With food and culture making up such a large part of Kristin Larson’s blog, she could have picked few better places to write than From the Seven Hills of Istanbul.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
And what did you do there, then?
I was studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated in 2009 with degrees in English and International Studies. I was also a member of AIESEC, the international students’ group, and I first came to Turkey as an AIESEC intern during college. I interned at the local municipality office in Bursa, a city a few hours from Istanbul. I fell in love with the country and its people and returned to Bursa again right after graduation to teach English.
How did you end up in Istanbul?
After living and working in Bursa, I decided it was time to take the next step and explore other opportunities in Turkey. I applied to Sabanci University’s Masters of Turkish Studies program and was accepted into the program on a full scholarship. I made the move to Istanbul in 2010 and lived on campus for a year and a half. After a brief return to the U.S., I’m back in Istanbul on a more permanent basis.
Have you lived abroad before?
Nope, just a short study abroad program in Brussels during college.
So what’s so good about Istanbul?
The endless exploring. Every weekend I pick out a new neighborhood to explore or a new restaurant or cafe to try. The possibilities here are endless and I like the feeling of always discovering something new. It keeps me on my toes, and oftentimes, challenges me in unexpected ways.
And what don’t you like?
The traffic, the commute time, and lack of respect for pedestrians. I’m sure that most expats and Turks would say the same. Bureaucratic nonsense is also high on the list – just ask any foreigner who has tried to apply for a residence or work permit.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
That’s a tough question since it comes down to how one defines home, belonging and identity, and that depends on each individual. Overall, I would say I feel like an insider and that really comes down to having a really good social network and support system. Any city can be home if you surround yourself with the right people! In terms of Istanbul, it also helps to find one’s niche and get into a routine – whether that be shopping at the local bazaar and getting to know the farmers or having a favorite cafe that you go to on a regular basis.|
How do you support yourself?
I work at an international law firm doing communications, marketing and social media.
Any advice for wannabe Istanbulites?
My advice is to go with the flow. There will be unexpected surprises at every turn, and the best way to deal with it is to be flexible and view it as a learning experience. The benefits of living in such a vibrant and historic city as Istanbul far outweigh any negatives.
Finally, tell us about something typically Istanbul
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I love Turkish cigkofte. It’s a Turkish dish traditionally made out of raw meat, bulgur, and spices. My favorite, however, is the meatless version with just the bulgur and spices. It’s the perfect snack rolled up in lettuce leaves and sprinkled with a little bit of lemon juice. Refreshing and spicy at the same time!