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

ISTANBUL-OF THE PAST&PRESENT

I have been in this city since Monday now, after 24 hours of travel from Pune, and I am so glad to have completely fallen in love with this country, of whatever little I have seen in these two days. The weather, the people, the whole culture, Istanbul seems to be the perfect marriage of its past and present, of the old and the new. The city of Istanbul is important to geography because it has a long history that spans the rise and fall of the world’s most famous empires. Built by emperors and buried by emperors too many times, the city stands on the ruins of its past, glorifying the history of the present. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, located on the Bosporus Strait it covers the entire area of the Golden Horn – a natural harbor. Because of its size, Istanbul extends into both Europe and Asia. The city is the world’s only metropolis to extend into more than one continent.

Due to its participation in these empires, Istanbul has also undergone various name changes throughout its lengthy history.

HISTORY OF ISTANBUL IN BRIEF

BYZANTIUM ERA – THE ROMAN EMPIRE (330-395 CE)-THE BYZANTINE (EASTERN ROMAN) EMPIRE (395-1204 AND 1261-1453 CE)-THE LATIN EMPIRE (1204-1261)-THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE (1453-1922)-THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY (1923-TODAY)

Also known as the European Capital of Culture because of its melting pot of populace and various religions as well as culture, Istanbul maintains that fine distinguishing line that let’s a traveller understand the many mysteries and tales that this city hides. Since my hotel is located at the heart of European side of Istanbul, at Gülhane Park, I decided to take a trip to the very very famous Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

After having a brilliant breakfast, I strolled out, taking in the beautiful breeze and the good looking men. After about 600meters, I reached my first destination.

HAGIA SOPHIA

One of the most mysterious and extremely written about monuments in the city’s history, the Hagia Sophia survived earthquakes, religious power struggles, and has been a church (basilica), a mosque and is now a museum. It is known as the Ayasofya in Turkish, and was dedicated to the Wisdom (Sophia) of God. There were once two more churches that were regarded as “Churches of Divine Wisdom” but the Hagia Sophia is the last that remains.

From the time of its construction between 532 and 537 AD, on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, through to 1453 AD, the Hagia Sophia served as a cathedral for the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, Constantinople, as Istanbul was once called, was conquered by the Ottoman Turks at this time, and the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by order of Sultan Mehmed II. Relics such as the shroud of Mary, nails from the true cross and the tombstone of Jesus were some of its treasures, until the city was ransacked during the Fourth crusade. It remained in use as a mosque until as recently as 1931, when it was closed down for four years to be reopened as a museum in 1935 by the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

When I entered the monument, I was not only transported to a different time, but I could also decipher the existence of two most primary religion. While the Islamic sanctions remains, right above the structure is Virgin Mary, holding baby Jesus, protected by Archangels Gabriel and Michael. Also, guarding above the door are two angels, guardians of the heaven. As one enters, one sees the ceiling that was built at a height so high that it was supposedly a doorway to heaven.  Apart that, there are a couple of tombstones that one can see around the monuments, and one of the largest baptism area that Istanbul had in those days. As Hagia Sophia maintains the balance between the two religious powers, I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult was it for humanity to co-exist so peacefully?

THE BLUE MOSQUE / SULTANAHMET MOSQUE

Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is also known as Sultanahmet Mosque, named after Sultan Ahmet I who wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would compete with the Hagia Sophia. The two places of worship now stand side by side for visitors to judge which is the more extraordinary of the architectural marvels. Mosques traditionally have one, two or four minarets. What makes the Blue Mosque unique as it boasts six minarets. Although the main west entrance is far grander than the north entrance, non-worshippers are asked to use the north entrance, like I was, to keep the mosque’s sacredness intact. The Blue Mosque’s interior is lit with two hundred and sixty windows which were once filled with stained glass of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately they have been lost and replaced with replicas far more inferior. The mosque’s interior has 20,000 blue tiles that line its high ceiling. The oldest of these tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns that make them fine examples of sixteenth century Iznik design.

Written by Adhisa Ghosh

Shot on Iphone7plus

MY SINGAPORE DIARY

Singapore’s name comes from ‘Singa Pura’ which means Lion City in Sanskrit. According to the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), a Sumatran prince called Sang Nila Utama landed on Temasek (Singapore’s old name) and saw a Lion which is called ‘Singa’ in Malay(language of Singapore). Thus he gave the island a new name, ‘Singapura’.

My summer holiday couldn’t have gone better with me and my family deciding to take a break from the scorching heat of Maharashtra and we decided for a quick five day getaway to Singapore.Since my dad has been to the city countless times and has been nothing less than praises for the development of the city and its people, he really wanted me to experience Singapore before I left for my MBA.

So we sat on the Air India Dreamliner, where the hospitality was beyond amazing and our five day trip was resplendent with a lot of city tour, wildlife and history. I would also try a lot of their street food because I think thats the best part about going to a new country and also befriending people, because Singaporeans are such amazing beautiful people, their discipline and perseverance amazed me and I think when we visit such places we have so much more to learn and take back home.

Also, on one trip, while asking the driver about the seasons, he jokingly mentioned how its hot, hotter and hottest. Which was quite true! It rains randomly and almost every day and the weather can get quite humid and sticky. Be prepared for an amazing tan and keep hydrating while you travel if you are visiting during the Indian summers.

Here is a quick brief lay down of the places I visited and what all we did –

1- Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer is one of the world’s largest observation wheels – after two and a half years of construction, it was opened in April 2008, its height reaching 165 meters. With a capacity to hold 784 people, Singapore Flyer is considered to be one of the main tourist attractions in Singapore.The view from Singapore Flyer opens up a magnificent panorama of the city and the Singapore Bay from a bird’s eye-view. One can also order a bottle of champagne, lunch, or a romantic dinner to be served on the wheel. No, we didn’t do that as we were straight up on the flyer after eight hours of flight and travel and no sleep. I refused to be photographed much to my mother’s chagrin because I looked like a mess.

Image credits – Embassy Alliance Travel

2- Singapore Botanic Garden

With more than 150 years of history, the 82-hectare Gardens holds a unique and significant place in the history of Singapore and the region. The Gardens has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) on 4 July 2015 and is the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is the first in Asia and the third botanic gardens inscribed in the world.

3- Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. The other attractions include the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, OCBC Skyway, Supertree Grove, Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes, Heritage Gardens, World of Plants and Art Sculpture.They have replicated gardens indoors from around the world, in the flower dome and the cloud forest is a rainforest replica complete with a skywalk. That was definitely my favourite part.

4- Sentosa Island

The 500-hectare island resort is home to an exciting array of themed attractions, award-winning spa retreats, lush rainforests, golden sandy beaches, resort accommodations, world-renowned golf courses, a deep-water yachting marina and luxurious residences – making Sentosa a vibrant island resort for business and leisure. Making Sentosa its home, too, is Singapore’s first integrated resort, Resorts World Sentosa, which operates South East Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park. Situated on the eastern end of Sentosa Island is Sentosa Cove, an exclusive oceanfront and residential enclave bustling with some 2,000 homes, romantic quayside restaurants, retail and specialty shops. Our entire day went by visiting the Madame Tussauds, Butterfly museum, Underwater World, Marine Life Park and seeing the most popular show on the island, the very famous laser show, Wings of time. Yes, I have tons of photos from these places but I am way too picky to put them here so only a few will have to suffice. Also we were so busy hopping from place to place, and walking for miles and totally exhausted by the time we sat for the show.

5- Orchard Street

Orchard Road, a 2.2 kilometre-long boulevard, is the retail and entertainment hub of Singapore. Often known colloquially as Orchard, the area is a major tourist attraction. With almost every luxury brand on the street, and malls like Takashimaya catering to major brands and luxury, one finds everything from Prada to MiuMiu, Chanel to Dior and Gucci and Louis Vuitton to Desigual and Tory Burch and Tiffany. Yes, this was my most favourite part of the trip. My dad had to push me inside a cab.

6- Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari

The Singapore Zoo, formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens and commonly known locally as the Mandai Zoo was on of my best experiences. From having breakfast with the descendants of Ah-Meng, the Sumatran Orangutan who became the poster child of Singapore zoo and led quite a celebrity life to actually feeding the elephants and watching numerous animal shows, I felt so connected and so much in sync with the wildlife around. Even the Jurong Bird Park and the Night Safari were absolute amazing parts of the trip. If you are at the bird park make sure to visit the parrot paradise because the birds actually mimic and talk whatever you say. And the night safari, you cant miss their tribal dance and animal show. All in all, its one wildlife experience you don’t want to miss.

Ah-Meng when she was 47 years old, before her death

7- Merlion park and River Cruise

The Merlion is the national personification of Singapore. The name is a combination of “mer”, meaning the sea, and “lion”. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means “sea town” in Javanese. Once you are at the park you see the glorious Merlion and throw in a cent while making a wish, and take the river cruise that takes you through all the bays of the city and narrates the history of each port. It is definitely worth the ride, where you see Clarke Quay and the Fullerton Hotel.

In conclusion, Singapore is worth a visit repetitively because of the people, the city that is so beautiful, clean and well maintained and the street food that I just loved! Also, the hotel, V-Lavender had a great buffet spread that gave me lots of holiday weight to fight off once I was back! 🙂

Written by Adhisa Ghosh