so whenever I was free, I hit the streets randomly.
Charles Bridge, St.Vitus Cathedral and St.George Basilica
From street singer to island singer 🙂 (He won a place in Erasmus 30th year album with this photo!)
Me trolling the people as they were waiting for Astronomical Clock to see hourly observation (I’m not in the photo 🙂
Easter Bazaar in the city and Prague Castle
Me kicking the Dancing House 🙂
Sigmund Freud watching out for the people and St.Vitus Cathedral over Charles Bridge
Different types of Cemeteries in Prague.
What I like most while traveling is to see cemeteries and religious places of the local people because those are where people disconnect themselves from the world (in practice). These are the places that are most about humans’ selves and at the same time that are not about the world. So I spent a lot of time in different types of cathedrals, basilicas or cemeteries.
Thanks to our Turkish green passport (service) and some money saving, we were able to visit many countries in Europe. We had the chance to go to Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany, Italy and France. Transnational traveling in Europe is as fast as to travel between cities in Turkey. We traveled to Slovakia, Hungary and Austria within only 3 days.
For someone like me, coming from a Turkish culture, I could unfortunately not fully appreciate Czech cuisine 😦 I particularly regretted that many dishes were made of pork, which I do not eat, so I tried to find beef, but could not like the way they prepare it due to our strong Turkish Kebap culture 🙂
Rabbit meat and fishes with great (!) presentations
Most tourism websites advise you to visit places such as St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and so on. In my opinion, the most beautiful and peaceful places in Prague are Vyšehrad and Letenske Sady (Letna Park). There is a beautiful cathedral with a cemetery and a big park for people in Vyšehrad. You can see them from above. Letna Park is another point to see the city from above, but it is much bigger than Vyšehrad and more crowded. Generally the most beautiful photos of Prague are captured from Letna Park. The last thing to note: if you are a fan of Nazım Hikmet poetry, like me, do not skip the Doctor Faustus House and Café Slavia 😉
Me with closed eyes in Vyšehrad
Prague from Vyšehrad
Prague from Letna Park
Picture of Nazım Hikmet in Café Slavia
As mentioned before in the text, it was not easy for me to get used to living in Prague and to western culture. But, at the end of the day, I do not have even a single regret about my decision to do an Erasmus exchange in Prague. I have learned and witnessed a lot that I could not have here. It was a very precious opportunity for me to see, who I am and change myself accordingly.
My special thanks would go to Zeynep Tuğçe Çiftçibaşı and Nimet Bulut from the AGU Erasmus Office and to Dr. Dooyoung Hah from the Electrical and Electronics Engineering department, who was the Erasmus coordinator of the department. Without their help, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go on exchange.
I would also like to particularly thank my friend Teoman. He always helped and supported me during my abroad experience.
After this kind of abroad experience, I am considering PhD programs abroad more attentively and more excitedly 😉
I am always open to discuss the ideas about the Erasmus with other students 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org