Istanbul versus Berlin
April 26, 2014 10:26 PM   Subscribe

I've been accepted to two summer programs in two great cities! I am indecisive and have only a few more days to decide which travel grant to accept.

I've been awarded funding from both programs. My out-of-pocket expense will be slightly higher for Istanbul, but overall, expenses will remain minor so they shouldn't be the deciding factor. Both programs occur at the same time, so going to one after the other is not an option. Both programs will have participants from all around the world, although the Istanbul program draws more heavily from an American student population, and I believe the Berlin program draws more from a European population. My impression is that the programs are overall similarly selective, and besides, there is not much pressure as to what I, as a first-year medical student, ultimately do in my first summer.

Career-wise: both programs are related to medicine. The program in Berlin touches on topics related to my current area of medical research, which could be exciting and a good way for me to piece together some additional information. The program in Istanbul reviews topics related to my undergraduate major, which I really, really love and have missed thinking/learning about since medical school has started. It could be refreshing.

I'd like to do one week of traveling on my own after the program is over.

I've been to Berlin, have family there, and have worked in Germany/German-speaking countries long enough so that Berlin won't be completely new to me. I really like Berlin. It has been a while since I've been there, and it'd be nice to hear German again, and to visit some of my family and friends in Western Europe.

I've never been to Istanbul and have heard amazing things about it! I don't think it's a place I'd go on my own in the future, so I sort of see the program as a unique opportunity to see Istanbul while learning cool things about science. In other words, there are relatively more "science"/"medical" opportunities open to US students in Germany than there are in Turkey. I know that I could easily and comfortably visit Germany/Berlin in the future on my own, whereas I don't think that's the case for Istanbul. I was thinking that I could visit one or two other cities that I've never been to (any suggestions? I was thinking of Belgrade and Split) if I picked Istanbul.

I'm very happy to have these great options! I'm just bad at saying no to funded travel opportunities and wish I could do both. Is there anything that I'm not considering that I should be? Does one seem like a better option than the other, and if so, why?
posted by gemutlichkeit to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Your two paragraphs describing the benefits of each city make it clear that either choice will be great. So certainly don't stress over this. It sounds like Istanbul is more of a limited opportunity, and will be more challenging, leading to more personal growth. Berlin will also be fun, and may be more comfortable. For me, Istanbul would be a very clear choice, but then, I didn't chose the username you did.
posted by aubilenon at 11:28 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing to keep in mind is that the travel costs of wherever you want to go afterwards won't necessarily depend on distance: you may find that cheap flights from Berlin give you more options for onward travel than you can get from Istanbul.

I would also consider how long and intensive the summer programmes are: if there's very little free time, or you're exhausted from intensive sessions, then you may have less chance to see the sights than might be expected.

If you go to Berlin for the course, you could spend your week afterwards in Istanbul.
posted by Azara at 11:37 PM on April 26, 2014

You've been to Berlin before? You hear great things about Istanbul before, have never been, might not easily go, and have an exciting and rewarding funded program to participate in? This is a no-brainer. Go to Istanbul!
posted by suedehead at 11:49 PM on April 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

Well, maybe I'm saying this because I'll be there over the summer and have lived there before, but Istanbul is a great city.

Have you considered traveling in Turkey? No megacities to rival Istanbul, but there are a range of historical sites and places of natural beauty--and you can manage to stay away from the places that attract European tourists, if you plan your trip right. Like Azara said, I think visiting cities within Europe, even Eastern Europe, could be cheaper from Berlin than from Istanbul. However, the sale destinations from budget Istanbul-based airlines like Pegasus may offer you some options.
posted by a sourceless light at 12:18 AM on April 27, 2014

From what you have said it seems like you think Germany will be a better "investment" while is Instanbul is more of an adventure. There is no particular reason why if you live in Germany you couldn't travel around Europe and visit places like Istanbul - in my opinion you should separate out the adventure from your career and go to Germany for the comfortable base, while making time to travel and explore in your schedule.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:40 AM on April 27, 2014

Been to Berlin, lived in Istanbul. I would definitely go Istanbul, for the reasons that suedehead points out, but also because I think Istanbul is more unique than Berlin. And I love Berlin! But it is a very European city, and Istanbul is something quite different- the history of Byzantine and Ottoman rule has left some truly amazing architecture and the are a number of beautiful trips out of the city too.

Surely you are much more likely to have many opportunities to see Berlin in the future, too? It's also very accessible from a number of other European cities- I imagine I'll end up there again because of this, if nothing else.

Flights from Istanbul, incidentally, can be pretty cheap. For some reason Swiss air often does cheap flights out of there, and I would echo the recommendation for Pegasus. You can also catch the bus to Greece, which is fun, and a very different cultural experience again.
posted by jojobobo at 1:41 AM on April 27, 2014

Caveat: I have no idea what you should do re: your career, or how much impact on your career this would have, or how much you care about that vs the experience of travelling. Those things others can comment on, and the latter is really a decision you have to make yourself. But from a travelling perspective, I'd go Istanbul.
posted by jojobobo at 1:44 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lucky you!!! I've been to both cities, and love them both!

Okay, if the choice was between Berlin and somewhere less cool/interesting, I'd say go to Berlin.

BUT, Istanbul is one of the few cities (IMO) that is easily as cool and interesting as Berlin, AND you've never been there. It straddles Europe and Asia, so the culture is really something special. The food is fresh, cheap and delicious, the people are super-friendly, and the history and architecture is incredible. You can spend your extra week jumping on and off the cheap, plentiful public buses around Turkey. There's so much to see...Efes, Pamukkale, Cappadocia (not to be missed). Shopping in the Grand Bazaar, cheap as chips and full of exotica. And, as you say, it's the kind of place that is less easy to navigate solo in the future. If you don't' grab this chance, you might not make it there another time.

Go to Istanbul!
posted by Salamander at 1:53 AM on April 27, 2014

Yes, evet, tamam, Istanbul! In the summer? No question. Look out of your classroom onto the sea and one of the world's finest views. Have lunch in a cheap kebab stand where the cook has fifty years of dedicated experience. You won't need to make time for exploration: it is all outside your doorstep or a tram ride away. Although a lot of urban Istanbullis can manage some foreign language, learn a tiny bit of Turkish (not as hard as it sounds) and the people you meet in tea shops or at the market will simply open their hearts to you.

Compare that to Berlin: it rains in summer. Curry wurst. Not nearly as many Turks.
posted by zaelic at 2:45 AM on April 27, 2014

When faced with having to make one of two apparently equally good choices, I have always allowed chance to be my guiding star: Flip a coin and take the path fate chooses for you. It's great fun knowing that an important choice in your life hedges on a random outcome over which you have no control. It's kinda like life actually is. Good luck!
posted by three blind mice at 2:45 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also: if you want to add more travel to your summer after Istanbul, connections via super modern bus companies serve the region from Istanbul. But, speaking from experience at least three years ago, most companies do not serve Belgrade or Serbia: its easier to get a bus to Kosovo or Skopje.

If Split attracts you, remember that the Turkish Aegean coast is very affordable, has great visitor infrastructure, grilled squid every bit as good, far fewer drunken Anglophone teenage dance party crowds, and better grilled meat and squid. Consider an adventure in the Kachkar mountains of the eastern Black Sea region, or even a quick hop into Georgia. (Bulgaria? Unless you are really into folk bagpipes - I am - and dusty cement architecture... not so much.)
posted by zaelic at 2:55 AM on April 27, 2014

I'd do Berlin for career reasons. Getting into your first choice residency program can be quite a challenge, especially if you're aiming for academc hospitals. Having unique but relevant experiences will make you stand out.
posted by Aranquis at 5:43 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're agreed a more adventurous time then Istanbul. However, it sounds like Berlin would be more relevant and you'd still have a lot of fun. My choice would be Berlin. Ausgezeichnet!
posted by arcticseal at 6:44 AM on April 27, 2014

This is the perfect opportunity to use a coin flip to make your choice. Assign Berlin heads, Istanbul tails. Flip the coin, high in the air. Which ever side you find yourself rooting for, that's your answer. The actual result of the coin flip doesn't matter :)
posted by cgg at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just FYI, Turkey in general and Istanbul in particular have been experiencing an ongoing bout of civil unrest since May of 2013. Just this month, riot police dispersed protesters (using tear gas and water cannons) who were protesting alleged electoral fraud in the capital. Istanbul has also been dealing with a spate of frequent work stoppages for most of this year, and the riot police are often dispatched to deal with that as well.

Whether that's a plus or a minus in your analysis is up to you, but you should definitely figure it in.

Berlin, on the other hand, seems about as peaceful as ever.
posted by valkyryn at 7:02 AM on April 27, 2014

I've been to Berlin...

...I've never been to Istanbul and have heard amazing things about it! I don't think it's a place I'd go on my own in the future

Gotta be Istanbul.
posted by penguin pie at 7:08 AM on April 27, 2014

It sounds to me that for your future plans Berlin has the edge. You can also pretty easily go to places like Turkey even if you are based in Berlin. That's just my opinion, of course. cgg's advice on the coin flip method as a way to reveal your wants to yourself is sound advice.
posted by gudrun at 7:11 AM on April 27, 2014

Berlin seems like the obvious choice to me, because the curriculum appears more closely tied to your career. Visit Istanbul some other time.

I'm further influenced by my own experience in both cities. I found Berlin to be orders of magnitude more interesting, welcoming, and exciting than Istanbul.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:13 AM on April 27, 2014

I've been to Berlin, I haven't been to Istanbul.

Personally, I'd choose Berlin. It seems to be more aligned with what you're currently studying, and where your interests lie. Plus, if things dive south for whatever reason, you'll have both the family, and the language skills, to help you out.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:45 PM on April 27, 2014

Another reason I suggest Istanbul is that life/career opportunities happen in many different places. It's important to try new things and go to new places, not just for the sake of fun, but also to learn new things about one's self.

I took two trips that especially changed my outlook and my perspective, and thus my direction within my field. I have many friends who went on trips or did other things that changed their perspective within their academic field of study, pushed them from an MD to an MPH, switched their focus in law school, became more passionate about what they were already doing, dropped out and pursued another path, etc. So I'd say - even for your career, go to some place that is new to you.
posted by suedehead at 4:06 PM on April 27, 2014

« Older Tasty bookends   |   Hungarian story about eating plum dumplings Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.