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 Istanbul Center and its sister organizations like the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast. Invitees are figureheads from government, businesses, universities, law enforcement agencies, and other institutions in the Southeastern US. Istanbul Center staff and volunteers serve as group leaders on each trip.
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.
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.
Our groups also visit the private and public universities, superintendent of schools, television stations, newspapers and 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.
Istanbul Center 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.