Previously the seat of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul today is a vibrant city of over 13 million inhabitants and is considered the cultural and economic heart of Turkey. Explore the food, art and architectural marvels of a cultural crossroads, all while being welcomed by the warm embrace of Turkish hospitality.



Languages Spoken:

Turkish

Education System

EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

The Council of Higher Education (commonly abbreviated as YÖK in Turkish) is responsible for the oversight and accreditation of all institutions offering tertiary education in Turkey. Turkey has signed on to the agreement governing the Bologna Process and as such is currently transitioning its credit structure to more accurately reflect the designated common European framework.

Turkish students wishing to matriculate to a Turkish university are required to take the Undergraduate Placement Examination, a standardized multiple-choice exam which tests students’ verbal and quantitative skills and assigns them a placement number based on their performance.   Entrance to the top universities is fiercely competitive, and students that place in the top percentile are often offered substantial scholarship to attend the university of their choice.

Most classes at universities in Turkey combine larger weekly lectures with smaller follow-up discussion sessions and meet for two to three hours on average per week.  Similar to the U.S. academic system, class attendance and participation are an important factor in student grades.  Periodic tests, quizzes, and class assignments are also quite common.

In Turkey the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program.

Turkish universities currently grade on a one-hundred point scale similar to the United States system.  Accordingly grade point averages are assessed on a four point scale with 4.0 being the highest.

Visa and Residency

STUDENT VISA


Student visas must be obtained from a Turkish Consulate, nearest to your place of permanent residence. Student visas cannot be obtained within Turkey. You must take, or mail, a copy of your Official Letter of Acceptance from your host school and a completed visa application form to the Turkish Consulate. The consulate will provide you with an application form upon request or you can download a copy from the Embassy or Consulate website. You will also be required to pay a visa application fee the amount of which varies by country. You should apply to the Turkish Consulate as soon as you receive a copy of your acceptance letter. The process of issuing a student visa for Turkey generally takes around 6 weeks.

Below is a list of the documents needed to obtain a Turkish student visa:

  1. Valid travel document (passport) (It should be valid at least three months longer than the expiry date of the requested education visa),
  2. Completed education visa application form
  3. One passport size photograph (It should be affixed on the top left side of the visa application form)
  4. An official acceptance letter from the Turkish university,
  5. Non-refundable education visa processing fee (the amount may differ depending on the nationality)
  6. If you are applying from a country other than your country of citizenship, then you should also submit a valid residence permit or any document that proves you are legally staying in that country
  7. Students studying in Turkey must purchase Turkish health insurance, approximately 23-25 USD, per month in addition to purchasing ISEP Health Insurance prior to departure. This additional insurance is needed to obtain the Turkish Residence Permit.

Note: If the relevant Turkish Embassy/Consulate receives the visa applications by mail or by courier service in exceptional cases, the applicant must send the above mentioned documents and also a pre-paid or self-stamped return envelope (DHL, Fed Ex, Express, UPS, or some sort of insured/certified mail is highly recommended, as the original travel document will be sent inside the return envelope). Please contact with the nearest Turkish Embassy/Consulate to learn whether they receive the applications by mail or not.

RESIDENCE PERMIT


This visa will allow the bearer to enter into Turkey and apply for a residence permit. Education visa holders must apply to the Alien’s Branch of the Local Police Department (Emniyet Mudurlugu Yabancilar Subesi) within 30 days upon their arrival to Turkey to obtain a residence permit. Once you are granted the residence permit, you can enter Turkey multiple times for as long as your residence permit is valid.

Culture

ABOUT TURKEY

The Anatolian Peninsula is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions on earth.   Significant archeological evidence of past civilizations from Neolithic settlements to Greek, Roman, and Byzantine ruins dot what is now modern day Turkey’s landscape and inform the country’s present culture in ways not immediately perceived by the outside visitor.  Dominance by Turkic peoples is a fairly recent phenomenon when compared with the lengthy history of this land, and as such Turkish identity is a complex mix of collective experiences and cultures. 

It is this combination of ancient and modern, European and Asian, progressive and conservative that has fascinated travelers to this region for millennia.  Turkey has always been a destination that manages to feel both familiar and foreign.

CUSTOMS

A cornerstone of Turkish culture is the principal of hospitality.  Visitors to Turkey are often welcomed as part of an extended family and invitations to private homes for meals or celebrations are quite common.  If invited to visit a Turkish home it is customary to bring a small gift of appreciation.   Sweets and flowers are always acceptable; alcohol should only be given if the visitor knows for certain that the entire family imbibes.  Be prepared to take off your shoes if entering a home as this is common practice in Turkey even if just visiting a neighbor.

Even though you may see friends greet each other by kissing on the cheek and male friends may walk hand in hand or arm in arm, public displays of affection between the opposite sexes are not as common or as widely accepted in Turkey as in many other European countries.  

Turkey's residents have a great deal of national pride, and insulting the Turkish nation, national flag, or founder Atatürk is both rude and illegal.  It is also illegal to photograph governmental buildings and military instillations so when in doubt ask for permission from the nearest person of authority.

 Turkish culture also places a high value on respect for elders. It is considered proper to make your greetings from eldest to youngest, regardless of how well you know each person.

RELIGION

Although the population is officially 97% Muslim, Turkey is a staunchly secular society and supports no official religion, nor cooperation between church and state.  Tourists visiting Turkey are unlikely to see much evidence that they are in a Muslim country, except for the call to prayer, which can be heard 5 times a day. Indeed whilst in Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir (Turkey’s three largest cities) one would be hard-pressed to find civic concessions for religion. 

Ramadan (Ramazan)

The most widely observed Muslim holiday is Ramadan, which celebrates the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Ramadan is in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and requires participating Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, pray, show self-restraint, and perform good deeds for the less fortunate. Many Turks fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.

If you're in Turkey during Ramadan, it's polite to refrain from eating and drinking in public during daylight hours. Rather, do it inside a restaurant, tea house, cafe or other private or semi-private area. Muslim restaurant and cafe staff, who may be fasting themselves, will understand if you are non-Muslim and will be happy to serve you. Some eateries may cover their windows with curtains so as not to distract those fasting by the sight of others eating.

When studying in Turkey during Ramadan, students will frequently experience Iftar celebrations, or the breaking of the fast that begins at sunset. Elaborate dinners are held later in the evening. In many cities throughout Turkey a carnival atmosphere prevails with temporary booths selling religious books and paraphernalia, traditional snacks and stuff for the kids. The end of the fast is marked with the Seker Bayrami celebrated at the end of Ramadan.

LANGUAGE

The official language of the country is Turkish. Turkish is written with the Latin alphabet with the addition of six different characters. Turkish is completely phonetic - each letter of the alphabet has only one sound-, so each word sounds exactly how it is written.

English has replaced French and German as the chief secondary language taught in school and is becoming more widespread. English is widely spoken and understood by many throughout Turkey. German, Russian and French are also spoken especially in popular holiday destinations.

FOOD

Turkish cuisine is as rich and diverse as the various cultural influences that have contributed to its larder.  Unlike Western Europe breakfast is generally a rather large affair, typically consisting of fresh cheese, butter, bread, fruit preserves, honey, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and tea.

Lunch will typically consist of traditional stews, soups, roast meats, or stuffed vegetables.  Yogurt is a common accompaniment to meat dishes and is often served in a diluted beverage form called ayran.

Dinner may consist of more of the same types of dishes although kebabs of different meats or fish and various small plates known as meze are more typical dinners if eating out at a restaurant.

Turkey also has a thriving fast food culture with its most famous export being the doner kebab.  Pide, a type of Turkish pizza is also a very common fast food in Turkey as well as the similar meat based lahmacun.

Turkish coffee is strong and short and can be sweetened according to the drinker’s taste.  It is typically served in the mid-morning as a pick me up but can be taken throughout the day.  And while Turkish coffee is very common many will also sip apple tea from tiny specially shaped tea cups throughout the day.

TIPPING

Tips (gratuities) are generally modest in Turkey (a few percent of the price paid). In restaurants small tips (5% to 10%) are not necessary, but are appreciated in inexpensive establishments. In luxury restaurants, tip 10% to 15%. For taxi drivers, don't tip, just round the fare upwards to a convenient amount.

Daily Life

ABOUT TURKEY

The Anatolian Peninsula is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions on earth.   Significant archeological evidence of past civilizations from Neolithic settlements to Greek, Roman, and Byzantine ruins dot what is now modern day Turkey’s landscape and inform the country’s present culture in ways not immediately perceived by the outside visitor.  Dominance by Turkic peoples is a fairly recent phenomenon when compared with the lengthy history of this land, and as such Turkish identity is a complex mix of collective experiences and cultures. 

It is this combination of ancient and modern, European and Asian, progressive and conservative that has fascinated travelers to this region for millennia.  Turkey has always been a destination that manages to feel both familiar and foreign.

CUSTOMS

A cornerstone of Turkish culture is the principal of hospitality.  Visitors to Turkey are often welcomed as part of an extended family and invitations to private homes for meals or celebrations are quite common.  If invited to visit a Turkish home it is customary to bring a small gift of appreciation.   Sweets and flowers are always acceptable; alcohol should only be given if the visitor knows for certain that the entire family imbibes.  Be prepared to take off your shoes if entering a home as this is common practice in Turkey even if just visiting a neighbor.

Even though you may see friends greet each other by kissing on the cheek and male friends may walk hand in hand or arm in arm, public displays of affection between the opposite sexes are not as common or as widely accepted in Turkey as in many other European countries.  

Turkey's residents have a great deal of national pride, and insulting the Turkish nation, national flag, or founder Atatürk is both rude and illegal.  It is also illegal to photograph governmental buildings and military instillations so when in doubt ask for permission from the nearest person of authority.

 Turkish culture also places a high value on respect for elders. It is considered proper to make your greetings from eldest to youngest, regardless of how well you know each person.

RELIGION

Although the population is officially 97% Muslim, Turkey is a staunchly secular society and supports no official religion, nor cooperation between church and state.  Tourists visiting Turkey are unlikely to see much evidence that they are in a Muslim country, except for the call to prayer, which can be heard 5 times a day. Indeed whilst in Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir (Turkey’s three largest cities) one would be hard-pressed to find civic concessions for religion. 

Ramadan (Ramazan)

The most widely observed Muslim holiday is Ramadan, which celebrates the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Ramadan is in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and requires participating Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, pray, show self-restraint, and perform good deeds for the less fortunate. Many Turks fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.

If you're in Turkey during Ramadan, it's polite to refrain from eating and drinking in public during daylight hours. Rather, do it inside a restaurant, tea house, cafe or other private or semi-private area. Muslim restaurant and cafe staff, who may be fasting themselves, will understand if you are non-Muslim and will be happy to serve you. Some eateries may cover their windows with curtains so as not to distract those fasting by the sight of others eating.

When studying in Turkey during Ramadan, students will frequently experience Iftar celebrations, or the breaking of the fast that begins at sunset. Elaborate dinners are held later in the evening. In many cities throughout Turkey a carnival atmosphere prevails with temporary booths selling religious books and paraphernalia, traditional snacks and stuff for the kids. The end of the fast is marked with the Seker Bayrami celebrated at the end of Ramadan.

LANGUAGE

The official language of the country is Turkish. Turkish is written with the Latin alphabet with the addition of six different characters. Turkish is completely phonetic - each letter of the alphabet has only one sound-, so each word sounds exactly how it is written.

English has replaced French and German as the chief secondary language taught in school and is becoming more widespread. English is widely spoken and understood by many throughout Turkey. German, Russian and French are also spoken especially in popular holiday destinations.

FOOD

Turkish cuisine is as rich and diverse as the various cultural influences that have contributed to its larder.  Unlike Western Europe breakfast is generally a rather large affair, typically consisting of fresh cheese, butter, bread, fruit preserves, honey, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and tea.

Lunch will typically consist of traditional stews, soups, roast meats, or stuffed vegetables.  Yogurt is a common accompaniment to meat dishes and is often served in a diluted beverage form called ayran.

Dinner may consist of more of the same types of dishes although kebabs of different meats or fish and various small plates known as meze are more typical dinners if eating out at a restaurant.

Turkey also has a thriving fast food culture with its most famous export being the doner kebab.  Pide, a type of Turkish pizza is also a very common fast food in Turkey as well as the similar meat based lahmacun.

Turkish coffee is strong and short and can be sweetened according to the drinker’s taste.  It is typically served in the mid-morning as a pick me up but can be taken throughout the day.  And while Turkish coffee is very common many will also sip apple tea from tiny specially shaped tea cups throughout the day.

TIPPING

Tips (gratuities) are generally modest in Turkey (a few percent of the price paid). In restaurants small tips (5% to 10%) are not necessary, but are appreciated in inexpensive establishments. In luxury restaurants, tip 10% to 15%. For taxi drivers, don't tip, just round the fare upwards to a convenient amount.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Turkey’s currency is the Yeni Türk Lirası (New Turkish Lira; YTL). Lira comes in coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş and a 1 lira coin, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lira.

Over the past ten years Turkey’s economy has steadily improved and inflation, which was once rampant, has for the most part ceased to be a problem.   No longer a bargain destination, Turkey still offers value for the savvy shopper.  Overall, costs are lowest in eastern Anatolia.  Prices are highest in İstanbul, İzmir, Ankara and the touristy coastal cities and towns.   

BANKS AND ATMS

A wide range of banks and ATMs are available in Turkey and can be found throughout the city. Most ATM cards with a visa logo can be used to make withdrawals for a small fee from most major US banks. Otherwise, cash is preferred in souks and small retail outlets where most cahiers will ask for correct change (usually preferring coins). Students should begin the habit of collecting small bills to buy things at small shopping venues or in taxis.

OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT

In order to open a bank account in Turkey you will need to first obtain a Turkish Tax Number (Vergi Numerası).  Do this by visiting the local Finance Department (Maliye).  Once there you will be asked to supply a copy of your passport and residence permit.  These documents will also be requested when opening an account.  Interest rates and fees vary by institution.  As with all transactions it is best to ask questions up front and request help if something is unclear.

Most banks operate between 9:00 and 17:00 and remain open during lunch hours.  The largest banks in Turkey are Yapı Kredi Bankası-Koçbank, Türikiye İş Bankası (Isbank), Akbank and Garanti Bankası.  You are practically guaranteed to find a branch of one of these banks near where you are living, no matter what part of Turkey you call home.

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