Saturday, September 02, 2023

Sabbatical in Türkiye

From January through till the end of June I was on sabbatical from Queen's University and spent that time as a visiting Professor in the department of philosophy at Bilkent University in Ankara. It was an amazing cultural experience, here I highlight some of the most memorable details.

I brought my youngest son with me, and we lived in a lojman on campus -the photo above is the view from our 6th floor apartment in the morning.  My son attended high school at an international school in Ankara. Tragically the earthquake hit the country 2 weeks into our visit, fortunately we were not close to where the damage occurred.  However, all universities were closed to in-person teaching for 2 months.  This meant I did one week of in-person teaching for my class in late January, and then had to teach via zoom for the following 2 months.  This was very hard on the students, who had already experienced virtual classes during the pandemic.  

On the more positive side of things, when people ask me about our time in Türkiye I always emphasize the following two things:  (1) the people and (2) the food!  The people were so friendly and patient, given I can not speak Turkish.  Google translate on the phone really made life easier.  And the food was amazing.  My son and I enjoyed trying out new restaurants and dishes.  If it wasn't for the fact that we did a lot of walking, and that our apartment was on the 6th floor with no elevator, I would have returned to Canada much heavier than when I arrived!

The highlight of our travels was a long weekend trip to Cappadocia.  The weather was perfect, and we stayed at a very scenic hotel close to this castle (the photo was taken from the front porch of our hotel room) which we climbed to the top of:

Other travel highlights were 2 trips to Istanbul and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.  So much history and culture to take in it can be overwhelming.  

My class had about 20 students, mostly MA and PhD students, along with a handful of undergraduate students.  Very bright students, I enjoyed teaching the class.  I also had a very productive time writing new articles and completing a draft of my latest textbook.  Without a doubt it was the most productive 6 months of my academic career for writing.  My daily routine during the week was get my son off to school, workout at the gym and then write all day until it was time to get dinner ready when my son returned from school 8 hours later.  He had to be bused to and from school, about a 45 minute journey each way so his day started at 6:30am.  Two days of the week I would teach, one day for 2 hours, and the other day just for a 1 hour class.  Walking to the gym and department/ classroom was 15 minutes from our lojman.   

My son and I really had one long, epic adventure together. It was our first time living somewhere where English was not the mother tongue. This was our hiking route, around a small lake on campus

I also made some dear friends while there, and the members of the department were very hospitable and arranged social meetups for faculty.  I will always treasure the time and experiences of this sabbatical.  And if you ever get the opportunity to travel to Türkiye I would highly recommend you go!