Live life to the fullest at The School of Life Istanbul
by Leyla Yvonne Ergil
ISTANBULJan 15, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Leyla Yvonne Ergil
Jan 15, 2016 12:00 am
The School of Life Istanbul is alive and thriving with a busy schedule of courses and workshops offered by leading intellectuals, academics and specialists on living the best life possible
The School of Life is an organization with branches in Melbourne, Paris, Amsterdam, Belgrade, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Seoul, London and now Istanbul, which offers courses on how to live well and wisely, find fulfillment, master relationships and achieve serenity amongst many other concepts and perspectives to positively change our world. Courses are offered in a wide range of disciplines, spanning from philosophy, psychology, literature and the arts as well as focus on a variety of ideas to expand our horizons, while providing an environment to meet and mingle with other like-minded individuals in an atmosphere of exploration and enjoyment.
Founded in London in 2008 by philosopher Alain de Botton, this platform, which provides alternative approaches and guidelines for living life to the fullest aims to create a safe environment for free-flowing ideas and differing perspectives. Since its founding, The School of Life, or TSOL, has spread to cities all over the world, including Istanbul.
I had the opportunity to speak with Elvan Omay, the director of the School of Life and the person responsible for bringing TSOL to Turkey. A Boğaziçi University graduate with an MBA from Özyeğin University, who had a career spanning two decades in publishing and corporate communications, Elvan explains that she has always pursued supporting projects that benefit society, and promote enjoyment and learning. She has also been following Alain de Botton's work since her 20s and so it was in due course that when TSOL decided to open up to the world, she went to London and serving as Bilgi University's PR Director at the time, brought the project to Turkey, with what she says was it was definitely the right establishment to embark on this journey with.
The School of Life Istanbul opened in October 2014 and Bilgi University's Santralistanbul campus in a sense serves as the TSOL center. However, courses are also held in a variety of locations including Joint Idea, located on the level above the cinemas at Kanyon in Levent and İncirli Soul Room in Kuruçeşme. TSOL has also held workshops at Bilgi's Kozyatağı Campus and Kolektif House as well as Sultanahmet and Tavşan Adası, otherwise known as Neandros Island for Gündüz Vassaf's courses on Slow Tourism and in summer teamed up with the Design Foundation to offer courses at the Bodrum Design Village (Tasarım Köyü).
"The courses and workshops organized by TSOL take place under the mentorship of intellectuals, academics, activists and educators, known for their unique personalities and areas of expertise," Elvan tells me, adding that their programs provide the opportunity for those busy, concerned and curious modern city folk to take a deeper look at their relationships with themselves, others and their work in order to have a different perspective to better manage these pertinent areas of life. "All of our courses progress through mutual sharing and dynamic exercises. Instead of providing participants with a ready prescription, they instead ensure that people ask themselves new questions."
Elvan explained to me that The School of Life in London has established a curriculum guideline and each of the centers must offer at least half of their courses within this framework. However, different TSOL centers can offer courses that reflect upon the sensitivities of the society where they are situated, under the condition there courses share the spirit of the school. "At TSOL Istanbul, 60 percent of our courses and workshops adhere to The School of Life curriculum, while 40 percent are unique to Turkey. In this regard, TSOL Istanbul has a unique mission for Istanbullites. In Turkey, we are especially preoccupied by societal issues. Our entire day is consumed with this, however within this chaos we are unable to find much time to lend to our individual questions and emotional health. We here at TSOL Istanbul are trying to bring serious approaches to issues pertaining to our personal lives, while also lightening the load of serious topics in order to be able to discuss them. We say, "We are serious but not boring, enjoyable but not laughable," Elvan tells me.
The School of Istanbul offers about a dozen courses monthly and there are a long list of interesting and pertinent topics to be covered coming up, such as this Sunday's "The Crowd Within Us" (İçimizdeki Kalabalık) in which psychiatrist Alper Hasanoğlu will be sharing the schemas and modes inherent in character development and how to confront them. On Wednesday, Jan. 20 is "Improvising Life" (Hayatı Doğaçlamak) with actress Serra Yılmaz, who will be teaching how to use the improvisational acting technique in our own lives to eliminate expectations and strict schemas and to make life a little easier.
On Saturday Jan. 23, story-teller Pelin Turgut will offer the course "Creating a Winter Dream" (Bir Kış Rüyasına Yatmak) which will focus on tales from northern nations and on the same day, psychologist Aydan Bayır will be teaching skills for people to be more understanding with themselves.
On Sunday, Jan. 24, The School of Life Istanbul will be hosting a brunch under the theme "New Year's Resolutions and Courage," led by entrepreneur and mentor coach Sami Bugay, musician composer and music therapist Renan Koen and investment banker-turned-philanthropist Kerim Urallı. The brunch will be held at Cezayir Restaurant in Galatasaray from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and tickets are 20 Euros.
On the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 26, Sami Bugay will be teaching a course, titled "Being able to think like an entrepreneur", and on Saturday Jan. 30, he returns to lead a workshop on how to hold better conversations.
The month of February is also filled with a long list of interesting workshops on topics such as having a compatible relationship, finding the job you love, seeking your own path to leadership, managing perfectionism and realizing your potential. Courses coming up next month also include learning how to enjoy being alone, making good decisions and designing the life of your dreams, to name just a few.
For the most part, courses are held in the evenings and on weekends and in Turkish, however, they have devoted a part of their curriculum to courses in English for those foreigners who, as Elvan says, "want to create a space for themselves within the dynamics of this city and to benefit from these mind renewing workshops." I asked if these courses are open to everyone to which Elvan says, "Yes, our doors are open to everyone who enjoys continually developing themselves, to those who are trying to more deeply understand themselves and the era they live in and for anyone who is curious and has any concerns."
"The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to," said Alain de Botton, the mastermind behind The School of Life in his book The Art of Travel. So, take a page from this penned philosopher and enjoy the ride that is life with new sets of skills and new friends to share them with in unique venues in Istanbul and greater Turkey. Check out www.theschooloflife.com to see which exciting course may be a door to an open mind.