I'm a student at SFU (university in Vancouver, Canada) and I'm planning to do an exchange semester abroad from September 2009 - January 2010. I have two choices, both universities are considered 'elite' schools by the locals (but I don't have a choice through my university).
1) Koc University - Turkey (Istanbul)
2) Al-Akhawayn - Morocco (Ifrane)
I'm really confused about which place to choose, my application is done except for choosing which country!
Here's my few issues
a) it's Turkey - rich history/east meets west/Islamic culture
b) It's central to travel to other countries
a) it seems expensive, and it rains alot? In the winter. I'm from Vancouver ehh...rain central.
a) rich history/very different place
b) near Spain/its Africa!
c) seems like a neat culture
d) seems cheap to travel around
BUT a) in the winter it apparently snows quite a bit in Ifrane
b) people aren't as friendly as Turkey?
c) lacks the rich experience you could only get in Turkey?
Tough one. I have only been to Turkey, including Istanbul. But Morocco is high on my list.
The scenery should be fantastic in Morocco.
Though for an exchange semester I would definately choose to be in a big city like Istanbul for sure. The city is great and the weather is actually quite ok during september to January, although maybe some rain can occur.
I don't know about people in Morocco, but I have heard mixed reports. While in Turkey people were almost always friendly. Just stay away from the resort areas in the south. Go inland!
Unfortunately you didn't mention what you are studying.
If it is Middle Eastern Studies and you need to pick up some Turkish and Arabic I would recommend going to Istanbul, simply because Moroccan colloquial Arabic is relatively far away from other Arabic dialects. (And this is what you'll be picking up in the streets, practising to speak. Been to Palestine, done exactly that - luckily I had lessons in both Syrian and Egyptian colloqial Arabic, because both dialects are spoken in Palestine.)
Istanbul would also have the better for partying if you cannot do without a spot of fun once in a while. IMO Istanbul is an amazing city and while it might rain in winter it can be quite hot in September and nicely warm October through November. The vibe the city gives off is utterly unbelieveable, so vibrant, bustling and hip.
In regards to Ifrane I had to look it up - and the wikipedia article calls is "little Switzerland". Judging from the pictures at
they are right, this is the farthest away you can get from traditional Morocco. If you are into skiing it is a great winter destination though.
In regards to travelling - I think Istanbul would be a better base. It might be cheaper travelling in Morocco, but what use is this to you if you have to spent 3-4 hours travelling just to get to Fes, the next big city? How many weekend trips around Morocco do you think you are you going to manage this way? (I was in a similar pinch when I was in Nablus, Palestine - lousy public transport options. Although the beach was only 40 kms away I went maybe twice during the whole semester I was there, it just took too long to get there and back.) Another thing that makes Turkey more appealing to me - from Morocco you can travel into Spain and down South. But from Istanbul you can either make your way around the Balkan or go overland all the way to Cairo. When you combine Morocco+Spain and compare with Turkey+Syria the cost for travelling around Turkey and Syria is lower, simply because Spain is expensive.
EDIT: Another thing - thanks to the size of Ifrane I think you'll be hanging out a lot with other students, either other international students or locals who are fluent in English. Istanbul however will allow you to make other friends outside the student scene I think.
Hope this helped you to make a choice!
[ Edit: Edited on 23-Feb-2009, at 16:22 by t_maia ]
Hey everyone, thank you very much for the input! The thing you said t_maia about the cheaper travel is actually really really helpful...
A few things...
1) I'm studying Psychology - but I'm also minoring in International Studies...
2) I'm not a party'er whatsoever...
3) Both schools are in English
4) PS. not to let pandoras box open, but Cairo was another option - the American University there...
I vote for Morocco!! I'm not Moroccan by the way
One more thing to consider: If your French is practically non-existant, it will be easier to travel around Turkey. As a former French colony most Moroccans learn French as a first (and often only) foreign language. In Turkey however pupils learn either English or German in school, so if you know only English Turkey will be easier.
In terms of budget, plan on having per day and person:
Turkey - 35-40 EUR
Syria - 15-20
Greece - 45-60 EUR
Bulgaria - 35-50 EUR
Spain - 45-60 EUR
Morocco - 20-25
So the cost of living in Istanbul is on average twice as much as in Morocco. But since Ifrane is such a posh resort I would check the cost of living there with locals. Some sites where Moroccans hang out are http://answers.yahoo.com (Yahoo!Answers -Travel-Morocco) and virtualtourist.com
And a great site for info on travelling around Turkey - www.turkeytravelplanner.com
That's interesting. So far I've got the following ball park budget...I'll be using the dorms at the university since that is the only option.
Here's my projected breakdown for the trip, at just under $10k CAD.
- Tuition fees - 2500
- Accomodation - 2000 (student dorm)
- Food - 1500
- Travel costs (round trip ticket vancouver to istanbul) - 1800
- Medical/Dental - $400
- Clothing/personal care - $400
- Entertainment - $500
- Transportation - $600
- Cell phone - $150 (I have a cell that is quad-band - would prob. need to get a SIM card)
- Laundry - $160
Now I know I've budget-ed it tightly... the main thing I'm not sure about is the entertainment, transportation, food expenses.
How much is a dinner in Istanbul (not to pricey, decent)? What about like a movie? Or bus fare/trams?
- I'm assuming that I'd only go out on the weekends/long weekend if there are any - in which case I'd like to go to a few other countries if they are only a couple hours away. That would add $ to my travel costs/airfare part I guess.
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Feb-2009, at 12:49 by fahid ]
I can't help you with deciding between Morocco and Turkey because I am from Turkey and I haven't been to Morocco. My friends who have done their study abroad programs in Istanbul, were in love with Istanbul and Turkey in general. But they all have studied at Bogazici University not Koc.
As you have mentioned Koc is sort of an elite school. So when you ask how much a dinner costs, it really depends who you are having dinner with. You can for sure have a kebab for less than US$3. But on Average you would eat $5-$10 once you get sick of cheap kebabs. Average Koc student would pay $15-20 for dinner, I think.
I think t-maia estimate of 35-40 EUR per day is too much. You can definitely do less than that.
If you have a choice of not staying in the dorm, you really shouldn't. If you were to rent an apartment and share it with other student on average you would pay $400 per month. If you have your own apartment you can have visitors stay over. You really should try getting in touch with students before you go. I don't know Sariyer (where Koc is located) district well but I am assuming housing wouldn't be that expensive.
One more thing about your budget is cell phone.. Cell phones are unnecessarily expensive in Turkey. I am assuming you would use pay as you go. 100 phone credits cost around $25 and lets you to talk on the phone for 25 minutes. You would definitely pay more than $150 throughout the semester.
Also, you might have free medical care from the school. Check it out.
the main thing I'm not sure about is the entertainment, transportation, food expenses.
When I convert what you budgeted for accomodation and food into Euros I get figures that are equal to the cost of living (low-end) in Germany or Southern Italy. AFAIK living in Istanbul is slightly cheaper than that - if you cook yourself and shop and eat where the locals do. Around Sultanahmet you can easily find meals in restaurants that set you back around 8 CAD, and that is a touristy area.
Transportation in Turkey is equally cheap, for example a return bus ticket to the Syrian border is about 80 CAD, the return bus ticket for a weekend trip to Ephesus will cost you 60 CAD and to Cappadocia 45 CAD. Considering the distances travelled that is a complete steal. With overnight accomodation and entry fees a weekend trip should set you back around 150 CAD.
Transport in Istanbul should be around 3-4 CAD per day using the Akbil pass. Your tansport budget should work out if you go only to the uni in the morning and back in the afternoon and maybe make one other return trip every second or third day. (I hope they give you a student ticket or something, as this is expensive in my book.)
Entertainment will be expensive. I don't drink, but from what I know Alcohol is generally expensive in the Middle East. And if you want English-language entertainment (movies, dvds,...) be prepared to pay through the nose for it. Entry to clubs should be within your budget range. After all, quite a lot of people in Istanbul need to live on around 900 CAD per month.
I would probably up the budget for laundry a bit, 160 CAD seems low to me. September in Istanbul can be sweltering hot, you might need a fresh T-Shirt twice a day. This means doing more laundry. On the other hand, 400 CAD for clothes and personal care? What are you planning to buy and to what kind of spa treatments are you planning on? Showering gel, tooth paste and other stuff should already be covered by your food budget. The only expense I can think of is a weekly visit to a traditional Turkish bath or membership in a gym. Or do you want to buy clothes in Istanbul to blend in easier? Jeans, sweatshirt and waterproof jacket should be fine during winter, you would only need some lightweight long(!) dress pants for summer (shorts are a big no-no).
Phone calls: If you are in the habit of calling friends and family regularly, add some more money. 40 CAD per month would be a reasonable budget, even if you use the internet cafe or skype and not your cell phone. International long-distance calls are very expensive.
To sum it up, your budget seems ok to me. If you live quite frugal you might even find the money for 14-day trip to Syria (about 400-500 CAD) within it.
I think t-maia estimate of 35-40 EUR per day is too much. You can definitely do less than that.
Gocebe, you'd be surprised at the difference it makes in prices whether you are Turkish or a foreigner. One look at your foreign face or one non-Turkish word from your mouth and the price might go up by 20%. It also makes a difference whether you are travelling alone or as a couple, because prices for single rooms are almost as expensive as for double rooms. I agree though that it can be done cheaper - but what is the point of going to say, Cappadocia if you cannot afford to pay the entry fees to the Göreme Open Air Museum or one of the underground cities? Luckily Fahid will go in off-season so it should be easier to find cheap accomodation.
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Feb-2009, at 15:13 by t_maia ]
wow thanks for all this help, it's amazing. thank you tmaia
1) As for clothes budget, I assumed that yes I might need to 'blend in' there but 400$ is too much. I could transfer some of that to the 'laundry' & cell budget. I'm definitely not a spa type
2) One thing I didn't account for was the airfare for a trip to egypt, syria, or spain or something like that. I DEFINITELY want to do this. UAE would be cool because I have a cousin that lives there but the tickets seem expensive. I may have a contact in Syria, and definitely have a contact in Egypt. So far it seems like I'll be heading to Turkey because that is what people are recommending - especially the comment (and after I checked) the geography of Ifrane, Morocco - it is far from other cities! (4 hours to Fes, YIKES!). Also the French aspect - which although I'm Canadian my francais c'est juste un peu terrible...non, tres mal!
3) I shouldn't have a problem blending in because I am of Pakistani background, but I can sometimes pass off as Arab - although Turks do look more European too from the Turks I've seen!
4) I will definitely be taking some Turkish lessons before I go...if I get in...
5) As for entertainment, I was also thinking moreso the money for the tourist attractions (admission to get into certain places perhaps?).
6) The nice thing about Turkey being predominantly Muslim is that I assume that Eid there is really a massive celebration...so that would be awesome for me...