Merhaba, ben Alana Henne

Young Rotarian-exchange student, from Castlegar, is thrilled by Istanbul, Turkey

Alana Dean Henne finds Istanbul amazing.

Alana Dean Henne finds Istanbul amazing.

Merhaba, ben Alana Henne.

After a 17 hour flight and getting lost for a while in airports, I landed in the city I would be living in for the next ten months. From October 2011 to the summer of 2012 I have been blessed with the most amazing opportunity I could have ever asked for! I am now a Rotary Exchange student in Istanbul Turkey.

I have now been living in Istanbul for just three months, and it has been truly amazing for the most part. The beginning included a lot of bumps and unexpected turns but luckily that changed within a month and a half.

After four months of living here the memories I have are not only dear to my heart, but very hard to pick from.  Watching a street filled with screaming Turkish people, and singing at the top of their lungs, was something different that’s for sure, but what else would you expect on Turkey’s Republican Day?

Walking into a Turkish bath with one of your best friends, not knowing what to expect at all, and bam – once you open the door what do you see but topless women, just walking around not caring at all.I must say, however, my favourite memory so far was Christmas Eve. It started with the first and only snowfall in Istanbul, then to laughing till you thought you were going to die, because your friend is on stage getting taught how to belly dance, and then he takes it too far and starts to un-button his shirt! Those silly Mexican exchange students, always needing the last laugh!

Then going out and dancing till 2 a.m with some amazing friends, and Rotex. All in all if I was going to write down all my favourite memories it would take  an impossibly long time So the beginning of my exchange was something I never thought I would have to go through – with family problems so bad that the thought of leaving and coming home was something that crossed my mind a lot. I didn’t want to come home but it didn’t seem like anything was going to get better.

Luckily for me I had made some amazing friends who were going to do everything they could to help. I  also had an over protective mom and dad, and a Rotary Club back home that was doing so much to change the situation at hand. My exchange went from many tears to the most amazing choice I have made in my whole life!

Even only being here for three months I haven’t only learned a lot about the country, culture, and people but mostly I have learned a lot about myself! I have only been here three months and I can’t wait to tell you what it is like at six! Within the three months I have been here I have seen so much but yet so little.

This city is so big that every day I walk outside I see something new and exciting! The history this city holds is something so breathtaking it is unbelievable. Walking into a mosque that is over 1000 years old, or driving across a bridge that connects two continents, is something I never thought I would see.

Like really in the morning you are drinking tea in Europe, and by the afternoon you are sitting in a Turkish bath in Asia, and it took you 30 minutes to get there.  Watching the huge golden Mediterranean sun fall behind the 1000 year old mosques while you are standing on the front of a ferry taking you from one side of the channel to the other!  All the little things this city and country hold are the things that everyone needs to see in their life!

Okay so I am going to stop sounding like a sales lady, now like I said, I have seen so much but yet so little. But the things I have seen are truly amazing. My most favourite thing to do here is, well, get lost. Don’t get me wrong I have been to all the historical places: Blue mosque, Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet etc.… but going with some friends and getting lost is something I would much rather do. If you come to Istanbul you truly do have to go and see all of those places though.

Can you imagine walking down a street that is about five km long, and it is filled with millions of people?  Or what about finding a market by the water where all things are handmade.  Truly everything is possible in this city. I remember the last time I was in town and I looked up at the sky to see it filled with millions of stars. I told myself that would be the last time I would see stars for a year, well I was wrong.

I have seen so many stars here, not as many as back home but more than I thought I would see.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better place to hold my exchange. It is big, beautiful, historical, and all around amazing. I have been taken hold of by this city and I don’t think it will ever let me go. I have made amazing friends not only from Rotary, but in my school, and I know they will be there forever. Once you make a bond with a Turkish person it is for life. It is still really weird that I am here. I knew this year would go by fast but I didn’t think it would go by this fast.

Three months down, seven more to go! Lastly, I would like to say thank you to some people!  David Nelson for all the amazing help he has given me. He is one of the main reasons my exchange changed from really bad to amazing. Also Kay Jones, for all the support and positive energy, before and while here, and, last but not least, the whole “Castlegar Sunrise Rotary Club” for providing me with this AMAZING opportunity!

I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing. When I come back I will serve you traditional Turkish tea and coffee. Be ready to get addicted!   Thank you all again and see you in the future! If anyone has any questions or wants to look at  pictures, or just find out what I am doing next, please email me at “” or add me on Facebook a “Alana Dean Henne”