Erasmus and the Politics of Culture
Millions of students have participated in the Erasmus programme.

“ [...] , I learned, amongst many other things, one very precious lesson -- that if you want to destroy something in this life, be it an acne, a blemish or the human soul, all you need to do is to surround it with thick walls. It will dry up inside. Now we all live in some kind of a social and cultural circle. We all do. We're born into a certain family, nation, class. But if we have no connection whatsoever with the worlds beyond the one we take for granted, then we too run the risk of drying up inside. Our imagination might shrink; our hearts might dwindle, and our humanness might wither if we stay for too long inside our cultural cocoons. Our friends, neighbours, colleagues, family -- if all the people in our inner circle resemble us, it means we are surrounded with our mirror image. “

These words belong to a Turkish author called Elif Shafak, they are part of a TED Talks Speech she gave concerning the Politics of Culture. When trying to summarize my Erasmus experience, these words keep invading my mind, as the soundtrack of my own experience.

Indeed, I did live in a cocoon of beliefs and life expectations myself, a cocoon of understanding and misunderstanding things around me and indeed I have somehow drawn my own comfort zone of pieces I thought might fit the others’ views and in certain measures my ones.

I also felt that cocoon like dissipating in a place where it all changes with 360 degrees in such a short period of time, that I barely had the time to realise how fortunate I was in sensing Turkey. Picking Turkey or any kind of country, I must admit, was not as easy as one might think. 

I was stuck in the middle, between recent domestic political and economic events in Turkey and the cultural heritage of Turkey that on a first basis, seemed the best first contact with the country. In time I learned to understand and accept those flaws as well, since they were part of the cocoon, a cocoon full of misconceptions and full of misjudgements but also, part of reality.

I picked Istanbul and I can surely say with no regret that it has been the best choice I have ever made in my entire life. In most cases, Istanbul is portrayed as the point that connects two continents and two worlds - East and West, the Orient and the Occident. I will argue with this by saying that it is more than that. It connects multiple worlds, it connects various ways of perceiving life, and it connects people from all over the world, all in the shape of a twisted kaleidoscope, captured in Bosphorus’ mysterious voices.

Back to my own cocoon, Istanbul thought me how to choose for myself from all the available options I have right in front of me, or far away, it thought me what being independent means and mostly how to assume my own decisions, how to pursue a dream and take it to the next level by transforming it into passion, as well as well keeping myself up and motivating when things do not reach the point I wish they would. 

Istanbul was my teacher and my guide, when it comes to an academic support of excellence. The best memories of my student years remain at Kadir Has University of Istanbul. I call it home, I call it heaven and the place where studying international relations became more than just grades and courses. It became a way of relating towards all the aspects of my life and it reached this point with the distinguished contribution of teachers that remain deep in my soul for their constant support and given opportunities. 

To them I owe that I started to really know about IR, to them I owe my interest in Turkish Politics and MENA region, the them I owe the kind of person I became. Therefore, my special thanks will always be sent to Kadir Has University, for its professionalism and excellent staff.

Keeping it in the Turkish writers’ nuances, I will try to follow Orhan Pamuk’s ideas in relation to memories’ significance. He created a Museum of Innocence, a sanctuary symbolising true love. I will do the same thing with the Erasmus experience I had in my time in Istanbul. I will keep it as the most beautiful thing that took me to the road I wished to be headed towards and the road I was destined to be on.