It's been, what? Nine months? Ten months? And in three days (two days, I suppose, since it's past midnight) I'll get on a plane to Istanbul. I'll spent a day or two at an AFS camp watching people cry and exchanging hugs and making promises to reunite that may or may not ever come to fruition. For me the AFS camp is kind of a bookend. With two or three notable exceptions, I never really bonded with any of the other AFSers. A lot of the other AFSers have spent the last two-three months traveling around Turkey, staying with the other AFSers. I didn't.
Why? Partly because of the money, although I have money and financial self-control is not one of my strong points. I've worked since my freshman year of high school and I've never really had to deal with living on a budget - the money always came in faster than I could spend it, especially when I was constantly getting handouts from my parents.
Anyways, why didn't I travel? Part of me regrets not doing so, but most of me doesn't. For starters, this isn't going to be the last time I visit Turkey. For me, AFS isn't about hanging with the other foreigners. I don't say this to disparage those who chose this; I made my own choices and respect others' right to do the same. I traveled with fellow AFSers once to Izmir. It was okay; I had fun. But it wasn't really the experience I wanted.
I went to Istanbul last week and stayed with an old friend of mine. We went to Morocco together three years ago and met up in NYC once. He came and visited me in Antalya and I came and stayed with him in his university dorm in Istanbul (the European side). For those of you keeping score at home, that means that every time I've met him, it's been on a different continent. Fate will probably dictate that the next time we meet will be in Colombia or Argentina - either that or Australia.
Anyways, we had a great time. I turned 18 while I was in Istanbul, so we celebrated that. My friend has an internship in Istanbul, along with 8 of his fellow Yalies. We had a great time touring the city - neither one of us had any real objection to just wandering around aimlessly for hours in Istanbul, so that's more or less what we did. We saw some pretty cool stuff, a lot of which wasn't the touristy stuff in Lonely Planet. Good times in Istanbul.
Hanging with the Yalies was also... perhaps "fun" isn't the right word, but it definitely got me thinking about my rapidly upcoming college years. I had fun. It was nice being with intelligent people my age who knew how to lighten up and have some fun. I'm definitely thinking about going home a lot more fondly than I was before I went. Yeah, I'm going back to stay with my parents and work and I'm going be sharing a car with my kid sister. But really, I'm just spending a month and a half revisiting my high school life - something that seems so remote and far away I'm getting nostalgic. I'm sure in two weeks I'll be bored of Freeport once more. But now, I'm actually OK with the fact I'm going home. That's not to say I won't miss Turkey, or that I didn't enjoy my time here. But as I've said before, I'll be back. I'm not going to forget Turkish, as everyone here seems to think.
I'm ready to be back in America, I think. I guess I'm lucky in that I have a lot to look forward to. I studied abroad in my senior year - a decidedly non-traditional path (most of the seniors I know who are studying abroad are either applying to less-competitive schools or else delaying college altogether). Yet I don't know what I'd be doing if I were a junior or sophomore. Not only would I have to deal with the high school bureaucracy to ensure that my credits all lined up, but I'd have to go back to high school for another year. Not that my Freeport High School experience was terrible but... I'm ready to be someplace else. I feel like a very different person that I was 10 months ago.
Part of the reason for this change, I think, is that being a place where you can't speak the language instills humility in you pretty quickly. I was many things before I came to Turkey, but humble was certainly not one of them. I don't know what will happen once I go back to speaking English. We'll see.
An Update - So it's been three years since I returned from Turkey and though I would love (and plan!) to write a long-winded, rambling dissertation on how my AFS year ...
4 years ago