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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Exchange Programs, Bilkent University
06533 Ankara, Turkey
Phone: (011-90-312) 266-4128 (or 4132 or 2435)
Professor Erol Arkun, UCEAP Liaison Officer
Ms. Aysegül Basol, Institutional Coordinator of Exchange Programs
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code ............011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Turkey country code ............... 90
Ankara city code ................... 312
Istanbul city code .................. 212
Approximate time difference:
Add 10 hours
You have access to all fields of instruction. Of particular note are offerings in the Department of Archaeology and History of Art. This department offers opportunities to study the archaeology of Anatolia, the Ancient Near East, and the Mediterranean, as well as the history of art from the Byzantine period to the 20th century.
The curriculum includes practical and classroom work. You will have access to museums and archaeological sites as well as opportunities to participate in excavations at central Anatolian and classical sites. Access to local archives and original documents provides a unique experience in Near Eastern or Ottoman history and related majors. Individual faculties may arrange summer internships.
Students in international relations and political science will find many courses relating to current political and security issues in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central Asian republics. Courses in Turkish are available for international staff and students. A course in Turkish culture and literature is available for students who have an intermediate knowledge of Turkish.
Bilkent also offers strong academic opportunities in the Faculty of Engineering, specifically in the departments of Computer Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and Industrial Engineering. Areas of focus include artificial intelligence, database management, graphics, parallel processing, computer networking, software engineering, materials science and engineering, and thermodynamics.
Bilkent has excellent library and computing facilities. All students receive computer system accounts that allow for Internet access and e-mail. Many computer laboratories are open 24 hours a day. There is also Internet access from student dorms. You will have full access to student clubs and athletic facilities.
UCEAP participants recommend approaching professors individually at the beginning of the semester and introducing yourself as a foreign student. Professors who use some Turkish in class or allow student discussion in Turkish will usually make an effort to minimize this if they know that there are native English speakers in class. The International/Exchange Office may often have good advice on how to interact with faculty and classmates in and out of the classroom. Do not hesitate to go to them if you are having difficulties with this or any other academic issues.
While studying in Turkey during the academic year, you are required to take a full-time course of study and enroll in a minimum of five courses for a total of 22.5 UC quarter units each term. Units are converted by multiplying the Turkish semester units by 1.5.
Language Study Requirements
You must attend a mandatory host university orientation, which includes basic Turkish. Generally, the orientations for fall semester and academic year students include more Turkish instruction than that for spring semester students.
You must also take a Turkish language course in your first term (fall for fall semester and academic year students; spring for spring semester students), unless you can demonstrate fluency in Turkish. This course earns 4.5 UC quarter units and, depending on the university, may be called Beginning Turkish, Turkish as a Second Language, or similar. The Liaison Officer and/or international office staff will direct you to the correct course. The Turkish course may be taken as a letter grade or as P/NP.
Year participants may continue Turkish instruction in the spring semester, along with four additional courses. Those who do not take a Turkish language course during the spring term must still enroll in five courses totaling 22.5 quarter units.
Although you have a great deal of flexibility in planning your courses, keep in mind that Turkish students generally follow a more rigid degree structure. In many majors, Turkish students may not be allowed to take any electives until their junior year. Even then, students are often required to choose most electives from within their own major and may only be allowed to choose one elective per semester from a closely related field. While these regulations do not apply to you, they will impact course availability; courses that are required for the Turkish student majors are far more likely to be offered each year. Elective offerings are much more variable; only a small percentage of the total elective options listed in the catalog may be offered in any given semester and some may be offered infrequently, if at all. Take this into account when planning your course options and identify multiple backup courses in the event that your first choices are not offered.
To determine which courses are required (and most likely to be offered each year) and which are elective (offered more variably), consult your host university’s current online catalogs.
Language of Instruction
The language of instruction in each university is English, with very few exceptions. Music classes (which are Western, classical music, not ethnic or folk music) may be taught only in Turkish. The other typical exception is foreign language classes, which are often taught in Turkish. (Often they cannot be taught in English, since Turkish students, the majority in the class, would then have to learn a new language in a foreign language.) If you plan to study a foreign language at your host university and are concerned about the language of instruction, communicate directly with the faculty Liaison Officers and/or international office staff for details about the language classes you hope to attend. Keep in mind, however, that faculty members change, new classes are added, other classes are dropped, and there is no way to maintain an updated list class-by-class.
It is highly recommended that you introduce yourself to the instructor as an exchange student at the beginning of the class to ensure he or she is aware that non-Turkish students are in the class.
Other than the above exceptions, if a class is being taught in Turkish, you may ask the faculty Liaison Officers and/or international office to request instruction in English on your behalf. All universities publicize that their instruction is in English, so do not hesitate to request this accommodation if necessary. See the Academic Culture section for more discussion on this topic.
Previous students have registered for graduate courses in certain areas (with permission from the instructor and the department, and with a UCEAP General Petition indicating that you have the required background) and have found this provides an enjoyable challenge.
Turkish students register for classes online, but this system is not offered to UCEAP and other visiting international students. You will register for classes during orientation in Turkey. Registration requires visits to multiple departments and offices for permission and signatures from instructors, especially if you decide to change courses from initial selections or wish to take graduate-level courses. The process can seem chaotic, particularly since it takes place during the first couple of weeks when you are not yet familiar with the campus and the system. UCEAP participants emphasize that it is important to avoid undue stress during registration; though it can seem disorganized at the time, it generally works out fine in the end, especially when you have multiple backup course choices in mind before coming to Turkey.
In general, you may register for any courses for which you meet prerequisites (if applicable) and in which space is available, although in some cases courses are restricted to majors in the field or have limited availability.
The fall semester ends in mid-January at all Turkish universities. If you wish to return to UC in late December for winter quarter or spring semester, be flexible with your course choices, discuss early exam options with instructors at the beginning of the semester, and be willing to change your course selections if a particular instructor is unable or unwilling to make such arrangements. Since the arrangements must be negotiated with individual instructors and departments after arrival in Turkey, they cannot be guaranteed in advance.
The ultimate decision for early exams is the professor’s. If a professor does not allow early exams, neither the Liaison Officer/International Office staff nor UCEAP can influence that decision. Keep in mind also that even if you personally leave early, the official program end date is still mid-January, and your finals may or may not be graded until all other students have completed their work in January.
Internships and Field Study
You may volunteer for work at local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and schools.
In the summer after the academic year, there may also be opportunities to participate in archaeological excavations at historic sites. The projects may be run by university departments; or department teachers may be prominent members of another institution’s project; or a project may request student workers from a specific university; or an excavation may not fit into any of these categories but is open to students. Due to the vast number of opportunities, all students who want a place have been able to find one. You must submit your application in the fall to work the following summer due to Ministry of Culture and Tourism application deadlines. The UCEAP Liaison Officers can assist with the application process. Bring a résumé and letter(s) of reference with you to Turkey if you are interested in applying for these opportunities. Spring semester students wanting to participate may contact the UCEAP Liaison Officers in early fall to submit an application for the following summer.
Extending UCEAP Participation
UCEAP students have commented that the first couple of weeks in Turkey can be both exhilarating and difficult. The orientation period is busy and full of activities, excursions, Turkish language lessons, meetings, and opportunities to become acquainted with Turkish host students as well as international students from around the world who have come to study in Turkey. However, it is also a time when most Turkish students are still on vacation and many university services (dormitory phones, computer labs, libraries, many of the restaurants, etc.) may still be closed or curtailed for the summer.
Course registration, which takes place at the end of orientation, can also seem confusing and chaotic. And of course, you are going through many adjustments to culture, language, food, and an entirely new environment. UCEAP students suggest that it is important to keep this time in perspective and recognize that things will settle into a routine once the regular semester starts.
Drugs are prohibited and punishment is strictly enforced. Driving while drinking is a punishable offense. Alcohol is not permitted on campus. Religious proselytizing is also forbidden by law.
Improve Your Language Skills
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
With the exception of the Bilkent spring semester program, the programs begin with a mandatory two-week host university orientation and intensive Turkish language training. The orientation period is brimming with events thoughtfully planned by the International Centers.
Turkish language study occupies approximately three hours per day in the morning during the orientation program. The rest of the program consists of workshops, social activities, campus and city tours, and excursions to archaeological sites and other places of interest, such as local wineries. The International Centers also organize weekend trips during the academic term to destinations such as Istanbul and the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts for interested students. These excursions are optional and involve additional fees.
If you are fluent in Turkish, you may request an exemption from the language classes, but you are still required to attend all orientation meetings and group activities and excursions. The Turkish language courses you take during the orientation transition into the Turkish language classes you take during the semester. Arriving late for orientation is not allowed.
Accommodation is provided in dormitories on campus. Since the orientation occurs prior to the beginning of the semester, few Turkish students will be on site and some services, such as Internet access, will not yet be available.
For spring semester students at Bilkent, the program begins with a mandatory three-day host university orientation. You will not receive the same intensive Turkish language training as the fall and year participants.
Travel to Your Host Country
The Bilkent University International Office provides a shuttle service twice a day from the airport to the campus on the Official Start Date.
Bilkent Program: Obtain a student visa in the U.S. prior to departure. Do not enter Turkey without a student visa. Once abroad, it may be impossible to obtain the necessary student visa.
You will need to acquire a Residence Permit within one month after arrival in Turkey. The International Offices at Bilkent will assist with the application procedure. To obtain the Residence Permit you must be prepared to submit the following eight materials:
- Passport (the passport will be held by the authorities for approximately one week, so you will not be able to leave the country during this time)
- Photocopy of passport
- Resident Certificate, obtained from the Dormitory Administration
- Four copies of the Declaration of Residence Permit, each with an attached photo (the form is obtained from the Registrar)
- Three additional passport-sized photos
- Statement from the Registrar indicating your exchange status
- Three copies of Student Personal Information Form, obtained from the Registrar
- Application fee: the Turkish equivalent of approximately U.S. $48
Take at least 12 passport-sized photos with you for use after arrival in Turkey.
Personal Property Insurance
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Banking is relatively easy as long as you make arrangements prior to departure. The best banking option is to open a dollar account with a Turkish bank and have money transferred from the U.S. It will take about a week for the transfer to be finalized. No commission is charged if money is left in the bank for one month.
Semester and year program students will not receive a university computer account until the end of orientation. University computer facilities usually do not open for business until the end of orientation and the beginning of the regular semester, almost two weeks after you arrive. During this time, you can use Internet cafés, but do not count on daily access; the orientation schedule is busy, and the nearest cafés may be a 15- or 20-minute bus ride from campus.
Mail can be sent to this address:
c/o Ms. Aysegül Basol
Exchange Programs Coordinator
Bilkent will send you a housing form along with the acceptance letter and other materials. Complete and return the form as soon as you receive it. Payment is made upon arrival.
Bilkent offers several dorm options for international students, including single, double, and four-person rooms. The range of on-campus housing is vast; dorm options and costs vary much more than they typically do at UC. UCEAP students recommend that you avoid the temptation to save money by choosing the least expensive option. Dorms designated as private or “special” (with suites and studios) generally offer a high level of comfort, while the least expensive options may include worn furniture and bedding and communal bathrooms. Privacy, water, and heating can be problematic. Generally, the mid-range to expensive options offer conditions that would be comparable to what is found on a UC campus, with the most expensive offering the best conditions. The lowest-priced dorms have one kitchen per building, while the higher-priced dorms have one kitchen per floor. Common to all dorms are access to full kitchens, study and computer rooms, laundry facilities, cafés, housekeeping, phone service, and in-room Internet connections. Bed linens are provided in the dorms, but UCEAP recommends that you take a sleeping bag for the early fall—before the heat is turned on—and for travel. Pack your own towels or purchase them after arrival.
While the dorms are convenient and provide an excellent opportunity to meet Turkish students, all dorms have strict regulations that you will be required to follow. These regulations include curfews, which are usually midnight. All dorms are segregated by gender and visitors of the opposite sex are allowed in common rooms only; no visitors of the opposite sex are allowed in your room. All students and visitors are required to check in with the front desk every time they enter, and must be “buzzed in” to the dorms. If you plan to spend the night away from the dorm, you must inform the dorm director in advance. Alcoholic drinks are not allowed in the dorms.
Dorm #50 has received a positive evaluation from past UCEAP students.
Past participants of Turkey programs generally recommend on-campus housing, although you are free to arrange your own semester or year accommodation off-campus if you choose. Read the considerations below before making any decisions regarding on- or off-campus housing.
- There is no campus organization to assist in locating off-campus housing.
- Most affordable rentals are located relatively far from the campus and involve a commute to and from the campus for daily classes.
- Rental units are usually unfurnished and have no telephone.
- You make your own arrangements for utility services.
- If you rent an apartment off campus, you may find yourself isolated from campus life.
- Neighbors or landlord may not speak English, increasing your isolation.
Dormitory kitchens are fully stocked with all cooking appliances and utensils. There are seven cafeterias located on the Bilkent main campus as well as several cafés, fast-food restaurants, and convenience stores. Bilkent also has the Tribeca Café where you can buy bagels, salads, and desserts. The Bilkent Center Shopping Mall, a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bus ride from campus, offers a number of eateries including international and fast-food options.
When traveling in Ankara, you have access to:
- Dolmus or shared minibuses which follow a set route, but stop to pick up passengers all along the route (so schedules are less predictable). Dolmus go to the downtown area and other locations around the city.
- Municipal buses in the main parts of Ankara, which generally run on the hour and half hour during work hours and less frequently after work hours, including holidays.
- Taxis which are relatively inexpensive, especially when shared.
Bilkent University provides regular shuttle buses that run every hour to and from downtown Ankara, including weekends, as well as a campus shuttle system that connects the dormitories with the rest of the campus. These buses are free for students and run as late as 3 a.m. on weekends.
Bilkent has extensive sports facilities including a new sports center with an indoor running track, aerobics studios, swimming facilities, and courts for squash, basketball, volleyball, and handball, as well as a fitness room containing a full array of free weights and stationary equipment. Intramural sports include basketball, soccer, and squash; physical education classes are available in mountaineering, aerobics, Turkish folk dancing, and more.
Students with Disabilities
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
If you are currently seeing a specialist for a psychological health condition, meet with the specialist to make sure that you have a plan in place if you need to reach out to local resources.
Living abroad can be stressful. Do not be surprised to think, “It’s not what I expected.” Expect the unexpected and beware of romanticized preconceptions or unrealistic expectations. You may expect to quickly adapt to the new culture—and you need to adjust rapidly to effectively meet the academic demands of the program. However, the many cultural differences that seem exciting to you at first can also be distressing and quickly lead to feelings of misunderstanding, loneliness, and culture shock. Culture shock and homesick feelings are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture shock function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life. It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the vastly different environment. To counter this, adjust your expectations, eat well and drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, and share any concerns with the host institution International Center staff at your host university.
The UCEAP Insurance Plan covers counseling sessions as any other health condition; there is no copay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Place an international collect call (ask the local staff how to place a collect call) or Skype call to the UCEAP assistance provider, Europ Assistance, in the United States to ask for medical referrals and/or to arrange for direct payment to a provider, if possible. Europ Assistance telephone number in the U.S., 1+202-828-5896. You can also contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
According to WHO statistics, the average annual concentration of particulate air pollution in Turkey exceeds recommended thresholds. Air pollution is considerably higher in urban areas, especially in Van, Konya, Kars, Denizli, Hatay, Erzurum, Balikesir, Antalya, Edirne, Trabzon, Istanbul, and Izmir. Individuals with asthma or chronic cardiorespiratory conditions should consult with a healthcare provider prior to travel and carry sufficient medications. On days when air quality is particularly poor, affected individuals should take personal precautions to reduce respiratory stress.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Travel Advisories & Smart Traveler Registration
UCEAP Contingency Planning
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