Study tour to Turkey immerses students in a medley of cultures

April 04, 2011

Political upheaval may have kept a group of McDaniel students, faculty and friends out of Egypt, but it didn’t stand in the way of their exploration of Middle Eastern cultures, history and even geography. They went instead to Turkey – and savored every moment.

The Jan Term study tour, held in March during spring break, was an eye-opening experience even for the experienced travelers among the group of 24.

“Turkey is a wonderfully beautiful country with some of the friendliest people you can imagine,” says Professor Mohamed Esa, who led the study tour. “Turkey is a unique place for it is full of cultures, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Christian, Islamic, Ottoman with a modern Turkish identity.”

Sophomore Rula Zaru, a Sociology major, agreed with most of her fellow travelers that the most vivid highlight was a tour of the rock formations at Cappadocia – as seen from a basket dangling below a hot-air balloon.

Senior History major Lauren Shue found interacting directly in a new culture firsthand to be an amazing experience. Of course, she’ll never forget walking barefoot in the calcium cascades at Pamukkale.

Freshman Asian Studies and History major Brighid Molony relished her visit to the ancient city of Ephesus.

And Esa, who has traveled extensively, found himself in a place he will never forget, perhaps because the olive trees, aroma of wood burning in stoves and narrow streets reminded him of his childhood in Kfar Qasem, a small Arabic village situated between three mountains, 15 miles east of Tel-Aviv and 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

Esa describes the Turkish village:
“It is a picturesque village called  S irence and is located on two mountains, surrounded by thousands of olive and fruit trees. It was the atmosphere, the smells of burning wood, the small houses on the hill slopes and above all the tranquility and the little drizzle rain that was falling. It was like a symphony. I walked the small alleys with three other people, and an old woman who only spoke Turkish wanted us to come to her house and see what she has to sell. She opened her house, which consisted of one single room with a wood stove in the middle and cushions to sit on. I wanted to get in and see what she was selling and maybe drink a cup of tea, but we were late and had to get back to our bus. I could not leave without buying something. Therefore, I bought two tablecloths for $6 each.”