Hometown: Nelsonville, Ohio
School: Olney Friends School
Sponsor Club: Whitehall-Bexley, Ohio
Host District: 2420
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Istanbul
Merhaba! My name is Amihan Tindongan and I now live in Istanbul, Turkey! Rotary International granted me this amazing opportunity to come to arguably the most beautiful city in the world! Back in Ohio, I was born and raised just outside of Athens, home of Ohio University. From the foothills of the Appalachians, to a major European/Middle Eastern city is the biggest culture shock I have experienced yet. This past spring I graduated from Olney Friends School, my second home. There I enjoyed working on the farm, learning Spanish, and living with a great community. I have a younger sister (currently attending Olney), an older brother Torin and an older sister Joannah. My family was very supportive ( and jealous!) of my decision to go abroad, I hope they all have the chance to see this incredible city soon. Among many goals, I hope I can attain fluency in the very beautiful Turkish language. Many thanks to my family, District 6690, District 2420, and Rotary International, çok teşekkür ederim!
Monthly letters to the Bexley-Whitehall Rotary club (my sponsor club!)
November 1: Month two! I can’t believe how fast it’s going already! By now I feel comfortable getting where I need to go, which for me is a big step because I had very limited experience with public transportation before coming here. I feel like my language is improving, my host sister encourages me to try to only speak Turkish and I found that flashcards are very helpful for me. We used to have language classes every weekend but they were postponed until after the elections (Nov 1) so that we wouldn’t have to travel through certain high population areas of the city. I go to Rotary club meeting every Tuesday with Bruno (16, Brazil). There are always impressive and interesting speakers including, women in leadership positions and business, and the elections in the media. I continue to go to to school, last Friday was United Nations Day so all the exchange students met at one high school that had a program prepared. My host sister Zeynep who is currently in Brasil gave me a list of her favorite places so I could further explore the local spots. Last weekend there was a Halloween party at one of the Rotarians houses, Everyone dressed up and there was good food, but most importantly there was a Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahçe football game! For those of you who don’t know, they are the two most rivaled teams in Turkiye. The 29th of October was Republic Day, the celebration of Turkiye becoming a republic, usually it is celebrated by huge parades and carrying the biggest Turkish flag. This year most of the festivities were cancelled. I am closer still with the exchange students and Rotex. I have a “Bucket List”, the idea came from my friend Cameron, a two time Rotary Exchange student (18yo, Denmark ‘13-’14, Turkey ‘15-’16). It is comprised mostly of little things like “try x food” or “go to a Turkish bath house”. Homesickness isn’t really getting to me, but I do miss autumn! I feel like Turkish weather is skipping straight from summer to winter. All in all, everything is still wonderful, happy Halloween everyone.
October 1: Wow. I feel like I am living my dream. It has been better than I ever expected! My trip here went very smoothly. On my third day, me and the other 19 students in the Istanbul District took a 12 hour bus ride to the beautiful vacation city of Antalya! The EEMA conference (the Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Africa Rotary Youth Exchange conference) was held there and I think I really learned a lot about how Turkish Rotary works. I also met every exchange student in Turkey which was quite an experience! I knew people came on exchange for all sorts of differents reasons, and that we all learn, grow, change differently, EEMA was a perfect representation of who we are. I attended my first Rotary meeting the following week, they were very welcoming. Then my first day of school, I only went for two days that week because I headed of to my district’s orientation which was also a lot of fun. The students in our district get along very well because we spent the whole next week together at language class everyday. Language class was very helpful and will continue on the weekends. The following week was the holiday of Bayram, everyone was celebrating, this is a holiday in which animals (sheep and cows) are bought and butchered and their meat shared with the poor throughout the whole country. Some exchange students were uncomfortable with this but I took it as an opportunity to learn more about Islam. I spent the week of Bayram exploring Istanbul, doing all the touristy things, and sightseeing. It truly is a remarkable city and I am so grateful to live here. As for the six B’s: I have said yes to many things I would normally have been uncomfortable with, most notably riding the Marmaray (a metro that passes under the Bosphorus) even though I have a fear of deep water. I used Bayram as a learning opportunity, I believe the whole holiday says a lot about Turkish culture. Even though Turkish is a very difficult language and I am often frustrated, I study everyday and have definitely improved tremendously. I make sure to help as much as I can around the house, cleaning up, preparing meals, running errands. It feels good to be a part of a family. As for living in the moment, I have unconsciously left my social networks alone. I can honestly say this is probably only the fourth or fifth time I have opened my laptop all month. The only social networking I use is to communicate with my family and friends here in Istanbul.