We arrived in Istanbul in the early evening. We went out that night as a group for food and to get our first taste of the city. The food was good, reasonably priced, and very welcome after nothing but some airplane food for the whole day. We ate at a restaurant on a side street close to where we are staying and after dinner, we moved to İstiklal Cd. to see what it was like.
This world-famous street is vibrant and loud. At 11.30. at night, there were thousands of people there and shops were open. It was like a busy Saturday afternoon, rather than midnight. A few of us congregated on the roof and the terrace of the hotel gives us a stunning view over the river into Sultanahmet.
On Sunday we went on the metro, learning about the different lines, as well as the fact that they shut down at midnight. We went to the other side of the river, and looked at the Blue Mosque, which is unfortunately currently undergoing renovations so most of it is closed. We also went into the Haigha Sophia mosque, which is beautiful. Our tutor gave us a run down on its history, which is fascinating.
There were many people picnicking on the landscaped lawns between the mosques, as it is currently Ramadan and we saw the mosques after. Following this we went to the Asian side of Istanbul on the underwater train.
Caoimhe and I went exploring along Istiklal Cd. It was raining so I started practicing some of the Turkish phrases Caoimhe and I had found on YouTube. I purchased an umbrella and ice cream for us in this manner. On Thursday we went with Anthony and Ayten to our new place of work. It is at Demirören Medya. We met many kind and interesting people here and were given a tour of the building and its various media departments.
We even got to see a live broadcast of CNN Türk from the control room, which was interesting to experience. We met our boss, the Director of ‘DiaImages’, Bünyamin Aygün, or more properly Bünyamin Bey. He is the Director of Photography service for Milliyet newspaper. He is a former conflict journalist, with nearly 25 years' experience in the field and well over a dozen published books. He was captured in Syria November 26th, 2013, and regained his freedom after a rescue operation on January 6th, 2014.
I also met Vehbi Bas, or Vehbi Bey. He is a former head of a media company which dealt with the entirety of Asia, the Arab world, and parts of Africa. He has the most wonderful stories. He brought me to a computer and let me create an article for the Associated Press based on a video from the Ukraine that the company had been sent.
Saturday saw our work group of three and Zeynep from work with whom we have become fast friends, take a boat trip across the Bosphorus, and then headed to a covered market near to the Eminönü tram stop. On the way, we discovered a beautiful little shop where the lady does traditional style Turkish paintings. She helped each of us to create a picture of our own which was very enjoyable. We finished our day at Galata Port, which has spectacular views, a beautiful walkway and many restaurants.
On Sunday Caoimhe, Brian and I went for a day out on Istiklal Cd. The weather was lovely and warm. We had blended iced fruit drinks, and decided to go to a traditional Turkish fortune teller. We had an interesting day and really enjoyed ourselves. We started to look for presents for the people back at home, and I used my Turkish more and more fluently. A few of us have taken to sitting up for an hour or so before bed on the terrace. We did so tonight. It is a lovely way to decompress, and forge stronger bonds within the group. I enjoy it very much.
On Tuesday I had to leave at 1pm to go across town with Zeynep and Oğuz -the photojournalist- for an interview led by Bünyamin Bey at the exquisite Artam Antik A. A.Ş, an antiquary in the fashionable suburb of Beşiktaş. I had a very informative afternoon there, and later was given some one-on-one pointers about photography from Bünyamin Bey. The rest of the Erasmus group met with Andreas, who is the teacher who is with us in Istanbul this week.
On Friday, we had a travel article to write, so we went to Sultanahmet, the Yerebatan Sarnlcl, and the Hagia Sophia. We explored and experienced everything we could at each place. The Yerebatan Sarnlcl, or the Basilica Cistern is currently closed for renovations, as are parts of the Hagia Sophia, but that did not hold us back. I volunteered to take the photos of the trip, as well as to edit the combined impressions and insights for each place in the article. There was a lot to see and do, so we decided to hold off on the Grand Bazaar and the Mısır Çarşısı, better known as the Egyptian or Spice Market until tomorrow, so we could immerse ourselves properly.
We admired the 4th century Million Pillar and Obelisk of Theodosius in Sultanahmet Square, before following a European tour group down a side road passed replicas of traditional Ottoman houses, and into the enchanting Aratas Bazaar. From there we went to the Hagia Sophia and then spent nearly an hour trying to find the Yerebatan Sarnlcl- which translates to the Subterranean Palace.
Four of us returned to Sultanahmet for the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, as well as to explore the surrounding streets which are filled with a seemingly endless sea of humanity, culture and living history. It was an incredible experience, but it was also utterly exhausting. I was not entirely fond of the Grand Bazaar, but I very much enjoyed the Mısır Çarşısı. Many of the 85 shops sell very similar blends of teas and spices and herbs. Perfumes, Dried fruits, nuts and traditional sweets like Lokum and Halva, as well as souvenirs are sold here too. I had a very pleasant interaction with an older gentleman in one of the shops who was very much a kindred spirit with regard to tea appreciation. It was an enjoyable interaction, and I would be pleased to meet with him again. Brian took a few photos for me, as there were literally thousands of people there. I used my much-improved Turkish to bargain with the salespeople for each member of my group. I was delighted with my accomplishments.
On Sunday, Kane, Brian, Caoimhe, Kate and I had late lunch together. After we separated, with Caoimhe going to write up her impressions of the places we visited on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile Kate Kane Brian and I went to a shooting range 3 stops away from Şişhane. We had a tremendous amount of fun, and then returned to Taksim Square. Kate and Kane went to Vegan Carnival for dinner before going to see the new Fantastic Beasts film.
My workday is mainly spent working on Associated Press assignments for Vehbi Bey, and visiting the puppies on my lunch break. We went out for dinner in a few slightly further away places like Karakoy, and then walked back to Istiklal/Sishane. We made our own fun by exploring and trying new foods, but there was much of the city we did not get to see which we had wished to experience. The ruins of the City of Troy, for example. We only managed to get up the famous Galata Tower on our last night, even though it was right around the corner from us. We felt we had barely settled into the country, when we had to leave. It was an overall amazing experience, and I will definitely return. There is so many wonderful things to experience here, I am glad I had the privilege to experience what I did.
Day 1: Saturday Today we arrived in Istanbul. The flight took 4.5 hours. We explored the city and we went to a traditional Turkish place to eat, we walked up Istakaal street and looked at all the shops and the roads. We were very impressed by the cities beauty and everything it has to offer.
Day 2: Sunday Today we woke up early and got breakfast, then we met Anthony Finnerty and Furkan who is part of the exchange program, he brought us to the metro station. Furkan helped us buy Metro cards to get around the city and to get us to and from work. Then we all got the metro to see the Asian part of Istanbul, the city is so beautiful and there is so much action. We visited the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and went inside, unfortunately the Blue Mosque was under renovations, but we were still able to see most of it. Furkan told us about the history of the blue mosque and how it was built 406 years ago. It was amazing to see all the beautiful sights. We all loved the culture and history so much. Afterwards we went to eat in a beautiful restaurant with everyone and got the metro home. Day 3: Monday Today was our first day of work experience. We met Anthony and Ayten and we went to Haber Turk our first place of work. They showed us around and gave us badges to get in and out. Then we met the manager and set up our working spaces. We were told to read the news articles that Haber Turk had published and to take notes to try find videos for them to use. I spent the day jotting notes from their articles down. I was also shown an exclusive video from the Ukrainian war which was both interesting and heart-breaking. We left and got dinner in a Turkish restaurant and walked around Taksim for a while before going home.
We decided to go explore Taksim, we went for walks all around and we wanted to sus out a place to go to the Gym and somewhere we could wash our clothes. Afterwards Victoria and I decided to go top up our Metro cards and got the Metro to the other side of Taksim to see the other three Erasmus students and meet them for a Turkish falafel dinner. We then made our way home.
Day 5: We arranged to have lunch and to go explore the Grand Bizarre and go back to the mosques. We met at a cafe with Anthony, Asir and Ayten and discussed our work experience. Day 6. We met Anthony at 11am and we all got the metro, then Ayten picked us all up and brought us to our new work experience which is DIA images. We all met with Bunyamin, he runs the company. They showed us a PowerPoint of everything they do and showed us images they have taken and used. We discussed what we would be doing, our transportation as it took quite a while to get there and our working hours. We were also given a tour of the place which was amazing. We then all got the company transportation home and we got dinner.
Day 7: We went into work for DIA images and we got the company transportation. I was given a video to watch and I had to write a shot list, a little paragraph on what the video was about and I had to write out what the interviewer was saying. The video was on the Russian invasion in Ukraine. We then had lunch and when we came back we did some more work. We then went home. day 8. Saturday Today we didn't have work so we decided to go on a boat trip with Zeynep from Demi Moren. We took the metro to the Bosphorus boat. The boat trip was so beautiful and we were able to see the European and the Asian side of Istanbul. We then took the boat trip back and we walked around some of the smaller marketplaces in the Grande Bizarre. We tried traditional oil painting, we all did one painting with the help of the artist. We then walked around the markets and got some food. Reflection Over the week we took part in many activities including seeing the blue mosque and the Hagia Sophia, the Grand bizarre, Galata port, we went to the Asian side of the city and we saw the bridge.
This week I learned a lot about cinematography and lighting. Our boss is a photojournalist and I’ve learned about different lightings and different angles to take the best picture from. I feel I have learned a lot about adaptability this week, I have picked up a few words of Turkish because it makes communication much easier. I have also had to adapt to being in a new environment, Istanbul is such a busy city so you have to know where you're going or at least look like you know where you're going.
I have learned a lot about teamwork, and confidence, knowing when to speak your mind. This week we took part in a few cultural activities, we tried traditional Turkish oil painting which was very interesting. We also tried Turkish coffee and lots of Turkish foods and restaurants. We got our fortunes told by a Turkish fortune teller. This week settling into the city was definitely a challenge. Also learning how to get around was quite difficult at the start but I think it is much easier now that we are used to it. I have many positive reflections, the city is beautiful, the language interesting and the food is amazing.
Day 9: Sunday Today we decided to rest because it had been a very busy, hectic week. Kate and Kane went away with Furkan for the day and the rest of us went around Istiklal. We tried a new Turkish restaurant and got mango smoothies and we went shopping for more business casual clothes. We also decided to go to a Turkish fortune teller. Then the lady read our fortunes, it was very interesting. Finally we went back to the hotel to prepare for the next day. Day 10: Monday, We got the bus into work. I was given a video of an apartment building in Ukraine near Kiev which was attacked by the Russians. I went through the video and wrote out a shot list for it. Then we went to the cafeteria for lunch. I then looked up news articles and wrote a small paragraph on what was happening in the video. I then sent it to Vehbi who went through it and made some corrections. I find it all very interesting, even though it is very sad. Then we did some more small pieces of work like reading the articles from the company and taking notes before leaving.
Day 11: Tuesday. Today we got the bus into work, I read different news articles and took some notes. Victoria stayed and went out with Bunyamin to do some work. We decided to go to Aksaray to look around and explore. After we had eaten in a restaurant we went home and got ready to meet Andreas who had just flown in. Day 12: Wednesday. Today we got the bus into work, I was given a video of the forest fires in Turkey from last summer. I went through the video and wrote out a shot list. I then researched the story, I looked at the casualties and deaths it caused, I looked at the damages it caused geographically and I researched the cause of the fires. I then wrote a short piece talking about my findings. After I had that finished I sent it into Vehbi.
Day 13: Thursday. Today we got the bus into work in the morning. We met Andreas and discussed our arrangement for getting home. Then we explored Istiklal for a bit, we got food and we decided to go to the gym. Day 14: Friday. We received a text message from Zeynep telling us that today we can visit three tourist sights she would provide us with and we have to take pictures and write an article on each. We went to see the Basilica, the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet. We got the metro in the morning to Sultanahmet and went around the markets, the square and saw all the beautiful pastel houses. Then we went to see the Hagia Sophia which was so beautiful with all the mosaics, designs and colours. We also took note of the four angels on the roof of the Hagia Sophia, only one of them has a face which was rediscovered in 1982 after being hidden behind plaster and walls. Then we went to see the Basilica however it was closed due to reconstruction. We were disappointed about the Basilica because it seems so beautiful, it was used to store water for the palace of Constantinople. We took pictures and videos of everything and then we ate at a beautiful restaurant.
Day 15: Saturday. We decided to visit the Grand Bazaar today. We got the metro in and had some breakfast and then headed off. There were many beautiful clothes and jewelry with great prices! We also went to the spice bazaar which was very beautiful and smelled amazing. The bazaar is said to be the oldest and largest markets in the world, it is full of history and it is such a beautiful structure. Day 16: Sunday Today we had a rest day after a long weekend. We got breakfast and Brian, Kate, Kane and Victoria decided to arrange to go to a shooting range. They headed off and I decided to stay in the hotel and work on the article. I wrote up paragraphs on each of the sights we had seen, The Hagia Sophia, the Basilica and Sultanahmet. I wrote about how they looked, the history and how tourists should definitely go see them.
Reflection: This week was great, we had settled in and were able to enjoy the amazing city a little bit easier. I learned a lot of history about the city, about the Hagia Sophia, the Basilica and Sultanahmet. We were also able to use our Turkish phrases to get us around. We visited the Grand Bazaar, the spice market and Aksaray and were able to look around. For work we were able to watch videos and write about them, do shot lists and take pictures and videos and use them to draft touristic articles. It was very interesting. I learned about writing, taking pictures and different compositions for photos along with transcribing what I experience and see through pictures. I have improved my teamwork skills this week, Sight-seeing and writing articles with Monique and Victoria has helped my improve my skills a lot. Overall, I had an amazing week of sightseeing and experiencing everything I could. I also learned a lot through my work placement with regard to photography
Day 17: Monday. Today we got the bus into work as usual. We got some coffee in the coffee shop on site and then we made our way to work. The company was looking at buying new cameras and they were having a viewing of them so we got to look at them and play around with them. They were very interesting, extremely high quality lenses and cameras. Then we left work at 6:15 and got dinner with Zeynep from work. Day 18. Tuesday Today we got the bus into work. Victoria and I went shopping for thank you presents for everyone who was so kind to us in DIA Images. We got some nice soaps for Zeynep from her favourite place. We also saw a beautiful sunset!
hen we headed back to the hotel to meet Sophie who had just flown in and we all went out for food. I asked asked Bunyamin my boss if it was okay for me to join the other 3 students on their documentary. Day 19: Wednesday.Today I met Kate, Kane and Brian for coffee and then we met Sophia and headed off to get some footage for their documentary. They first wanted to get some B role footage of people walking around and doing things like topping up their metro card. We got some footage in the tram station and then we got the tram to Karakoy. We got some food and then we headed back to the hotel as Sophie had to meet Asir and we had to meet Furkan because he had arranged to bring his drone and his good camera.
We went to a mosque I had never been to before called Suleymaniye which was beautiful. Furkan made us try beans because apparently the area was known for their beans. We got lots of footage and used the drone to get some amazing videos of the city during the sunset. Then we went for some food at Iftar as Furkan had to eat. We went to the Hagia Sophia and the blue mosque to get some shots of the outside and finally we took the metro back to Karakoy and walked back to the hotel. Day 20: Thursday. Today we got some coffee in the morning and we got the bus into work. I was given a video of a Ukrainian café that has now converted itself into a meal prep station for Ukrainian soldiers. I was told to make a shot list of the video which was 4 minutes long. I sent it to Zeynep when I had it finished. I was also sent videos on a toy museum and a fish market and I wrote shot lists and short pieces on each of them. Then we went back to the hotel.
We wanted to see Galata tower before we left but we didn’t because the line was very long. Day 21: Friday. Today me and Monique went into work. I wrote a soundbite of an interview. Then we said goodbye to everyone and gave them presents. We got the metro back to sishane. We packed for a while and then Victoria, Brian, Sophie and I went to Galata tower.
It was very beautiful and interesting to see the city from such a high up spot. We all went out for dinner and then went back to the hotel to pack. I went to bed and at 3.00 am we left for the airport. I was very sad to be leaving Istanbul and I will definitely be coming back to experience everything I didn’t get to. Reflection This week was great! I got to look at some extremely high quality cameras, I went around exploring lots of places I hadn't been before and I was able to get a great feel for the city and find my way around. From helping out the other 3 on Wednesday I learned a lot about ISO and about different lightings just from carrying around the camera we brought from GTI. I also saw a drone in action taking pictures and was able to take some pictures on a great Sony camera owned by Furkan.
This trip has been great culturally and also vocationally. I was able to experience the great city of Istanbul, see all of the things it has to offer, taste the great food and meet some very interesting people. I built some amazing bonds and I will definitely return to Istanbul.
After a long day of travel we arrived at our hotel close to the Şişhane area at around 8pm by direct airport transfer. Due to the early start, we decided to freshen up and go for a explore of the surrounding area in search of food. We quickly found the main shopping street Istikal- its late opening surprising us all. It was the norm to the Turks to have clothes shops and cafés open after 9pm. We located some food and all had our first taste of Turkish food. After our meal and some more wandering around the streets we decided to turn in for the night for some much-needed rest.
On Sunday morning after breakfast Caoimhe and I decided to wander around in search of Turkish sims for our phones so that we could navigate the ginormous city and contact the others without needing to search for Wi-Fi when out and about. This decision proved useful straight away as it enabled me to respond to the host Asir-to arrange a time to meet an ex-GTI Erasmus student Furkan. We all met him back at the hotel later in the day. He had a wonderful itinerary planned for us- we went to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. We also took the underground to the Asian side of Istanbul, which marked my first time ever leaving Europe. Furkan was a lovely and knowledgeable guide who gave up his whole Sunday to show us around.
The following morning, we met a woman who worked at the school with Asir, in Taksim square who showed us first to the other group’s placement and then to ours. We had hopes we could see the news station but due to covid restrictions they could only allow their interns into the studio. We took the metro in order to get to our placement. We committed the route to memory in order to avoid getting lost in the early morning metro rush. Upon arrival at the video production company, we met Demet and Funda who introduced themselves and obtained our contact details. They introduced us to two Turkish Canadian sisters- Deniz and Selen who we would be working with. Brian, Kane and I had an informal meeting with them where they talked us through what their whole process is from pre-production to final product.
We returned before 10 the next day ready for work. After some coffee and chats, we were told to source stock footage for their main project- a big hospital commercial. This was to aid them in the selection process so they wouldn’t go over budget by filming something such as a plane landing. We spent the whole day doing our assigned task.
We had the opportunity to listen in on some call-backs when Selen was doing them from zoom in the same room as us. Some of the actors required for the commercial were English speaking so we managed to get some insight into the process. We also learned some things about how they assemble options for outfit choices for the actors and how they present these in a document for the client. The team puts a lot of work into this in order to make life easy for the client.
On the Friday, four of us decided to join a gym together in order to keep on top of our fitness throughout our travels. During this week I learned how to make sure I always asked what needed to be done instead of waiting for work to be assigned to me. I improved my confidence in my sense of direction by being able to navigate to and from work.
The second week started strong with myself and Kane going on an all-day adventure with Furkan. We met Furkan at the metro in Taksim Square at 10am sharp. We headed off to explore Besiktas, a neighbourhood on the European side of the Bosphorous and Dolmabahce Palace, which served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Everything in the palace was grand, the Emperor had multiple rooms for his many wives but what stuck out to me is that everyone seemed to have so much of their own space that it in fact seemed like it would be very lonely living there. Also comfort didn’t seem to be a priority, while everything looked spectacular, I would prefer one cosy living room among friends and family. Our plan was to visit Princess Islands but due to missing the next ferry we decided to give it a miss, we took the ferry to the Asian side instead. Furkan generously let both Kane and I experiment with his expensive camera with the utmost fate in our ability not to drop it. Furkan even rented a car off the street with an application on his phone and we experienced Istanbul from the car-a terrifying yet exhilarating experience. We ended the wonderful day with Furkan bringing us to a lovely vegan restaurant, as both Kane and I are vegan, to break his fast. Furkan had remembered that we found it hard to find something to eat on our previous adventure and went out of his way to bring us to one of his favourite vegan restaurants.
With Monday came the return to work. We were informed that since the big hospital commercial would be shooting soon we would join a different team for the week despite our scheduled set day which we could decide on between ourselves. We joined the second team in the afternoon and made our introductions. This team was working on a commercial for a real estate project. We became excited when they asked us to search for examples of camera movements in commercials via a certain website and download examples for them to use.
The next day I was airdropped three folders and was asked to transfer names from the picture to a word document. I shared some of these with Brian via his hard drive and split the work between us. This proved a little challenging due to not having a Turkish keyboard on my laptop but I persevered and managed to get all the names spelled correctly by sourcing an online Turkish alphabet and copy and pasting the letters into my document.
The Wednesday was my assigned set day so I set out earlier than the two others, to the same metro station near the office in order to catch a bus which I had been informed of its location and the drivers number plate and name. This bus took me directly to the hospital where the shoot was taking place and I found the women from the production company and they gave me a brief crash course in the Turkish language. The most useful word for me was “Stajyer” meaning intern. They assigned me the task of taking backstage photos of the actors getting ready and the filming process so they could use them on their social media. I took some photos of the actresses/actors getting their hair and makeup done. One women in particular seemed to enjoy getting her photos taken and asked me to take her WhatsApp details so I could send the photos to her. One of the makeup artists also asked me to airdrop her photos including her so she could use them on her social media pages.
This was my first experience on a real film set, not a student production and it was very eye-opening. There was so much going on all at once, everyone had their role to play and this resulted in the filming process going well. Everyone worked very long hours without complaint. However, it was easy to feel like you were in the way and not exactly sure where you should be standing. You want to be curious but you don’t want to disrupt anyone from doing their job and hold up the shoot. In the end, I enjoyed my day and it was definitely interesting to see everyone in action.
This week I really saw us come together as a group, I learned a lot from the other students- I always tried to be curious. I was asking Kane for help with workouts and form at the gym and for film/photography advice. I tried to maximise my free time and use it as a learning opportunity.
We decided Monday would be the exciting start of our new passion project. We arrived at work before 10 as usual and went straight up to our real estate team. We had a nice conversation about the difference between the Turkish and the Irish in relation to video production companies. Nearing the late afternoon we decided to ask if we could film our own video that would count as the work towards the rest of our Erasmus days.
We decided to use the equipment given to us by GTI to direct/produce own video with our limited remaining time in Istanbul. We spent the rest of Monday discussing what our video would look like and what we wanted included in it. With Tuesday came big hope and aspirations. It was our first day of proper filming so we made sure to charge all our equipment in the morning as we made plans for the day. Kane contacted an English actor, Nick, who he met on his assigned set day on the previous Saturday who agreed to do an interview with us on the same day. He told us there were professional lights at his agent’s studio which we could use for the interview. We met up with Nick in Taksim and then headed off to his agent’s studio together. I didn’t know much about the lighting setup for an interview so Kane took the lead with this task. I gave Nick his microphone and instructed him how to use it and soon enough the interview was underway. We managed to secure an insightful interview on what living as an expat in Istanbul looks like and more specifically living as a foreign actor in Istanbul. This was a great start to the shooting of our own video and we could have not done it without Kane’s successful networking on his set day which the company had invited us too. People in the film/tv industry always talk about the importance of networking but I haven’t really seen it in action before now. It’s amazing how meeting one right person on set and being open to talking to people can result in such an important interview. Our day didn’t stop after the interview. After a rest and dinner break, Kane and I returned to the Karaköy area to do some night shooting of the boats and some beautiful umbrellas we saw the previous night that I wanted to film. We were passionate about this video and worked well together as a team.
Wednesday was another long and fun day of filming. We began filming close to the hotel area. I had contacted Furkan earlier in the week asking if he wanted to help us with our video as I thought it might be something he would be interested in as he is also a film student. He confirmed the times for early to mid-afternoon so we decided to stick around the Taksim/ Şişhane area before heading further afield to do more shooting after we all met up. In the morning/afternoon we got some footage of the busy Taksim streets that could be used for a timelapse. With Furkan, we visited a mosque, Suleiman, and he confirmed we could film inside the mosque. Furkan also let us borrow his camera equipment again and he even flew his drone.
On Thursday, Kane and I finally went up Galata tower, as Brian got some footage of the surrounding areas. It was nice to see the city from above and finally make it up the tower after talking about going up for so long. We made sure to make the most of the experience as we paid 100 lira each just to go up. Friday was a hectic day. Furkan contacted me in the morning asking what clothing size I was which confused me. I asked for clarification and touchingly he had remembered exactly the hoodie I wanted. Furkan has a custom hoodie business with his best friend which they run from their house. He remembered what hoodie I wanted and was going to make it for me, he also asked Kane what hoodie he wanted. He asked us to meet him on the Asian side-since that is closer to where he lives, to give us the hoodies and for one final meeting. It was going to be a little tight timing wise since I hadn’t started packing but we agreed. I also used this as opportunity to get the ferry footage I wanted for the video, since it seemed pointless to make a ferry trip just for the footage but now we had an excuse to go over there one last time. We had a lovely last day, Furkan brought us to a lovely vegan restaurant again where we got takeaway. I was touched he remembered the exact hoodie I wanted purple-for my favourite colour and the pokémon Eevee since Evie is my middle name. This was a truly magical end to our last night in Istanbul sharing good food among new friends. Furkan was a fantastic guide to us during our time in Istanbul giving up so much of his time in his already packed schedule to show us some warm hospitality like he had received when he was in Galway on his Erasmus.
We really took this last week as an opportunity to explore the city of Istanbul while making our video, truly combining the cultural and work experience aspect of the Erasmus+ programme. Since we are film students planning and filming counts as work for us. Upon my return I have already put together an edit of the metro card video. I put a good number of hours into making a funny instructional video on how to buy a metro card. I will when I have more time sort through the numerous other footage we have of the city and cut through the interview with Nick. We have over 100GB of photos and film so it will of course take some time but I already have a good start and hope to make at least one more video from our Erasmus+ trip. I learned that you pave your own path with what you’re given and yes a certain amount is luck and circumstance but another amount is perseverance and hard work. I learned a lot in my time in Istanbul and am truly grateful for the opportunity.
Our first week in Istanbul was an experience. After the luggage-dragging of airports, we emerged into a different world. We arrived in the evening and the first impression I had of the place related to scale. Everything big everything busy. By the time we got to the hotel, we were tired but felt like exploring so we made our way to Istaklal Street and walked up and down in the night, looking at the various acts and buildings and people. We then had late night dinner on one of the side streets and got a chance to experience Turkish cuisine for the first time. In the next morning, we met Furkan, who was sent by our mentor, and he was an amazing guide. That evening he showed us how to get the Metro and took us to see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia which were beautiful and strange at once. The morning after, we were shown how to get to our placement, 4 metro stops on the M2 and a twenty-five minute walk, and then made our way inside to say hello. We then met the group who we would assist in their project. We worked there every day from 10am until 6pm every day, with roughly an hour given either side for travel. In the evenings, we went for food together as a group and chatted about the place and what was going on. The stray cats and dogs are such a departure from how it is at home. It is in parts charming and upsetting to see animals on the streets.
One cool thing I noted is that I can comfortably wear a t-shirt all day and all night here in April. On the weekend we visited Beshitas and Dohmarbahce Palace, which was the seat of the Ottoman Empire since the mid-19th century and then the residence of President Ataturk for a time. We crossed the Bosphorous and so we officially visited the Asian continent. The week’s biggest challenge was the adjustment: finding your feet in a strange new place. Skills-wise, I learned how to communicate more effectively with people in a professional environment and how navigate a large city with a group, which is an under-appreciated skill in itself. I also encountered Turkish words for the first time, which are nothing like I’ve vocalised before. One of the big positives is the terrace. Having a terrace where you can retreat to in the evenings to relax is lovely.
By now, we have adjusted to our routine in Istanbul. The Irish weather seems to have followed us here though. Each day has been overcast and rainy. Since we have no access to cooking facilities at the hotel, going out every evening for food in the city was a must. Which is not something I can complain about. As a vegan, this had added complications. The Turks love their meat dishes and so on. But I was not alone as another in the group was a vegan and another was a vegetarian. If anything, this became one of the better things about the trip because we became closer over having to find a place to eat online and then make our way there. We found some truly lovely little restaurants this way.
At work we showed up early each day and offered to help with anything, but the language barrier has proved to be challenging in explaining and assigning of tasks to us. At work, they were taking us to set, one at a time, and my turn was on the weekend. I made it there and was asked to take backstage photos. I had four charged camera batteries and spent nearly the entire day on set witnessing the shoot and how it is put together. I also met an English actor who has been living and working in Turkey for the last thirteen years and he was very welcoming. Meeting him was a lucky encounter because his outsider perspective meant that he was able to make sense of so much about Turkish culture that was puzzling to me. Street wisdom style.
The skills I learned and developed this week were mostly to do with organisation, energy management, communications, and finances. Here’s something to know: very often the prices in Turkey are not shown. There is a haggle culture here in many places and very often they will use the language disparity to take advantage of you as a tourist. Due to inflation and currency exchange rates, as a European foreigner, even if you are overcharged, it often still works out cheaper than it would be at home. However, there is a balance to be learned. Getting a reasonable price has to be weighed against the recognition that many Turks are suffering in the current economic climate.
This week, we were re-assigned to a team of freelancers who are working on a commercial for a large corporation. I reached out to the English actor I met on set and we arranged an interview with the hopes of putting together a documentary about the expat experience in Istanbul. We visited Asir’s students and school as well, to see what they do and what they have. Odd to think that a fourteen year old can apply to go to a film/media secondary school where they will specialise in these areas from that age. On the one hand, they have access to fantastic gear and teachers. But on the other hand, its tough to imagine that a teenager that young should commit to something so large so early. Different system I suppose. By this week, I’ve come to truly appreciate the Metro. I love how cheap and efficient it is as a way to travel. And the Metro system includes buses as well as rail so you can move about and transfer and get to where you need to go.
We visited Asir again this week. We also went to the Museum which commemorates the 16th July 2016 coup attempt that took place here. Certain military commanders took over the media tower and certain key bridges and access points in the country. In the end, it was the people who took to the streets to stop them from advancing further. One of the displays in the museum was the shoes from the victims of the event. It was sad, seeing how much personality and character was evident in those shoes, knowing they were killed in that event. The skills I learned this week had much more to do with self-activation and motivation. Getting the interviews arranged and filmed on such short notice was stressful but energising at the same time because I feel like I’ve finally stepped out of making stuff for assignments and grades and actually made something of value and interest.
In a funny place right now where I’d half like to stay longer but half like to see my family again. Its only now that I feel like I’m beginning to understand this place. Up until now I was getting used to it but now I’ve adapted, some of the novelty has been replaced with the comfort and control, knowing how to get around and how my foot and my destiny are mine to do with what I want.
STUDENT: Monique Rigney
We made our way from early Saturday morning by bus to Dublin Airport and landed in Istanbul by about five o’clock that evening.
Day 2 - 3rd April
Sunday we woke early, I walked with the group to Taksım square. Kane, a fellow student and I made our way to the ancient and infamous Turkish baths. We spent most of the afternoon there. I was happy to be in the city. I wanted to be surrounded by people and chaos.
Day 3 - 4th April
We began work at Haberturk National News Corporation.
Day 4 - 5th April
We explored the city. We had to wait for paperwork to be processed by HR.
Day 5 - 6th April
We explored the City and meet with Asir and Anthony for coffee and to talk about where we were going next.
Day 6 - 7th April
We started work with Día Media. We went to the gym. It was a great day and we were treated so well and welcomed by our new placement.
Day 7 - 8th April
We worked most of day. Had coffees with the boss in his office. I went with them to do an interview with a prolific national political commentator and writer, at the HQ of our Media Corporation. We then strolled through the street for Ramadan and then ate at a traditional place and then went to Mosque, had chestnuts and coffees again and home.
Day 8 - 9th April
Met Zeynep, went to boat for Boat trip and then to Grand Bizarre and then to Galaporter, which is a beautiful promenade by the Bhosphorus.
Day 9 - 10th April
Spent the day in Taksım instead of going to Princess Island. I walked around, and I had some lunch at same traditional Turkish place again. I spent some time preparing for the coming days back at the hotel.
Day 10 - 11th April
Back to work. I walked as much as I could the evening before all around Taksim.
The next few days between the 11th 15th were spent mostly going to work. Our routine was that we would get up at approximately 6.30am and then the companies bus service would collect us out on the main street at approx. 8.15. The journey to work would take approximately a half hour, and bring us directly into the building which also had security.
We were at all times treated so well, and had our lunch provided to us by the company. We could go to have coffee also on the grounds which had two coffee shops to choose from, and a beautiful grounds with lots of cats and dogs also, who were all treated as part of the furniture and minded and fed by the employees.
On Tuesday we went over to the Asian side of Istanbul and were able to get a glimpse of a sense of how it was. It felt to me more residential and older than the European side. In the afternoon it was back to work, with helping out with writing articles and translating.
Friday we were tasked with making our way to some of the main sites where The Blue Mosque is situated and the area surrounding it and asked to document it and take pictures of the sites. We took off early and had a great day. It was sunny, more than the rest of the days which were more like home for this time of year in Istanbul. We were able to stroll around, and fit in breakfast, and a stop for a coffee also as we made our way to the main historical sites in the area, as well as browse and see what was on offer and being sold.
That weekend some of the group went to a shooting range. I decided to use my time, which was passing by so quickly, it felt I barely had time to sleep, to go and get my shopping done. I really enjoyed getting around on the transport so easily and feeling at ease in the chaos of the city. I enjoyed trying to haggle and get the best price, as well as seeing all the beautiful things that were for sale.
On Sunday I went hunting to the Grand Bizarre for more gifts. It was a whole new world in terms of retail therapy. It was such a huge and endless assault on the senses. It was so big. I sat a one point and had tea with one of the sellers who invited me to share some tea with him as he spoke excellent English and was a nice person I felt, so I sat and we talked about The Bizarre and Turkey and Ireland and generally just a chat, before I was on my way again.
The third week came and went so fast. I expected it to be so, and so, it was. On the Monday evening after work, we met in the city and shared dinner with our work college Zenep who through our entire time there was so nice and helped to interpret and communicate with the boss. Her English was perfect and she could translate in real time. She was so dynamic and our trip was made much easier in terms of the language barriers, because of her. We went for a typical Turkish meal. I had a traditional lamb dish. We went to a bohemian type down by the Bhosphorus, which was very enjoyable.
On the Tuesday after work, we went to meet Sophia in the evening, who treated us to a beautiful meal at a restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. The next few days were busy, spent getting my suitcases ready and packed, as well as meeting friends we had made at the workplace and saying our farewells and thank you’s and also giving some small gifts to the people who had been so hospitable and welcoming, particularly the boss, and his main assistants, and Zenep, who had all taken time to talk to us and make us feel welcome.
Overall, my trip was super. I feel in love with Istanbul. It was a city I had never pictured and when I got there it was really beautiful as cities go with such a unique and exotic mix of people, and cultures and tastes and smells. It had it all, and it felt at times, all at once, with its frenetic pace. The people in the city were all so warm hearted and good natured and nice to each other as well as to us as visitors. I loved it all and would absolutely love to go back I enjoyed my time there so much. Thank you so much for affording me such a worthwhile culturally rich and enjoyable, and educational experience that I will always remember.
Six students were selected to travel to Istanbul, Turkey from the following course Advanced Cert in Film & Documentary and Film & TV. They travelled on 2nd April and returned on the 23rd April 2022. The following is a short account of their experiences while in Erasmus+ placements.
We arrived in Istanbul and met our driver who brought us to our hotel. Takisim Terrace hotel. It’s a nice place and I found the room ideal for me. The view from the terrace on the roof was absolutely breath taking. We met a former Erasmus participant called Furkan, who brought us Baklava and brought us on a quick sight-seeing tour. He showed us how the metro operates and sorted our travel cards.
Istiklal Street was the first place he brought us which is basically around the corner from the hotel, we went from quiet little side streets to a thronged street bustling with people from all walks of life. Most of the stores were open as if it was daytime and the neon lights glinted off the glass shop fronts. He brought us to the Blue Mosque which is such an amazing sight, the architecture and design for such and old build is stunning. We arrived just before the final prayer as Ramadan had begun on Friday. After our adventuring we decided to have dinner as I think we all forgot to eat given all the sights and sounds we were experiencing. We firstly went to what I thought was a mosque on the opposite side of the bay but it turned out to be a converted library/restaurant. They had however stopped serving food as it was late, he then brought us another place and we all had our first Turkish meal. The next day we were bought to our places of work by our accompanying teacher.
It is such a beautiful city and a busy city. The slightly aggressive tone of the street callers to their business will take some getting used to as will the language. A few others and I began to keep a note book for the Turkish language which sound like, to me, a mix of Arabic, German, and French.
This week started with a renewed interest as we had now got a new project to assist on. We assisted in preparing the cast selection again, this time it was cutting the actors head shots to fit a selection grid in the office allowing the group to easily pick the actors of their choice.
After our meeting with our tutor we decided that Kane, Kate and myself would attempt to do a short student documentary on Istanbul using our own gear, this would also provide us with a better chance to experience even more culture here. We visited Sultanahmet where we found a beautiful relaxing courtyard to relax and have dinner as well as experience the shisha which is an important part of the Turkish culture.
On the Sunday we also got to experience another cultural interest here, firearms. We found a professional indoor range in Şişli called Poligon Club. Some of our team were completely new to the sport and were a little apprehensive but with the guidance of our instructor they quickly got the hang of it. We also visited the famed Spice Markets and Grand Bizaar which were and experience all to themselves. We were warned about how busy it can get in tourist season as the throng of people packed into one place could be little overwhelming in an organised chaos way, but I think we got there just before it got really busy.