Istanbul abroad program returns after seven-year hiatus

March 3, 2022, 9:53 p.m.

The Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) in Istanbul will run for the first time this fall since its suspension in Oct. 2015, according to a BOSP newsletter from early February. 

The return of the program comes amid declining COVID-19 transmission rates worldwide and follows the Aug. 2021 return of BOSP’s study abroad programs after a year-long pause.  

The Istanbul program was originally suspended after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning following the Ankara twin blasts in Oct. 2015 and amid a rise in political instability following the failed 2016 coup d’état. The suspension of the program continued into 2020 and beyond due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to BOSP executive director Shawna Knauff.

The program will once again be offered in partnership with Koç University in Istanbul and aims to introduce students to the importance of the city of Istanbul as a historical and contemporary crossroads between the East and West, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. The program primarily seeks to provide students exposure to the social sciences and humanities, Miranda added. 

Knauff expressed appreciation for the program’s partnership with Koç University, describing the university as a “fantastic partner.” During the program, “students will enjoy a culturally rich and academically engaging learning experience,” she said.

The addition of the Istanbul program will also “enrich BOSP’s offerings across the globe,” wrote BOSP Burke Family Director Aron Rodrigue. 

Ziya Öniş, a professor at Koç who also teaches in the BOSP program, said that “this is an exciting time to come to Istanbul,” with the nation attempting to “balance its relations with rising global powers like Russia and China … and its traditional alignments with the United States and Europe.”

Öniş added that Stanford students will enjoy the Koç campus, which is located “on an attractive side on the outskirts of Istanbul close to the Bosphorus and overlooking the Black Sea.” He also welcomed students to enjoy the university’s wide range of clubs and activities. 

During the upcoming fall quarter, Öniş will be teaching the course “Comparative Political Economy of Emerging Powers.” He said he thinks that students enjoyed the course in the past and recalled the “heated” discussions that took place in the small class setting. “Both Stanford and Koç students benefited from their mutual interaction,” he said. 

Fiona Clunan ‘24 plans to study abroad in Istanbul this fall. Despite the program’s previous discontinuation due to Turkey’s political unrest, Clunan said she is “confident that BOSP made the right decision in unsuspending the program,” and believes that Istanbul, and Turkey at large, are safe now, especially the area in Turkey in which Koç is located.

Clunan said she chose Istanbul because she wanted to be exposed to more diverse cultures and perspectives. She added that a chance for her to live in a non-Western country does not arise often. In thinking about Istanbul’s main allures, she cited the “beautiful landscape,” archaeological sites and varied cultures of Turkey.

“Istanbul is also a very cosmopolitan city and given its location between Europe and the Middle East, it has a long and fascinating history that interests me,” Clunan said. 

Although the deadline for the autumn 2022-23 program has passed, Knauff said the program is still accepting late applications.

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