Four years ago, I arrived in Ankara, Turkey, fresh off the high-school boat and ready to embark on a new and foreign period of my life. I didn’t know what to expect except having a great time for the next four years, and one thing I certainly didn’t expect was that in thinking about it now, 1,351 days later, it would all seem like just yesterday. I remember my very first night at Bilkent, meeting new people and exploring the campus. Fast forward four years later, and I’m proud that I’ve come to have explored much of the country, and have met a variety of people from various nationalities, ethnicities and backgrounds, many of whom will always play an important role in my life.
I remember meeting my closest friends at Bilkent; I remember the exact moments I met them and the exact moments when we realized the bond we shared. I also remember losing that closeness with several, either from my side or from theirs, and realizing that making friends with people and then figuring out who is compatible as a friend and who isn’t is merely an aspect of life. Regardless, it has been great getting to know, and knowing, each person I have met, and in whatever way they made my time at Bilkent better, I will always remember it.
More than anything, it has been a pleasure to have been able to travel so much in this country, to have seen the beauty and history it holds, and to have found a motivating and excited partner to share it all with. In all my adventures in the past two years, I’ve been accompanied by a very lively and animated person, eager to learn and experience what the world holds, and I can certainly say that without him, none of these adventures would have been so unique and memorable for me.
Moreover, it has been very enriching to have been able to write about the things I saw and experienced, and to motivate others and acquaint them with the vast sea of opportunities and future memories they can get their hands on before this time in their lives ends. People aren’t exaggerating when they say it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye, and before you realize it, all you’ll have left are the memories and friendships you’ve made; so I urge you to make sure those memories and friendships are ones that you will cherish proudly in the years to come. Writing, for me, has been a way to share one of my biggest and most heartening passions, and as a result of this very fulfilling year of travel writing, a persistent desire to continue even after finishing this last Bilkent News piece has been growing and has led me to create a personal travel blog. The idea, which had been burgeoning in my mind for a long time, has finally seen the light of day, and with the free time I’ll be having after final exams, I hope to develop it into something that does justice to my adventures.
Over time, I have been asked by many to recommend places within Turkey to travel to, as well as how to go about it. I intend upon creating a blog that will answer all these questions and more, and do so in the most helpful and encouraging manner. As for my favorite place in Turkey, I’d have to say it’s difficult to choose. My recent journey to the ancient Armenian city of Ani has perhaps been one of the most breathtaking so far, as it went far beyond my expectations and imaginings. The natural beauty of the untouched border between Kars and Armenia is spectacular, and something I’d recommend to any committed adventurer as worth seeing. However, it’s also been a privilege to have hiked along the coast of the Mediterranean, for its beautiful beaches and forested mountains compare to few other places for one special reason, at least for me. That is, history buff that I am, being surrounded by exceptional natural scenery, and on top of that finding within it an abundance of ancient structures, temples and cities, is everything I could want. Though I still haven’t had the pleasure of trekking the entire Lycian Way, rest assured I will eventually do so, because the part of it that I did get the chance to hike was a captivating experience. And for those who are looking for a summer adventure to embark on within Turkey, I suggest starting there.
As this is my last column, I would like to end simply by leaving behind a nugget of wisdom I have gained through the lessons I learned and the things I experienced in my four years as a student at Bilkent. Aim to get the best grades you have the potential to attain, but maintain a very good balance between this and what you get to experience while at university, and ensure the latter is unique. This may be slightly controversial to say, but it has been a truth that I’ve learned, so I’ll pass it on for those who are willing to read: recognize as early as you can the difference between having fun and having meaningful fun, making memories and making meaningful memories, and creating experiences and creating worthwhile experiences. Having drinks with your friends and then nonchalantly frolicking about may be a fun, memorable experience if it’s with the right friends, but make sure you also have worthwhile, substantial experiences that change your point of view, and see that you take advantage of the time, energy and opportunities you have to discover and expand your world.