Study Trip


From the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to Modern-Day Turkey

Students studying either linguistics or the history and politics of the Middle East are invited to attend a three-day study trip to Istanbul to immerse themselves in the cultural and linguistic history of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires in this 2,000-year-old meeting point of Christianity and Islam. Students engage with and reflect upon how a historical mix of identities and languages continues to shape the politics and culture of modern-day Turkey, while also enjoying a wide range of cultural activities.

“Study trips are an excellent opportunity to engage with different people, cultures and languages,” says Professor Ziad Majed, who teaches the trip’s historical and political aspects. Going beyond the classroom allows students to see the many concepts, ideas and events described in class in context while experiencing cultural, human and political diversity. Students learn to explore unfamiliar concepts, to ask new questions and to be curious and interested in new experiences. For example, students attended the trip during Ramadan, meaning they were able to witness the local community breaking their fast with an iftar meal.

church, museum and mosque. “Istanbul is a unique place, and its historical legacy is challenging and stimulating to explore,” says Majed. “But the trip is not just about the history of the city; it’s also about its present and future.” Students benefit from immersion in a cosmopolitan city and an active regional economic and political center. The city’s imperial history has brought together people from different places and cultures, deeply impacting its modern-day makeup.

The city’s long history of migration also makes it an important linguistic center. Alongside Turkish speakers, Istanbul hosts speakers of Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Ladino and, due to more recent migration, Ukrainian and Russian. Students attended a museum exhibit on migration and saw testimonies from migrants written in various languages. “It allowed students to appreciate that just because you see Arabic script, it doesn’t mean you are reading the Arabic language,” explains Rebekah Rast, Professor of French Studies and Modern Languages. “Getting out of Paris and out of your comfort zone, and going to a place that’s different, allows you to learn and grow so much more.”

Tash Karasick is a first-year planning to major in French and linguistics. She attended the trip as it was tied to Professor Rast’s course on migration, refugees and cultural integration. She appreciated the opportunities to speak to Turkish people about their views on migration and to see how the topic impacted their daily lives. “It gave me a whole new perspective on my coursework,” she says. Tash also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her professors better outside of the classroom and to benefit from their expertise in context: “They really emphasize how to be a citizen of the world and how to understand people from other cultures.”