Every year, the Atlantic Institute organizes multiple trips to Turkey to facilitate intercultural understanding and to build bridges between the US and Turkey. Turkey is a land immersed in history and culture. Since the days of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has been a perfect example of how Muslims, Christians, and Jews could live in peace and harmony. The trip aims to show community and church leaders, academics and businesspeople from different backgrounds the beauty of Turkey, to expose them to the Turkish culture and history, and to give them the opportunity to have firsthand analysis of the unique relationship between religion and politics in Turkey as well as the educational and academic exchange opportunities between the two countries.
The Atlantic Institute aims to provide an effective overview of the culture, educational system and civil society through these excursions. With such a broad array of visits, every participant gains an understanding of government affairs, economic development, the media, religious and cultural diversity, and daily life of Turkey.
Question: What is the make-up of each group trips and how are they formed?
Generally, these trips last ten days each and consist of groups of six to twelve participants. Participants are nominated by previous years' participants and are selected and invited by the Atlantic Institute and its sister organizations like Istanbul Center and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast. Invitees are figureheads from universities, law enforcement agencies, and faith based community leaders in the Southeastern US. The Atlantic Institute staff and volunteers serve as group leaders on each trip.
Question: Where do we visit in Turkey?
Participants of the past trips visited the cities of Istanbul, Konya, Izmir, Kayseri, and the capital city of Ankara in addition to the regions of Cappadocia (Kapadokya) and Ephesus (Efes). Cultural sites visited this year and in past years' excursions include the Hagia Sophia Church, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, The Quincentenial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews (Jewish Museum of Turkey), The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Basilica Cistern, Ataturk's Mausoleum, the House of the Virgin Mary, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.
Question: Is it only the touristic destinations that the groups visit?
The trips are not your average touristic experience, although participants do visit important cultural and historical sites during their stay, as their itineraries also include dinners with local families and meetings with official dignitaries from educational, economic, social and governmental institutions in Turkey. Participants generally highlight their favorite aspect of each trip as the dinners hosted for the groups by local Turkish families.
Question: Any opportunity for professional networking?
Our groups also visit the private and public universities, superintendents of school districts, media and broadcasting companies and government officials from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, Turkish Grand National Assembly (the Parliament), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other governmental agencies such as the Investment Support and Promotion Agency as well as the US Consulate in Istanbul and the US Embassy in Ankara.