Mevlana Exchange Program
My Experience as a Mevlana Exchange Student in Istanbul, Turkey.
In the beginning of 2019, my university (University of Béjaïa), where I study English language and literature, posted about an exchange program in Turkey, at the University of Istanbul. The program is called Mevlana Exchange Program. I hesitated at first, but then I just thought that I will not lose anything by applying and it will be another life experience.
In recent years, a huge number of Algerians, especially the youth, have shown considerable interest in migrating to Turkey. Whether for work, studies or for better living conditions and opportunities in general. I have seen a lot of people all over social media asking about how to get to study in Turkey. Also, many others have asked me, through my Instagram account, about how I got to study there, and what I think of studies in Istanbul as a whole. I have had the idea of writing something about this experience for a while. It might not be general, 100% relatable or even helpful to all, but I am sure it will be useful to some, especially Algerians who are considering to study in Turkey. Luckily, I had the opportunity to study in Istanbul as an exchange student for one term. I will be talking about the program I was in and the relevant information you need to know about it.
I will start with a brief explanation of the exchange program. What is it? Who can participate in it? What is required and what to do if you get selected? And I will tell you all along this article about my experience with each step. I wanted to share this part especially, because I have struggled a lot in finding relevant information or previous experiences from other students about this program. I ended up not finding anything at all which triggered a lot of confusion and stress.
What is the Mevlana Exchange Program?
Mevlana Exchange Program (Mevlana Değişim Programı) is a program created and funded The Mevlana Exchange Program is funded by YÖK, the Higher Education Council of Turkey. It aims to exchange students and academic staff between the Turkish higher education institutions and higher education institutions of other countries. Selected students will get to study for a semester at a Turkish university. It can be anywhere in Turkey, and not necessarily be in Istanbul. They are awarded a scholarship for four months, and the amount will be announced with the results.
Who Can Participate in the Mevlana Exchange Program?
Basically, to participate in this program, your home university, in any country, must sign a Mevlana Exchange Protocol with a Turkish university. So, the eligibility criteria depend on your university’s Vice-Rectorate of External Exchanges.
What Is Required? And How to Prepare for it?
First of all, you need to be enrolled in the university which has signed a Mevlana protocol. Whether in a bachelor’s program (licence), a master’s program or a doctorate one. The papers you will need are very simple and do not require a lot of effort. You will need:
– The Application Form: Filled on a computer, printed and signed then scanned to make a digital copy.
– Previous transcripts of grades (relevés de notes). The required GPA (grade point average) is 2.5/4 minimum which is something above 13/20 in our grading system.
– Student certificate of the current year to prove you are enrolled in your home university.
– A Certificate of English proficiency. Not necessarily IELTS or TOEFL. It can be a certificate of English language from your university’s language center (like mine) or from a private language school. The required score is 50/100.
– A valid passport (Scan the information page only).
You will have to scan all of these, without any translation. Then you will insert the scanned papers in an MS Word document and save it as a PDF. Finally, you will have to send the saved PDF document to the e-mail address indicated in the announcement. It can be to your university’s Vice-Rectorate of External Exchanges or directory to the Higher Education Council of Turkey, as the latter is responsible for selecting the student for the program, and not your university.
After submitting everything, you will have to wait about 2 to 3 months. Make sure to check the Mevlana page of the concerned Turkish university (I found out that I was selected on the website of Istanbul University, a week after the announcement of results because my university’s coordinator did not care to inform me or check for the results)
What to Do if You Get Selected?
If you get selected, everything should get simpler. You will have to fill out a form to choose the exchange term (Fall or Spring term), and send it to the indicated address. Usually, it is the Mevlana Coordination Office of the host university. And then you wait for the Acceptance Letter which you will need to apply for a student visa. Meanwhile, check the host university’s website and try to find courses you are interested in taking in the department you have applied for, because you will need to fill a learning protocol of the course you take in your home university and the ones you will take in your host university. Also, never hesitate to email the head of departments, professors or any person who might help you get more information.
You will later receive another information form to fill, in which you choose if you are going to stay at university dormitories or somewhere else. If you choose the latter, you will have to look for a place yourself. Keep in mind that all the expenses (i.e. accommodation, transportation and food) are included in the program’s scholarship. However, the scholarship might not be enough so take into consideration your own budget.
My advice is to try to check the location of the dormitory, the reviews on Google, the price and all relevant information. Personally, I did not want to stay in dormitories because sharing a room with 5 other people is relatively expensive compared to a private room in a shared flat with other students (which is what I did). The prices vary and depend on your budget. Once again, you will receive another form to fill out for the transportation card application.
When you receive your acceptance letter, you directly apply for a visa. Prepare your application beforehand and contact the visa application center for any questions or confusion. They will reply briefly with the accurate information that will keep you on the right track and help you avoid any mistake while preparing your documents. After applying for a student visa, take the time to check the courses on the host university’s website and carefully select the courses you want to take in order to fill another student information form and the learning protocol. The courses have to be similar or related to the ones you take in your home country, and must be approved by the head of your department and the Vice-Rector of External Exchanges. Then you scan them and send them to the Mevlana Coordination Office and wait for your visa results!
What to do once you arrive in Turkey?
When you arrive in Turkey, go directly to the Mevlana Coordination office and take the original scanned documents with you, especially the learning protocol. There, they will tell you what to do and they will guide you during the registration process and the residence permit application. As for applying for the residence permit, you have to open a bank account in which you will receive 80% of your scholarship’s funding in the beginning of the program.The 20% in once you pass all the exams and earn 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) which is the equivalent of having 30 credits in Algeria. The whole scholarship’s amount will be announced with the results. For example, if you will be accorded a scholarship of 4800 Turkish liras; the High Council of Education will send 3860 Turkish liras to your bank account during the first month. Then the remaining 960 Turkish liras once you complete the program.
I have been given a list of documents to get in order to apply for a residence permit which had 4 biometric photos, health insurance (you need to make one in Turkey since Algerian health insurance is not valid for a residence permit application. You can get one from any insurance agency or travel agency, but beware of scammers! Its price should not surpass 200 Turkish liras; I got mine from Istanbul Foreigners’ Office for 187 Turkish liras). Get a tax number from a tax office (called Vergi Dairesi in Turkish) and pay the tax fee (about 89 Turkish liras for students) in the same office. If it is not possible to do the payment there, you need to find another office just for the payment. A copy of your passport’s information page. Then take all of these to the Mevlana Office where they will help you fill the online application form.
What to Do Once The Program Is Over?
Once the semester is over and exams passed, you will get a transcript of your grades. You will take to the Mevlana Coordination office to confirm your attendance, and get a certificate of attendance. Furthermore, you need to fill the final report in which you evaluate the program and your experience. Then wait for the remaining 20% of your scholarship’s amount.
My Overall Opinion, Pros and Cons of Life in Istanbul:
My experience as a student of English language and literature in the oldest university in Turkey has been very good despite some barriers. The professors were all very competent with a rich background on the courses they teach. The university is in a very central and historical place which means it is very close to almost all touristic places and monuments as well as all of the transportation. I got to make a lot of friends from different countries, whether participants in the program or students from the university.
However, life in Istanbul is not all fun and dreamy as it sounds. Always remember that being a tourist and a student in Istanbul are completely two different things. Life is expensive and you need to be savvy about your budget (Do not worry about transportation, you will have a student IstanbulKart that allows you a 200 monthly rides subscription with 40 liras). Turkish has also been some sort of a frustrating barrier in the beginning, as a lot of people out of those tourist places do not speak or understand English. So my advice is to learn as much Turkish as you can before going to Turkey.
It has not been an easy task to find a room with a certain budget and that is close to transportation, but thankfully I found a very suitable one. And that was through a Facebook group called “SHARING FLATS IN ISTANBUL” and many others like this one, you will find a lot of posts from people looking for flatmates, and you can post your own. If you find an offer that interests you, message the person and ask them if you can see the place. Never pay or accept anything before seeing the place in person. All the while beware of scammers and liars.
I have honestly liked my stay in Istanbul and would have loved to stay longer, but that was not possible. Maybe in future years.
Author: Imad Moussaoui.