METU does not automatically provide incoming students with insurance cover. Students must have their own health insurance valid in Turkey.
As all visiting students to Turkey travel outside Ankara and Istanbul at sometime during their stay, we advise them to have inoculations for tetanus and for hepatitis as well as the standard inoculations required of all university students. Most all visitors may experience some upset stomach and diarrhea during the first week or so. In most cases, it is due simply to changes in food and water and lasts for three or four days. Students are advised to drink bottled water particularly outside Ankara. They should avoid salads and to peel all fruits except at home or in the better restaurants. Restaurants are graded in Turkey according to the type of service and eating space. Eating in restaurants of all classes is generally safe as long as freshly cooked dishes are eaten. Some students do get an intestinal infection during the first month regardless of the care they take. When diarrhea does not clear within a week or ten days, students are checked and treated at METU's Medical Center. Students can call ICO staff day and night, in case of serious health problems or case of emergency. Students are advised to avoid petting cats and dogs, particularly the many strays, as there is rabies in Turkey and sometimes-even pets are not inoculated against rabies.
Over exposure to sun and dehydration should be guarded against in the summer particularly in the Southern regions of Turkey. Students should wear hats when touring during the summer. Ankara has a slight air pollution problem during winter. On the days when pollution is bad, such as during a period of air inversion, students are advised to restrict their outdoor activities, particularly in the central part of the city where pollution is generally worse. METU Campus has less air pollution as it is within a forested area.
During winter, snow and ice are not cleaned off sidewalks in many places. Students are warned that as snow melts, refreezes and is covered with additional layers of snow, walking, even on campus, can become hazardous.
Medical service in Ankara is good. METU has a fully staffed Health Clinic on campus that provides for emergency needs as well as for minor health problems. Medical service is less adequate in smaller towns and other regions of Turkey. Students are given emergency telephone numbers to use in case of illness or accidents while outside Ankara.
Students choosing to study in Turkey will find people friendly and helpful towards visitors. It is a safe country; students can travel safely within most parts of Turkey. Terrorism, common at one time in the southeastern part of Turkey, rarely spread to other parts of Turkey. Though travel is safe, some common sense precautions should be taken. Hitchhiking is not safe. Students should not carry large sums of money and should keep passports in a safe place in case their handbags might be carried away by muggers. Students are required to get a residence permit that should be carried at all times. You are advised not to travel alone in rural areas or at night. It is always advisable, even if traveling in groups, to inquire about the safety of the areas you want to visit.
Ankara is a particularly safe city with almost no violent crime and very little petty crime. Students, both women and men, can move about Ankara and most large cities in Turkey both day and night but should know, that as in all big cities, certain districts are not safe at night particularly for women. There is an active nightlife in Ankara suited for university students. However, students go to such places in groups or couples, not alone.
The main safety concern is traffic. Turkey has a high rate of deaths through traffic accidents. Students must take more precautions in crossing streets and care is necessary even when pedestrians have the right-of-way.
Issues of personal safety are covered during the orientation program. Students are given information about the city of Ankara, specifically which districts are safe, where students may go at night and safety tips about city transportation. Students, particularly women, are advised not to stay out late at night alone. If using taxis late at night, it is advisable to use a taxi from one of the many Taxi Stands rather than flagging a passing taxi in the street.
Students are urged to take precautions about personal belongings as they would at home. Students staying in the dormitories have a place where they can lock valuables including passports. They should not carry about large sums of money.
Women may experience some harassment on the streets in certain districts of the city and in smaller towns. Men may make comments or follow on the street. Touching almost never occurs. Turkish young women handle this issue by dressing up or inconspicuously, never make eye contact and walking purposively. Throughout Turkey both foreign men and women will be approached by people of all ages who will want to talk in English. Children particularly will follow with their repertoire of English questions. Such approaches can become irritating and can be handled by ignoring.
Traffic in Turkey is one of the major causes of death. Students must learn to take great care in crossing streets even when pedestrians have the right-of-way. Cars do not stop for pedestrians even at Pedestrian Crossings. Driving under the influence of alcohol is common although police are making more efforts at control. Students do not need to, indeed should not, accept a ride from a friend who has been drinking.
Students are advised not to drive in Turkey. Transportation within cities is adequate and inexpensive. Inter-city bus service is good, safe and also relatively inexpensive. However, we advise students to use bus companies with excellent traffic records and to avoid, when possible, travel at night. Each time students can ask advice at the SAO in relation to your forthcoming trip.
A major earthquake fault runs east to west through Turkey and smaller faults are found in the Southwest and Southern parts. While earthquakes are not expected in central Ankara, tremors can be felt. Students are given instructions about what to do in case of strong tremors in Ankara and what to do should they be traveling in an area when an earthquake occurs. Since the major earthquake in the Istanbul region in August 1999, the disaster management procedures in Turkey have improved. Flooding occurs in some parts of Turkey and can be dangerous for travelers. However, there is always ample warning and travel restrictions to such areas are enforced at such times.
Students are advised that possession/use of drugs is strictly prohibited by law in Turkey. If students are found with drugs, they face imprisonment. Neither the program nor embassies can help in such cases.
The drinking age in Turkey is 18. Students not used to drinking should take care. It is against METU regulations to drink in campus dormitories and on campus.
Demonstrations by various groups are held periodically in Ankara and Istanbul, always in specific locations. Students should not get involved in such demonstrations and in fact should avoid these locations during time of demonstrations.
Most foreign students at METU report having great experiences. Turkish students are warm and friendly. It is easy to fit in with some group. Initially, however, students may experience frustration because of language. Outside the classroom and except with friends, Turkish is spoken. Students who learn survival Turkish as quickly as possible feel less frustration. Turkey is a bureaucratic country. Students faced with some bureaucratic barriers plus difficulty in communication may experience considerable stress. The METU Study Abroad Office anticipates many of the bureaucratic requirements and provides assistance. The best policy is to know what the bureaucratic expectations are and, regardless of how needless they may seem, follow the procedures exactly.
Students sometimes have unexpected difficulty in adapting even when they have had experience living abroad in countries less developed than Turkey. Life in Ankara and on campus, in many ways, is much like it is in Europe or in the USA. With so many similarities, students may not be prepared for the differences. One major difference, there is more touching and tolerance for physical closeness among same sex and less tolerance, in public (and off campus) for touching and physical closeness of opposite sex. There may be some differences in attitudes towards privacy. There is a tendency to spend more time with friends and less time alone. Asking questions about matters that in some cultures are considered very private, such as financial affairs, may be more common especially among the less urban.
A Rewarding and Pleasant Experience:
METU has had an active exchange student program for ten years and has had international students since it opened. International students who have come to METU on these exchange programs have uniformly found the experience enriching. Friendships with other foreign students and with Turkish students have been one of the reported rewarding experiences. Many students return to Ankara and METU to visit METU and friends here. Most report they gained a better understanding of themselves and their own culture. All exchange students travel while on the program. Ankara is ideally located for easy travel to Istanbul, to the Mediterranean Coast and to the Black Sea Coast. Inter-city buses are convenient, relatively inexpensive and safe. Students easily combine their academic programs with trips to the many historical and fun places to see.