Foreign students studying in Turkey under the European Union's Erasmus+ program shared their views on how it helped them shape their perspective on life and their host county.
Erasmus was founded in 1987 as a European Union student exchange program and later turned into Erasmus+, which is a program to support education, training, youth and sports in Europe. Turkey has been a member of the program since 2003.
Isabelle Heineman, a 23-year-old student from London, is one of the thousands of students studying in Turkey under the Erasmus+ program. Heineman is enrolled in the year-long Erasmus exchange program at Istanbul's Boğaziçi University.
"I am studying political science and history. I am studying at the history department... with special focus on the Ottoman-Byzantine encounter in the 15th century," she told Anadolu Agency (AA) after a press meeting organized by the Turkish Ministry for EU Affairs to raise awareness about the Erasmus program.
"The education at Bogazici University has really been exceptional," she added.
"This was a great opportunity and for me, I don't quite know whether I will continue my studies in history or political science, but in either way what I have been doing here will certainly be informative experience," she said.
She also noted the hospitality of the Turkish people.
"The readiness of people to help each other and the sort of being a community," are the other aspects of living in Turkey, Heineman said.
"So this is something we in London could certainly learn from," she added.
Rafael Seybold is a student from Germany who is enrolled at Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) for his master's degree in mechanical engineering.
The 24-year-old student believes "being in a different country always opens up your mind a little more to know other cultures."
"It makes you see the differences. Especially in Turkey, I feel like I see more relaxed lifestyle and being in a city like Istanbul, which is 30 times bigger than the city I grew up in, opens up your mind about the life in the big city," he added.
According to Seybold, the university life in Germany and Turkey is quite different.
"I used to study in huge lecture halls maybe with 400 other students [...] But, here in Turkey at İTÜ you sit with maybe just 10 to 20 people in the room and you are really close to the professors.
"Also there are a lot of projects going on. So you feel like I am more involved with my studies than I have ever been in Germany," he added.
Erika Grubyte, a 25-year-old Lithuanian, came to Turkey under the Erasmus program around four years ago and now she is back this time to join a volunteer project for the Turkish Red Crescent in the central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, where she teaches English and art to refugee children.
"When I came here, I started comparing my country with the people here [in Turkey], who are open and helpful," she said.
"Whenever people in Lithuania ask me, Erika, why are you taking care of everybody, I say there are some people in Turkey who taught me all these things," she said.
"Now I came back under this EVS [European Voluntary Service] project where I teach English and arts to refugee children. In this way, I am giving back everything that Turkey taught me," Erika added.
On Tuesday, Turkish EU Ministry Undersecretary Selim Yenel told AA that despite some strained ties between Ankara and the EU, Turkey will benefit even more from the bloc's Erasmus student scheme as its funding has recently been doubled.
On May 2, the European Union announced its proposal for the 2021-2027 budget, under which its youth program funding has been increased by more than double, reaching 30 billion euros ($36 billion).
Yenel noted that most of the students that came to Turkey were from Germany.