By Eugene Sevi, P.E., Professor Emeritus
One of Norwich’s primary goals is to provide international experiences for all students. Unfortunately, most engineering and technical students do not have the language skills to study abroad in another language. Bogazici and Bilkent Universities in Turkey provide outstanding opportunities for Norwich students with technical majors to study in a foreign country at a university where the instruction is in English. Additionally, both schools have excellent support for international students and offer courses in Turkish history, culture and an introduction to the Turkish language. Currently Norwich’s International Studies Office is in contact with Bogazici and Bilkent Universities to make arrangements for Norwich students to study there. Both schools offer professional courses comparable to those at Norwich and provide an outstanding opportunity to have an international experience and make friends from many parts of the world.
Technical universities, both Bogazici and Bilkent not only provide the majority of their courses in English, but offer engineering programs that are Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). They also offer a full range of science and liberal arts courses, providing an outstanding opportunity for engineering and science students who do not speak another language an opportunity to study abroad.
Located in Istanbul, Bogazici University was founded in 1863 as Roberts College by Christopher Robert, a wealthy merchant and philanthropist from New York. From the beginning, Bogazici University used English as its primary language and therefore attracts many students from Europe and the Middle East. Bogazici University is a midsized university with about 11,000 students and has strong engineering programs which are ABET accredited. The US Naval Academy has sent about six students per year to Bogazici University. The campus has a feel similar to American campuses and has a very diverse student body. The school is situated on a bluff on the European side of the Bosporus near the ruins of a 16th century Ottoman fort and overlooks one of the primary bridges to the Asian side of the strait. The school is situated in a nice neighborhood and is surrounded by cafes frequented by students. Excellent public transportation connects to the rest of Istanbul, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.Bilkent University is located in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, and is about a five-hour drive from Istanbul. Bilkent is a younger school that was founded by a successful Turkish entrepreneur. Located in a nice hillside neighborhood overlooking Ankara, it is served by excellent public transportation. Bilkent also has excellent ABET accredited engineering programs and science and liberal arts programs. Bilkent has a beautiful modern campus and, like Bogazici University, English is the language of instruction, which attracts many students from Europe, Asia and Africa in addition to Turkish students.
Last spring I accompanied four students on a military-cultural immersion trip to Turkey, funded by the Olmsted Foundation, to check out these two unique options for study abroad. Cadets Rikki Feightner (AFROTC), Delaney Welch (MC), Kyle Hallowell (Army ROTC) and Joseph Babitsky (AFROTC) spent two weeks travelling the country and getting to know its culture.
During our visit, we spent time with Captain Dale Trakas of the U.S. Army, an Olmsted Scholar studying in Istanbul. He escorted us to our hotel, gave us an orientation of Istanbul and provided practical information on traveling and being in Istanbul. Most importantly, he was able to visit with the cadets and discuss a wide variety of topics to include a detailed description of the Olmsted Scholars Program, the professional and personal aspects of a junior officer’s career and information on foreign affairs opportunities in the Army. He also guided us to historical and cultural sites to include Taksim Square, the Whirling Dervish Ceremony, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Bosporus boat tour and visit to the Prince’s Islands.
We also attended the Eastern European Young Water Professionals Conference in Istanbul and met with Professor Ashok Vaseashta, of Norwich University Applied Research Institutes. He provided an outstanding overview of the importance of water in international relations and shared a dinner with us where he was able to relate his extensive experience in international and military relations. At the conference we met young professionals from the Americas, Europe, Asia and India and realized that in the case of water supply and water quality, we are all facing similar challenges.
The world is continuing to be smaller as communications and transportation become more efficient, so business no longer is confined within the borders of the United States. I am reminded of this every day as I remain in contact with my former engineering and engineering management students. To be competitive they and their organizations must be aware of what is happening all around the world and they must be able to market their products internationally as well as domestically. The importance of international awareness and the ability to function in an international setting also became apparent to me during my military career in the US Navy and Air Force. We learned that we had to understand the peoples and countries we were involved with if we were to be successful in our efforts in security cooperation.
Norwich University’s emphasis on international studies is very appropriate, even essential, in today’s shrinking world especially for business, engineering, architecture and medical professionals. Granted, most of us do not have the language skills to study in a second language, so Bogazici and Bilkent Universities provide an outstanding opportunity to gain an international experience and still study in English while living in Istanbul or Ankara, Turkey. Yes, it is a stretch compared to staying at Norwich for one’s entire college experience, but the international experience will provide personal and professional benefits beyond your expectations.