Fleur: "In fact, I would describe my time in Istanbul as one of the happiest of my life."

Fleur, a French student, came to Istanbul to study here for a year as part of Erasmus+. She fell in love with the metropolis of millions and its diversity. Travelling through Turkey and talking to locals, she became aware of the impact of political and economic problems on daily lives. She also learned a lot about herself and became aware of her privileges.

Illustration Fleur

"How brave of you to go to Istanbul!" Fleur heard this sentence many times when it became clear that her year abroad with Erasmus+ would take her to Turkey. Admittedly, the metropole of millions is different from all the places she has lived before. She was born in Montélimar, the holiday destination of many Central Europeans, she grew up in a village of about 3500 inhabitants in the Southeast of France and finally moved to Grenoble, a small town in the French Alps to study Political Sciences.

She was 18 years old when she arrived in Istanbul. She stayed in a hostel dormitory for the first two weeks looking for a flat in Kadıköy together with a fellow student from Grenoble, who is also doing her Erasmus in Istanbul, they teamed up with another Hungarian student. Fleur was to study at Yeditepe University for two semesters and live in Istanbul for nine months. When she arrived in September 2021, 1 euro was worth 10 liras. When she was to leave, she got 18 liras for 1 euro. This was noticeable in the over stickered and upwardly adjusted prices on the menus of cafés and restaurants and at the ATM. Each time it spits out more liras, although the amount of euros she withdraws is always the same.

Fleur felt at home in Kadıköy: "What I like most is the multiculturalism and the opportunity to exchange ideas with people from all over the world every time I visit a café. I have learned so much. Not only about Turkey, but also about myself!" She felt she was becoming more open-minded, improving her English tremendously and gaining life experience. To develop an understanding of Turkey, it was important to her not only to be in Istanbul, but also to get to know other parts of the country. She did that: night buses took her to Cappadocia and towards the Lycian coast; she rented a car with friends, visited big cities and ancient ruins, took the train to Kars in the east and with her flatmates Fleur hitch-hiked from there along the Black Sea coast to Sinop.

“Also, with the euro, it's cheap for me to have a high standard of living here and eat out a lot."

On all these trips and in everyday life in Istanbul, she never felt uncomfortable which she attributes to the hospitality and helpfulness of the people, who helped her at any time despite her lack of language skills.

"I feel safer in Istanbul than in most big cities in France, whether in public transport, on the street, by day or by night. Especially in Kadıköy after a while the neighbourhood became familiar to me. Also, the lifestyle here is very Western-dominated which made it easier for me to arrive," she says.

University didn't take up that much of her time and many classes were held online, so she could follow them while sitting in cafés. She enjoyed visiting the weekly market in Kadıköy, which takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays, walking in Moda Park, trying out the many cafés and restaurants the neighbourhood has to offer, and especially enjoyed the ferry trips to the European side of the city or the Princes Islands. "In fact, I would describe my time in Istanbul as one of the happiest of my life."

Now she is back in Grenoble to continue her studies there. She is sure she will return to Istanbul later and live in Kadıköy. In a year, she will start her Master's degree, which will take her towards journalism. She wants to take at least one gap year abroad and take her time before she starts working. Besides traveling, she would like to do a pottery course and learn paragliding; she is also interested in photography and literature and is passionate and experimental about cooking.

Being able to do things that make her happy and make her feel alive and complete means freedom to her. She wishes that all people should have the opportunity to achieve this freedom.