International Experience in Istanbul, Turkey 2015

The 2015 MAGEEP International Experience trip to Turkey included time at Bogazici University in Istanbul and Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara. We were fortunate to visit two top ranked universities in the MAGEEP consortium. This was the eighth year students have taken a summer trip as part of the MAGEEP International Experience Program. The 2015 Program was unique in that, not only were there six Washington University undergraduate students, we also had four students from the University of Queensland join us. This was truly a global experience for the students.

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While at each University, the students attended lectures on a variety of Chemical and Environmental Engineering-related topics, including waste management, groundwater pollution and remediation, engineered biological methods for producing hydrocarbon fuels, bioremediation, landfill structure and operation, and wastewater treatment processes. Visits to research labs presented the students an understanding of the focused research each university was pursuing and the common environmental and energy issues we face globally. While in Ankara, the students had the opportunity to attend the MAGEEP SEES Solar Workshop, where researchers from our partner universities presented their work in a variety of areas related to the development and implementation of solar energy technologies. This was an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to the wide variety of research initiatives and applications for solar energy as well as to see the coalition's goals as a whole for the development of these technologies. At METU, students visited the "Technopark". This is a cultivating center for creativity and innovative ideas. The park reflected the university as a whole as it demonstrated the school's invested interest in forward-thinking and technical novelties, while providing students the opportunity to research these ideas right on campus.

Our off campus tours included a trip to the Ambarli Atiksu Aritma Tesisi Wastewater Treatment Plant. This gave the students a first-hand perspective of the information that was presented to them at during their wastewater technology lectures. Another interesting field trip was the tour of the Odayeri Landfill. Again, this trip was especially engaging because the students were able to see a lecture, given at Bogacizi University come to life. A much different tour was conducted at our visit to the Earthquake Museum and Research Center. The students were able to see how earthquakes are monitored and the devastation they can cause. A real life example was given as the students sat in a shaking room constructed to show what happens during an earthquake.

While the primary purpose of this trip was to learn about engineering in Turkey, students had ample time to experience Turkish culture and visit historic sites while in Istanbul and Ankara. In Istanbul, we spent a day in the historic peninsula of the city, eating Turkish delight and Baklava, seeing the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the cisterns, and the Galata Tower. Visiting these historic sites allowed the students to learn about Turkey's extensive history and the various influences that shaped the country we see today. We also had the opportunity to spend a day travelling to the Prince Islands, a group of islands in the Sea of Marmara south of the city. There, we interacted with locals, ate traditional Turkish food, and biked around the island taking in the gorgeous views of the Marmara. Throughout our entire time in the city, we explored new neighborhoods and restaurants and met with locals as much as possible. We also spent a great deal of time with METU students in Ankara and had the opportunity to visit the historic section of the city and visit Ataturk's Mausoleum. Our visit to the old city of Ankara highlighted the stark differences between Istanbul and Ankara. This visit made the group even more aware of the cultural differences that can come into play in any work in a given country.

As one student stated, "Overall, my experience was a true Turkish delight—enlightening in both environmental engineering and cultural aspects alike." An especial delight on this trip was to have our own Washington University PhD student, Begum Karakocak with us the entire time showing around in a way that only local people would know and appreciate.