Accepting a Turkish Way of Life

Amber poses in a castle in Istanbul, where she is completing an internship with AIESEC.

Written by  April 3, 2013

How to let go of "normal."

This is my first experience going abroad and also travelling alone. I have always been with my friends and family when travelling on vacation—this is the first time I have left my comfort zone. It was a tough decision to make choosing a project and country to go abroad with AIESEC but it was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

I decided to choose a project regarding social issues in Istanbul, Turkey. I knew nothing of the culture, language, food, or the people. I chose it because it would be a unique journey and one where I had the opportunity to make a small difference in the world. The first week in Istanbul was probably the most shocking and amazing week in my life. I was experiencing so much outside of what I am used to and having to deal with everything on my own.

The AIESEC team in Istanbul is like a family that opens their home and hearts to you but it cannot prepare you for the differences between Turkey and Canada. I always thought I was very open-minded and like to explore new places. Since being here, I have realized Canada is a very different place from the rest of the world and I have not always valued certain aspects of my culture as much as I should. But that being said, it is also amazing to swim your way and struggle in another culture and be able to enjoy all is aspects.

I have begun to let go of what I hold as normal and trying new things like foods, events and also everyday activities like crossing the road. Crossing the road in Istanbul makes me break a little part of my Canadian soul by going against the rules and crossing the street whenever you have a chance to make it alive! It was honestly the scariest moment I have ever had in another country on my first day in Istanbul and my host takes my hand and pulls me through eight lanes of very busy traffic. The best part of doing that every day to get anywhere on time was that I let go of what I consider normal and just accepted the Turkish way of life around me and accepting it allowed me to begin my adventure in Istanbul.

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Amber Birch

Amber is a fourth-year marketing student from Vancouver, Canada. Amber is currently living abroad for her second internship with AIESEC in Krakow, Poland after finishing her first match with AIESEC Istanbul.

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