Istanbul: Middle Eastern Civilizations

Photo of Istanbul from the roof of the Valide Han
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, January 27, 2020
Language Requirement: 
Lauren Schneider

Due to uncertainty about the political and security situation in Istanbul in the near- to medium-term, after careful consideration the faculty leadership have decided that the Spring 2020 Middle Eastern Civilizations sequence will be based in Granada, Spain. The College and the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations faculty will offer the re-organized sequence as Islamicate Civilizations in Spain, which will include three Civilizations classes offering an opportunity to study Islamic history, literature, culture, and scholarship in al-Andalus, and the “Convivencia” of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian populations in the regions of southern Spain and North Africa. A fourth course in Spanish language or Arabic language will be offered to students at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Students will live in shared apartments in the city center, convenient to the classrooms. The Islamicate Civilizations in Spain program will be supported by our partner organization, CEA Study Abroad. The program fee will be $4,900 and will include accommodation in shared apartments in downtown Granada, instruction, student support, program excursions, and emergency travel insurance (ISOS).

The College remains committed to Istanbul for the long term, and we do hope to be able to return to Istanbul in future years.

The University of Chicago’s Spring quarter Istanbul program provides University of Chicago students with an opportunity to study Middle Eastern Civilizations in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Known throughout history as Byzantium, Nova Roma, Constantinople, Konstantiniye, and Istanbul, the city is a rich mix of eastern and western cultures straddling two continents. The three-course sequence presents a historical survey of this crossroads of civilization from the ancient period to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. As with the University’s other Civilizations programs abroad, these courses will be taught (in English) by three faculty members in intensive three-week segments. The precise topics of each year’s courses are determined by faculty interest and expertise. Classroom work is supplemented by weekly excursions to sites of historical interest in and around Istanbul. Participants also take a fourth course in beginning, intermediate or advanced Turkish, spoken by over 200 million people worldwide. 

The Istanbul program is operated in cooperation with Yildiz Technical University, one of the most prominent educational institutions in Istanbul, and students in the program have access to the resources and activities on its campus.


Istanbul program participants are housed in a new and modern residence hall within walking distance from Yildiz Technical University’s main campus in the bustling, historic neighborhood of Beşiktaş. Students typically live in shared suites with a private bedroom. Each suite is furnished with a refrigerator and private bath. The residence hall features a fitness center, dining hall, laundry, market, infirmary, study space, and a roof terrace with pool. A graduate program assistant from Chicago also resides in the residence hall and provides program support. Housing is a short bus or tram ride away from the old city and its many historical sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Alternately, with a short funicular ride students can reach lively Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square, the entertainment and commercial center of the city. 

Credits and Registration

Participants in the Istanbul program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the civilization sequence and the Turkish language course. The civilization sequence meets the College’s civilization requirement. If a student has already met this requirement, he or she may use these courses as electives. Their use, partial or total, in a program of study (major) must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the respective department. The language course will normally count as an elective. The Turkish language course in Istanbul is not keyed to Chicago’s Turkish language sequences. Course titles, units of credit and grades are placed on the College transcript.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee and a non-refundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the non-refundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Istanbul program during the 2019-20 year are listed below:

Spring tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

Istanbul program fee: $4,900

Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation  round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (including cell phone usage)
  health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Istanbul is roughly similar to Chicago, and while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section. 

Eligibility and Application

The Istanbul program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the civilization sequence is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take Turkish on campus before the program begins.

Because of the considerable demand for the Chicago civilization programs abroad, no student may participate in more than one of these programs. Each application is examined on the basis of the student's scholastic record, personal statement and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the Istanbul: Middle Eastern Civilizations program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Lauren Schneider.

What you’ll see: 

Photo of Hagia Sophia interiorPhoto of Class in the AmphitheatrePhoto of KapadokyaPhoto of Istanbul from the roof of the Valide Han