All posts by Kimberley Charles

Thinking Critically About Study Abroad

IMG_2604On this final major bus trip from Kapadokya to Rize,  it’s sad to think that our wonderful trip through Turkey is coming to an end in just five days. Before we reach our goodbyes, I’ll let you in on an ongoing conversation in the group:

Thinking Critically About Study Abroad

As an admissions session leader at my university, I can tell you that most students on college tours are concerned about study abroad opportunities. Sometimes, the availability of programs is the deciding factor for potential students! Most universities offer hundreds of programs, ranging from university-specific to university-approved. The approved label means that the program is probably not run by the university itself, but meets the requirements for credit transfer. Our background as a group is diverse in the spectrum of study abroad. Sofia just finished a Duke-in-Turkey program, Galen and I opted to attend the Field School instead of a semester-long program, and Andrew is going into his sophomore year, when most students decide if they are going to go abroad. Given our conversations, here are some tips to consider if you want to go abroad!


Question 1: Should I go abroad? When should I go abroad?

YES. Without question, the number one regret of most college graduates that I have spoken to is that they did not go abroad. Once you graduate from college, chances are the ability to go to another country (or countries) is limited to work opportunities. Most often, financial aid transfers to abroad programs- so you would be paying about the same as a semester’s tuition. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, JUST GO! I can guarantee that you will not regret it.

Most American college students tend to go abroad during their junior year. I’m not really sure why this has become the norm. If you’re a freshman student struggling to find an internship after your first year, spend your summer abroad! There’s no rule that states that you must be a junior and that you must go abroad during the regular semester. Summers offer a great time to leave the country without missing out the four years you have at your college or university. Do what is best for you, not what everyone else is doing! If you plan it out, you can potentially study abroad in more than one country during your college years.


Question 2: Is there more than one type of program?

YES. Study abroad is a hugely ambiguous term for many types of programs and options. Do you want to go to one country, or multiple? Are you looking for language practice or to learn a new language all together? How many hours will you be in the class room? One thing I never thought of while searching through programs is the ratio of time actually spent in the classroom and time actually spent out and exploring the country. Be sure to ask your study abroad counselor or the program director to figure out if the program is right for you. One of the biggest reasons I chose to do the Field School was because Lisa explained the entire program in full the first time we met!


Question 3: Who are the students that attend this program?

If you’re looking for an escape from your current campus, perhaps a university-specific program is not the best option. Many programs bring together students from a wide variety of backgrounds, whether from colleges and universities in the US, internationally,  or from different majors. Be sure to ask where students are from, and how many students are in the program. Having a variety of backgrounds and disciplines is key to taking in the abroad experience for more than what you may be experiencing.


Question 4: Who can I talk to about choosing a program?

Reach out to prior students of the program to get the most honest opinions about the program. It’s a great idea to ask about major pros and cons. Yes, many students who go abroad will rave about how wonderful their time was! Even so, chances are the student is not representative of the entire program and whatever advertising mechanisms they use.

Finally, Study abroad is a huge part of the undergraduate experience. Be sure to make the most of your time in college and go abroad! Whether that means during the semester or during the summer, sophomore or junior year, GO ABROAD. And most importantly, research programs and ask questions before signing on to a program.

Introducing the 2014 Field School for Social Innovation Cohort!


Our final day in Bodrum began much like the past two days: warm, sunny and not a cloud in sight. Our bus for Konya leaves at 5:00 pm today and we have no appointments between breakfast and our departure. For us, that means catching up on blogs, reviewing research, packing, and journaling. It’s always nice to have some time to reflect on all of the traveling we’ve done thus far. Currently, we are in Southwest Turkey and tonight we’re headed to Konya, central Turkey.

The journey is supposed to take about 10 hours so we are going to take an overnight bus, which are very popular in Turkey. In fact, we are getting off at around the half-way point of the bus’s entire journey! A small but audible gasp came from the group when we took our seats, mostly because there were TVs in the back of the seats. (I will pause here to reflect on all my Peter Pan bus trips from New York City to Providence where there was no TV and no wifi). Sofia and I made ourselves comfortable and took in the landscape for the first few hours. Meanwhile, Galen continued journaling, Cansu listened to music, and Andrew conversed with his bus buddy using his Turkish vocabulary (his Turkish is fantastic!). We’re a pretty eclectic bunch, bringing together a wide range of interests, majors, and experiences. Here’s some info about us!


I (Kimberley Charles) am a rising junior at Brown University concentrating in Political Science and Development Studies. I’m most interested in development as it plays out on the grassroots level. After studying theories of development, I’m excited to meet social entrepreneurs and hear their thoughts and critiques of development and innovation. This is my second trip to Turkey, and I am very excited to experience Turkey beyond Istanbul.

Sofia Linares Vasquez is a rising senior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations with a concentration in Development Economics. She spent her last semester at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul with the Duke in İstanbul program. On this trip, She is most interested in studying population migration in Turkey and improving her Turkish. For the world cup, she is rooting for her home country of Colombia.

Galen Rohn is rising junior at Brown concentrating in Business entrepreneurship and organizations (BEO). She is very interested in social innovation and change relating to the environment and sustainability. Her goal in Turkey is to look at initiatives that connect environmental sustainability to other social problems. So far, Galen has fallen in love with Turkey.

Cansu Erdogan is junior at Koc University, Istanbul, concentrating in Sociology and Psychology. She is very interested in gender studies, women’s empowerment and social change in Turkey. On this trip, among other things, she was amazed by Tara Hopkins’ effort to connect poverty, women employment and sustainability through her venture at çöp(m)adam. So far, she is so glad and content with the field work.

Andrew Scanlan is a member of Brown University’s class of 2017 from Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA.  His anticipated concentration is mechanical engineering, but his interests go beyond that specific discipline. Andrew is most interested in learning about people’s value beliefs.

Now that you know a little bit about us, feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the program! We’ll probably be raving about this trip for the next year, and would love to talk to any interested students!

Off the (Istanbul) Grid



June 6th – Day 9 After only a few hours of sleep, today the group is headed to Dedetepe (hyperlink), an eco-farm located about three hours away from bustling Istanbul. After a week of exploring the city, three days at an eco-farm seems like a necessary vacation from the “global city” Istanbul has become over the past twenty-five years. Every person I have spoken to over the age of 30 describes Istanbul as an ever-evolving city. In 1985, the population of Istanbul was estimated to be just fewer than 2 million people. The Turkish government estimates that about 14 million people live in Istanbul, however most Turks I have spoken to posit that number to be around 20 million because of imperfect measuring mechanisms and the growing Syrian refugee population. People occupy every crevice of the city, from the European to the Asian side. This metropolis is not unlike many other cities in the world: a growing public transit system, supermarkets, malls popping up at every available corner, and small green spaces scattered throughout. It’s no wonder that Istanbul was the 5th most traveled city in the world last year, right up there with Paris and London.

Is Istanbul an eco-friendly city? “Development” means that major cities must focus on growth in order to compete with cities internationally. Development is not synonymous with sustainability, eco-friendly, or simplicity. There might come a day when theories of development become more encompassing of these issues, but I argue that Istanbul’s continuous growth is happening in a manner that encourages building first, then questioning of environmental practices later. As we boarded the ferry out of Istanbul, we were making the conscious choice to leave behind the anonymity of city dwelling for the countryside- an entrance into an entirely different world.

Full Disclaimer: I do not like the outdoors. No, it’s not because I hate trees and green things and all that mother earth provides. I am severely allergic to mosquitoes, which has significantly affected my travel experiences. (One would think that I would have some sort of genetic protection from mosquitoes because my parents grew up in the Amazon). So my anxiety peaked as we entered Dedetepe. My first move was to apply copious amounts of Deet…and then take in our surroundings. Welcome to Dedetepe!


You Can’t Sit with Us! #TurkeyEUrelations

20140118_EUD000_0June 5, 2014: Turkey-EU Relations

As a high school student, I participated in Euro Challenge , a high school competition where students dissected issues in the European Union and presented them in a skit-like format. As you can probably imagine, my team and I spent hours and hours memorizing facts about the European Union, from the European Steel and Coal Commission to the Copenhagen Criteria. Part of our studies included mock EU meetings, much like Model United Nations, where we debated how the European Union might debate world issues including the admission of new countries. Nine times out of ten, I chose to be Turkey because I was fascinated by the arguments associated with Turkey’s admission into the EU- and it was very easy to strategize against my peer countries because their reasoning mimicked commentary of current EU countries. I was very excited to go to the  Economic Development Foundation (IKV) where we were to meet with Melih Ozsöz, Deputy Secretary-General and Research Director at IKV.  In addition, Melih worked on the business and administrative side of çöp (m)adam, a social venture we’ll be visiting very soon! (Stay Tuned for details on that!) The IKV is the oldest NGO that works on the issue of Turkey’s potentially admission into the EU, and is the only NGO that works in all domains of the issue. The IKV is representative of all Turks, not just businesses. However, Turkey has had little luck in becoming a part of the EU over the last 8 years.


In 2004, Turkey was elevated to a candidate nation for EU membership, which began the complicated process of “negotiations,” aka adopting 80,000 pages of EU law and regulation. These are divided into 35 “chapters” focused on everything from energy policy to human rights. Prior to this, the EU admitted Turkey to the Customs Union in 1996 and Turkey entered the Common Markets. Today, about half of Turkish trade is with the EU. However, joining the Customs Union did not help in accelerating Turkey’s goal of joining the EUFor further information on the historical quest for membership, check out “Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know” by Andrew Finkel (and shout outs to Stephen Kinzer for letting me borrow his copy for our trip!).

The most striking aspect about Turkey’s potential membership in the EU is the number of stakeholders and interest groups in the debate. Melih introduced us to the multifaceted debate going on in Turkey and between Turkey and the EU. He said that Turks tend to blame the EU for the lack of progress in admission, claiming that Turkey is too Muslim and too large. On the other hand, the Turkish government does lack certain freedoms, especially concerning freedom of speech and expression that are non-negotiable for the EU. However, the Customs Union agreement in 1996 did benefit big business in Turkey, while agriculture did not experience the same growth. In addition, current issues in Turkey like the influx of 1.5 million Syrian Refugees, the treatment of the Kurdish population, and the Armenian question add to ongoing debates about Turkey’s ability to meet criteria for admission into the EU. In my high school class, the Armenian question often came to mind as a definite reason for the EU’s hesitation of admitting Turkey. After posing this question to Melih, he explained that the Armenian question is even dodged by the US.  President Obama often uses the word “atrocity” instead of the word “genocide” in order to keep up healthy relations with Turkey. In reality, Turkey’s membership involves far-reaching and complicated issues, from the 35 chapters to ongoing tensions with Cyprus (partly an EU member). With such amazing work happening at IKV, Turkey’s admission into the EU seems to be on the horizon.


Gezi’de gezdik!


police picnic

May 31st – Day 3

Up early and back to Istanbul! After a wonderful exhibition on the Gezi Protest in Bursa, we boarded a ferry back to Istanbul, as Cansu carefully monitored which roads and bridges would be blocked. Word on the street was that the police would preemptively block any travel into Taksim in order to stop any potential anniversary based protesting. By the time we reached Taksim, it was apparent that we would not be able to stay in our hostel- so we decided to hunker down in Lisa’s apartment instead. But, half of us needed to go back to our hostel to pick up extra clothes and toiletries. In order to do that, we had to cross through Taksim, which had an estimated 25,000 policemen.*Cue Mission Impossible theme song* Looking as tourisit-y as possible, Lisa talked our way into Taksim. Soon enough we were exactly where a CNN reporter had been forcibly taken for questioning by the police. Being naïve, I took a few pictures (below), before realizing that 25,000 police were staring back at me- the very same police who assaulted and killed protestors one year prior. I’ll remember this experience for the rest of my life.

Finally, we returned with our belongings to Lisa’s apartment. With the Turkish news playing in the background, we prepped for dinner. The five of us gathered around the dinner table for a quick lesson on how to make köfte, and tried our hand at preparing a traditional Turkish meal. Meanwhile, Cansu made Turkish coffee. We sipped down our drinks as fast as we could so that Cansu could tell our fortunes with the coffee grounds. I’m trying not to jinx anything, but my future is looking pretty bright here in Turkey! J

Attila arranged for a dinner party of friends and family for the night, so the apartment was buzzing with life as we dug into our köfte, rice, and salad. At all corners of the house, we engaged in discussions about politics, American foreign relations, music, and art. We challenged each other in our views, especially concerning Orientalism. Finally, I was able to recall and use my opinions on Edward Said in a constructive way! Our Turkish friends were very aware of American politics, but I knew very little about Turkish politics- hegemony at its best! We talked for hours and hours…(until 3 am)…but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If this is the Turkish way, I am so happy to be a part of it!

<3s and love,