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Pros & Cons of studying at Koç University: Nailya Syabitova's feedback on her exchange

Nailya Syabitova, who studies on the Master in International Management program, was one of the first HSE Graduate School of Business students to go on exchange to Koç University, Turkey. In her essay she shared her impressions and vivid memories.

Pros & Cons of studying at Koç University: Nailya Syabitova's feedback on her exchange

Exchange at Koç University

Fall-Winter 2021-2022

An exchange at Koç University was the first in my life. The choice of the university was not accidental, as I had been to Istanbul twice before and loved this beautiful city. Koç University is one of the best universities in Turkey and has a decent place in international rankings in business education. Also, for me a compulsory exchange at the HSE's “International Management” program was one of its advantages over other programs.

It is worth mentioning that Koç is a young private university, founded in 1993 by Vehbi Koç, a Turkish entrepreneur and philanthropist who also heads the Koç Group, one of the largest Turkish companies, which owns the Migros supermarket chain; Yapı Kredi, one of the largest banks in Turkey; Beko, a household appliances manufacturer; Ford car production in Turkey, etc. Thus, among the university buildings that co-exist in harmony with each other, you will find the Ford Building, Yapı Kredi Bank office, Migros store with everything you need, even a travel card recharge vending machine, which makes the life of students comfortable. A 10-minute bus ride away is the West Campus, which has mostly dorms, but also an indoor swimming pool.

In addition to studying, students can swim in the outdoor pool located on the main campus, play soccer on the big field, play tennis, volleyball, basketball in the athletic center, as well as play ping-pong, tennis, squash, dance, or do Pilates. There are student clubs for a variety of hobbies: about movies or medicine; about robotics or the teachings of the beloved Ataturk, a key figure in Turkish history; about fashion, gender studies or DJ parties; about cooking or diving. The latter clubs, as well as some others, arrange master classes on cooking outside the university, organize trips to Antalya with diving training - certainly cheaper than if you go there as a tourist. You can sign up for student clubs at the fairs in the first, "orientation" week. The clubs’ representatives, as well as all the Koc students I met, are very friendly, they all speak English, as the university studies are conducted totally in English.

What struck me about Koç University was not only the availability of basic necessary services in walking distance, but the huge area located in the north of Istanbul, the tourist capital of Turkey: it takes 25 minutes to walk from the entrance to the university campus to its farthest building. Fortunately, buses, shuttles, cabs and cars are allowed to enter the university territory so you can skip 15 minutes of this walk. At the same time, in Turkey such square footage for a university campus is considered small. You can name these pros of such location of the buildings: on the way from one class to another, you can meet peers, exchange a few words, take great pictures of the sky and the sea that is also visible from campus. There's an open-air stage on campus, students have a huge choice of places to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner: there are three Caffè Nero coffeeshops alone. There's also a huge library with separate, fenced-off private areas, and since all classes were available both offline and online, there were students who preferred to not walk to class but connect to lectures while relaxing in the zoom rooms.

It's fair to mention the downsides of Koç, too. If you stay in a hostel, walking to classes would be close, but the price of staying in a room for three people would be the same as staying closer to downtown in a private room, so I preferred the latter. Just like many other students, I preferred renting a place outside the university. It was a longer drive to campus: an hour and a half to two hours. The distances are not so much a disadvantage of the university as a feature of Istanbul, which is more than twice the size of Moscow: 5,343 square kilometers versus 2,561 square kilometers - fortunately, the transportation system in Istanbul is diverse and well developed. Imagine taking a bus along the strait, looking out the window at the Bosphorus with seagulls flying over the ships every day! I already miss this view back in Moscow.

Some more cons: during my exchange, there were no Master's level courses available for the International Management program, so I had to choose alternatives from the undergraduate disciplines. The "orientation" week is very important - it is mandatory to be on campus: not only are these the days to collect all the documents and apply for a residence permit (the university only organizes it once a month), but also to make your study plan and find backup disciplines for each course. In addition, if a discipline has prerequisites, you must send a request for admission to the instructor. As soon as course enrollment opens, seats are taken in a matter of seconds, and you either have to take seats in the alternate courses, or send professors emails about your mobility and the need to take their particular courses.

Getting back to the pros of Koç University, I am satisfied with the educational training. The professors were interested in engaging students in discussion in seminars, they were willing to answer any questions on and near the topic of the course, spoke fluent English, and were passionate about their subjects. Also, the assignments for me were encouraging, all - individual, paired, and team assignments, they were clearly not just for the sake of it but to apply theory to practice and understand the need to learn it. The exams were strict, cheating was prohibited, which I really liked. During the exam period, the university runs 24/7, so you have the time to study everything.

All in all, I am very satisfied with the exchange, happy that I went to Koç University in Istanbul, found new friends at the university and outside it, saw the city and flew abroad, and most importantly and without exaggeration, found a second home.