Student Spotlight: Spending Turkey Day in Turkey
“When I arrived in Rome a little over three months ago, I had no concept of where the semester would take me, but I really had no idea it would take me to Istanbul, Turkey, with twenty-two other students, two SLAs, and one of coolest people ever – Father Bohr. I couldn’t have known how amazing an experience it would be at the time. Still, I signed up for the trip knowing I wanted to experience a culture that was unlike any I had in the past, and Istanbul definitely delivered on that front.
In Istanbul, the culture just kind of bumps into you everywhere you walk. Going into the trip, I had an idea of some of the sights we would see and the places we would go – the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, the Asia side of Istanbul, a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus, and other pieces of our itinerary. What I didn’t expect were the smaller moments – conversations with the students and faculty of Istanbul University, wandering with friends into a small coffee shop down a back alley, learning a few words of the beautiful Turkish language, a quiet early morning in a local mosque, and sharing tea with a man at a lamp shop in the bazaar. This was clearly a culture of hospitality, and I felt it in nearly every interaction during my time there.
All of these were amazing experiences, but I must say the most meaningful came to me on my last evening in Istanbul in the form of a small conversation with Father Bohr. Throughout our stay, we had the opportunity to learn more about Islam, a religion I have come to know as beautiful and admirable for its dedication. Abdil, one of our guides, explained the five pillars of Islam, the five main obligations that one observes if able to. In brief, they are acknowledging God as the one true God, pray five times daily, alms giving, observing Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. At the end of our evening on the Bosphorus, Father Bohr and I stood on the deck of the boat chatting, and as we did, he brought up this question: What are my five pillars? If I were to choose five for my own faith, what would they be? It was a fantastic question and one that held a lot of weight for me. I did not have an answer. And while I still do not yet have the answer, it is a question I will carry with me until I find it. Istanbul taught me a great deal about myself and about my own faith, but I do not think the lessons ended there. I will continue to grow from my experience in Istanbul for a very long time.”
Claire Soupene, Class of '16