Erin Kelly's blog

My travels to Jordan and Turkey

Back to the states…

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I am currently in the air.  We have traveled 4598 miles and have 596 miles to go before we arrive at JFK airport. This plane ride has been the longest trip of my life.

On our way to Jordan, we were all excited about the unlimited possibilities that awaited us once we arrived. When we flew from Amman to Istanbul, though half of our trip was over, we still new we had unique and exciting opportunities ahead of us, in a place most of us have never visited before.

But now, as we make our way home, I realize that though I’m anxious to see my family and friends from home, the air of mystery is gone from my life, which depresses me a little. I have a great job to look forward to, but I will be reporting in a place I’ve known all my life—not an exotic, foreign place.

As Michele kept repeating: We have been looking forward to this trip since we first heard about it, back during the 2010 fall semester when we were taking Carlene’s magazine writing class. Though I was a little apprehensive to apply—would I be accepted? Would I be able to take the pressures of functioning as a foreign correspondent?—the enthusiasm from my classmates (Michele, Kimber, Fernanda, Anthony and Emily) encouraged me to apply anyway. And I’m so glad I did. But now, we don’t have a fabulous trip in our future to look forward to. Sure, we have another year in Boston and our co ops to look forward to, but somehow, I just don’t really think it’s the same.

Throughout our travels, not only did I meet a group of great people that I know I will stay in touch with–I know Kaileigh is always up for a dance party, Katie just wants to listen to ‘Club Can’t Even Handle me Right now’ whenever we’re out, Ally is obsessed with chocolate, and Anthony doesn’t sleep– I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that even though I’m a shy person, I can talk easily with people when I need to report. When I first started taking journalism classes, calling people and approaching random people on the street used to be really difficult for me. However, throughout this trip, I found myself ready and willing to approach anyone I needed to in order to get the necessary information for a story. I spent hours at the University of Jordan, Istanbul University and Bilgi University, just talking to students there about important issues and articles I was working on. Perhaps approaching random people will always be somewhat challenging for me, this trip has proved to me that I can do it, in any situation, to get a story.

I also let myself slow down a little. Usually, I’m the kind of person that is always rushing around, just wanting to get things done as quickly as possible. But here, I allowed myself to take the time to talk to people. Like at Istanbul University, I met Sal, and had coffee with him and talked with him for an hour after he helped translate for me. And at Bilgi University, after interviewing one of the law professors, he invited me to lunch, which I happily accepted, and we sat and talked for another hour, despite the fact that we’d just spent an hour and a half talking about Internet censorship in his office. These random talks with strangers helped me learn a lot more about the region I was in, as well, and what life is like there for people. I feel like I have been trapped in a bubble my entire life, and I was finally able to experience other cultures and people. Though I have learned a lot in classrooms at Northeastern, experiencing these things is an entirely different thing.

I let myself open up more, too. Usually, I like to keep personal issues to myself, but my classmates were so friendly, genuine, and accepting, that I found myself telling them things I’ve barely told those closest to me at home. I also gave students I met at universities my email address more freely than I would have if I’d been in the U.S. I told them to contact me if they ever visited Boston or New York City, and I hope that some of them may take me up on my offer.

One thing I noticed on this trip is just how nice some people can be—like the university professor who invited me to lunch, and paid for my chicken sandwich and Nescafe, or Sal, who took time out of his day to translate for me, or Aiyda, Kimber’s friend who invited us onto her friend’s yacht for drinks and then got us a VIP table at a fabulous club, for no other reason then to talk and show us a good time in Istanbul. Though I met my fair share of rude and annoying people, these individual’s genuine acts of kindness really made me realize that there are actual sincere people in the world, who expect nothing in return when you ask for their time, other than to enjoy your company.

I will forever be thankful for the opportunity to attend this trip. I will always remember it, and look back on it, as some of the best times of my life. Sure, at times, I wanted to cry or stamp my feet in frustration because a story idea was falling through, or a interview contact refused to get back to me, and I remember the first day in Amman when all the journalists were scrambling/fighting for story ideas. But nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great time – and I learned so much, not only about myself, but about journalism and writing in general, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I (and my classmates) will be changed, for the better, forever.

Our last group photo, on our last night in Istanbul. Love you all!


Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The last day…

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Michele and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with Geoff, Lila and Calvin. On our way out the door to grab coffee, we saw the Edgers/Hempel family getting ready to go to a cafe. We ended up joining them, and though Carlene had to get back to the hotel to edit stories, Michele and I decided to join Geoff and the kids on their adventure of the day.

Geoff showed us a quiet neighborhood with a few beautiful mosques, and then we walked through the Egyptian Spice bazaar before heading home. It was great to walk around an area that wasn’t filled with a crowd, and I really enjoyed talking to Geoff and Lila. I also love the way Geoff and Lila talk to each other- he doesn’t treat her like a nine year old, but like an adult, and I think that’s part of the reason why she is so mature and enjoyable to hang out with. Calvin, as always, just made me smile with his adorable smile.

We had a big dinner with the entire group tonight at the restaurant/bar in the hotel, and then the J-19 met up in the cafe down the street to thank Carlene for her help this trip. With some nudging from Kimber, we talked about what our favorite parts of the trip were, what we regretted, and what we learned about ourselves. I plan to do a blog post about what I’ve learned about myself, but that will have to come at a later time.

My big purchase of the day was a two lira purchase of a Turkish The Hangover DVD. I’m interested to see if the DVD actually works, but the two lira was worth it just for the DVD box in Turkish.

I included some pictures of the day, enjoy!

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Why do all good things come to an end?

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Unfortunately, today was our last day in Istanbul. Tomorrow we will take the (what seems like) million-mile and 11-hour trek back to the United States.

Though I know I can’t stop time, I wish I could just slow it down.

When I interviewed with Carlene before I was accepted on this dialogue, she told me this trip would change me forever. I remember thinking, how? How could one month have such an impact on my life?

Though I hoped it would positively affect my life, I had no idea what would change about me, or how I could possibly change. 

I’m 21, I’ve traveled before. I’ve seen many things, and experienced many emotions. What could possibly be changed?

To be honest, I’m still a little unsure. I feel different than I did before I left on this trip, but I don’t know exactly what is different – I can’t put my finger on it. Nevertheless, the feeing is with me, and Carlene was right: this trip has changed me, for the better, forever.

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Istanbul

My (final) story about Internet censorship in Turkey is live

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My latest story about a new web filtering system that will be implemented in Turkey in August is now live on the site, please take a look!

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

New content on the site!

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Jess and Rob just uploaded their video about the upcoming election in Turkey, while Michele published her article about whirling dervishes. As for me, I’m still working on my story… but in the meantime, keep checking the site!

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Istanbul, J-19, News

Hidden gems in Istanbul…

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Fernanda (also known as Lorena … it’s complicated!) wrote a great story about jewelry-making in Istanbul, read it here!

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

Winding down…

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Our time at Istanbul is rapidly approaching its end, and I’m dreading Monday–and not only because we have an 11 hour flight.

It’s not that I’m not excited to see my friends and family at home, it’s just that… I’d rather stay here.

Being in another country is so much cooler than being in boring New Jersey. And the fact that my friends at home keep telling me how bored they are all day doesn’t make the idea sound any more appealing. I have a great job to look forward to, but reporting in a suburb just doesn’t seem as exciting as reporting in Amman or Istanbul–and I’m sure it’s not.

Plus, there are so many things I’m going to miss– like ice cream for one lira on the street, or the amazing rice, chick pea and chicken meal I found for two liras. No longer will anyone excitedly scream “America!” as I walk down the street, and my servers at restaurants in the states probably won’t give me free dessert or flowers. Being fair-haired and fair-skinned will no longer make me special, and I won’t have any more excuses not to work out or do laundry.

Back to the world of phones and unlimited and strongly connected Internet (I kind of like being inaccessible by phone during the day–though it sucks for writing stories, it’s actually really nice if you don’t want to be bothered). Back to the world of drinking ginormous (term, coined in the popular film Elf, meaning greater than humongous) coffee, and (hopefully) lots of chips.


Enough complaining. Today I went to Istanbul Bilgi University to get lots of reporting done. Thankfully, I was successful in my mission (and I didn’t get lost on the way there), and ending up spending about four hours there. After my second interview, I was starving, so I went in search of food. Once in the cafeteria, I found the professor I had just been interviewing. He invited me to lunch! So we sat together and talked about what universities in Istanbul are like, as well as his travels to America when he was still in college.

I took my time on the way home–stopping to walk over the bridge, visit the Egyptian Spice Market, and then I walked home from there. I didn’t get home until after 5p.m., and didn’t even start writing my story, but I think it was a successful day regardless.

Please take a look at the new stories uploaded to our class website.

And now, I’ll relax and enjoy one of my last nights in this city.

Written by erinpatriciakelly

June 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm