ISTANBUL 101 x IFA PARIS

I am blatantly aware of how so many of you have asked me about my MBA course and about IFA Paris.

To start with, I was pursuing my undergrad in Symbiosis Institute of Design in Pune, specialising in Fashion Communication when in my final year I decided to go in for my MBA in Luxury Brand Management, immediately after my final degree project.

No, I didn’t have any help from anyone to figure things out so amidst working for my Degree Project and pursuing the application process at IFA for its September 2017 batch, I followed all the guidelines and process clearly mentioned on their website and also applied for a scholarship.

Once I was given a counsellor who guided me through the process, online exam and the interview, much to my delight, I was accepted with scholarship into the program.

The option was that first six months I could choose between Istanbul, Shanghai and Paris, and eventually finish off my last two semesters in Paris. Taking this opportunity I decided to give Istanbul a shot as Turkey has always fascinated me and was on my Bucket list.

I couldn’t miss the opportunity of being able to live and study at such an exotic destination. After spending six months in Istanbul and living like a locale I would like to give you a list down of the Istanbul lifestyle and the IFA experience.

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FLAT HUNTING

Initially, if you choose Istanbul, the campus coordinator connects you two months prior, with the fellow students coming to the same destination, on a WhatsApp group (This is only for Istanbul, the Shanghai batch had different measures). We had a total of only 5 students who opted for Istanbul, hence the pressure was less.

I connected with a Turkish school teacher who wanted to rent out his apartment located opposite the Golden horn in Istanbul on a Turkish house hunting website. The minimum monthly rent and lifestyle budget can range from 750-1500 Lira depending on your indulgences as well. But Istanbul is a city that can be very easy on your budget and is cheaper than Mumbai! (shocker)

I cannot stress how important it is to budget your savings while you are a student abroad. 

Also, finding accommodation is extremely easy and hotels are cheap if you want to come to the country and then re-confirm your housing as I did.

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GETTING YOUR ISTANBUL KARTE

It’s a travel card you get at any grocery store (generally SOK and Tekel shops) (SOK is a grocery chain and Tekel is alcohol store)

It is a must that you buy this card that comes for 7 lira. You need to keep recharging your card, a minimum of 30 lira that goes for a month or half depending how often you travel. These cards can be swiped in the bus, tram, metro-bus and metro. Alternatively, cabs can be frequently used as well because they run on meter and are quite reasonable than Europe. (I know you must have heard a lot of negative things about Turkish cab drivers, please do not form a judgement unless you have experienced it in real life, most of the cab rides i have taken have been wonderful and people have been kind.)

In retrospect, it’s a must you buy this card!

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IFA CAMPUS

IFA collaborates with a premium institute called the Kadir Has University that has a very good reputation and prestige in Istanbul. Located in Fatih, the college is accessible by all public transport and is a very safe campus, one of the most peaceful ones I have seen so far.

With a starbucks, two huge cafeterias, unlimited wifi and state of the art classrooms, you won’t feel like leaving the campus much.

Also, the course structure for MBA in Luxury Brand Management is not very intensive at the beginning and you will have plenty of time to settle in and feel at one with the course. The teachers are wonderful, warm and caring and are extremely sensitive to your adjustments or any short-comings. I am so glad that I have gotten to experience a wonderful bond with most of my mentors in Istanbul who did a brilliant job at teaching us the course layouts and also went out of their comfort zones to arrange for trips and visits so we could get to know the Turkish culture and market more personally.

Our campus administrator was a Turkish person who would always encourage outdoor trips and coax us to soak in the cultural spirit of the city, even if it was a 3 am cab ride back home, realising that Istanbul was a city that literally never slept. The best part was we knew that most of our teachers and mentors were a call away in case of any emergencies, there was no barrier and we were like a big family!

(The new IFA campus details of Istanbul have changed, click on ISTANBUL IFA to know more about it! )

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IFA INDUSTRY VISITS

During your six months of stay I can promise you over 20 industry visits spread across two semesters. These include the Perfumes and Cosmetics and Hospitality seminars. You get to visit and interact with brands and entrepreneurs, visit luxury hotels and take tours, get offered different cuisines and learn about wine tasting and visit vineyards for Gastronomy lectures. I think the best part about the two semesters spent here is the amount of time we have wandered outdoors participating and soaking in real lessons and meeting with people coming from various walks of life. It was all very luxurious and I felt that I was studying a luxury brand management course because everything was related and a very realistic image was drawn over everything. Between these visits and amidst networking with countless entrepreneurs , I grew up in Istanbul.

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NIGHTLIFE IN ISTANBUL

Now, I understand that as a student it can get quite hectic sometimes and taking a break and soaking in the nightlife in a different country becomes a must routine breaker.

Join in with an Erasmus student group who organise pub crawls and events. Soak in the nightlife and pubs across Taksim, Istiklal street, Ortakoy and Besiktas. Some really good nightlife destinations which are easily accessible and cheap in Istanbul. Some of our daily grinds were – The Beat, Eski Beirut, St. Regis and Cosmo. Google them if you are in Istanbul!

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FOOOOOOD

Not going to say much on this except Tavuk Doner, Iskender, Sarma, Çorba, Lahmacun, Turkish delights, Baklava and Çai are my favourites! I am not so fussy about food and given that I am a Bengali, I appreciate good food. I strictly believe if you have left your country to live in a different one, you might as well soak up the food and culture while you are young! Istanbul is filled with warm smell of freshly baked breads, cheese and olives in the mornings. Dig in while you are there!

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TURKISH PEOPLE

One word- Beautiful. Period.

The most helpful and shockingly honest bunch of people I have met so far. Boys are charming and respectful for most parts ( although avoid dating Turkish men haha, okay maybe just two dates ) and women are gorgeous!

Also, I love Turkish people. Istanbul is in my list of countries to work in for a while.

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MUST HAVE APPS

If you are an art aficionado and want to spot some cool areas – Street art Istanbul is a good option. For the practical student related apps to get around – I can swear my life on Trafi and BiTaksi. For food delivery, there is only one efficient app called Yemeksepeti.

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NEARBY VISITS 

Since I lived in the European side as the college was located there, my travel time was 20 minutes. But people do commute for an hour, it’s not surprising at all.

Public transport is one of the best and very convenient – you can take the ferry as well to nearby islands. We used to go to the Asian side quite a bit. You can also make one day trips to Troy (click to read the whole article on my visit), Bursa, Pamukkale and Capadocia amongst many others.

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IN RETROSPECT – WHAT IFA OFFERS AND MY EXPERIENCE 

In retrospect, I strictly recommend that before visiting any country you try to adapt a few of their words, their pronunciation and to extend an acceptance. I strongly believe the kind of behaviour you project is what you receive back, especially in a foreign country. It’s good to be discreet and friendly yet knowing when not to let someone take advantage of you.

IFA gave me exactly this opportunity, to live in two different countries and gather an exposure which is very potent, deeply instilled with a knowledge of their inherent culture, mounting over layers of the decades of forgotten history and stories.

You want to take this one home.

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XOXO,

Written by Adhisa Ghosh

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