Few cities match the religious history and architectural splendor of Istanbul. For 13 UNCG Religious Studies and History students, few trips will ever match the one they took last semester.

The undergraduate and graduate students joined Dr. Asa Eger, assistant professor of history, and Dr. Derek Krueger, Joe Rosenthal Excellence Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, on a weeklong study trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

It was part of the semester-long seminar “From Constantinople to Istanbul: A City and Its Monuments.” The UNCG course focused on the public spaces, churches and mosques during the ancient city’s Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

They’d studied these places in class. But nothing prepares you for being there.

“The level of learning in discussing a building while standing in front of it, the ability for students to touch the monuments and feel and smell their age, to walk through churches and mosques and markets as an architect would have wanted, is incomparable with any PowerPoint or class discussion,” Eger explains.

Krueger relished the opportunity as well to help lead the students as they made one discovery after another. “It was great fun to watch them exploring a new culture with a sense of adventure and openness,” he says.

Study abroad experiences can be not only eye-opening, but life-changing, Eger explains. “For our students, some of whom had never left the United States previously, this was more than a course but a first step to explore the world around them.”

This course trip was one example of the growth at UNCG in short-term, impactful international opportunities in coordination with UNCG International Programs.

Many of the students received scholarships for the journey from the Wyatt Lee Martin Fund, named by family members for a UNCG alumnus whose education was enhanced by his own passion for international travel.

“Istanbul is wonderfully suited to such experiences, as a living, ancient city over 2,600 years old,” Eger adds. They saw palaces and castles – and old public works such as cisterns and aqueducts. “The past and present come together and invite constant reflection.”

The Queen of Cities. The Envy of the World. The Second Rome. The City on Seven Hills.

For a week, it was one big UNCG classroom for these 13 Spartans.

By Mike Harris

Photo by Religious Studies Major Jamie Sullivan, in Kalenderhane Mosque, once a Byzantine church. L-r, Dr. Asa Eger, Hong Ly, Dr. Derek Krueger, Audrey Waggoner, Nathan Cales, Bret Dang and Jes Hawkins.