Westmont in Istanbul Spring 2018 -- updates coming soon





You can debate with your roommate whether Islam poses a global threat - or you can go to the heart of the Islamic world and find out. You can wonder whether people in the Middle East want to live in a democracy - or you can ask them. You can pray for peace in Israel and Palestine - or you can also find out how to work for peace.

BirdseyeDuring this semester you will live in Istanbul, aka Constantinople, a city that is of the past and of the future, of grace and grit, of culture and politics, of faith and skepticism. It is Eastern and Western, a modern megalopolis of 20 million people and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is both cultural capital of a developing Asian country and was chosen as Europe’s “city of culture” in 2010. Istanbul’s skyline is punctuated by medieval mosques and minarets while swish modern cafes and bars dominate its street life.

You will be encouraged to experience another culture from the inside, studying Turkish, navigating your way around the city and interacting with Turks on a daily basis. You will develop relationships with your neighbors and Turkish university students while also engaging with the city's various minority and refugee communities.You will for a season become an urban person, and learn to be comfortable negotiating a foreign metropolitan landscape.

You will also experience what it means to live in community in a new way. Removed from familiar social, relational and religious support systems, all the while being confronted with some of the most challenging issues facing the world today, you will need to rely on each other.



While the program will be centered in Istanbul, and will give you an opportunity to feel located in one place, there will be at least two trips within Turkey – one to a Turkish eco-farm to give you some sense of the rural, and another outside Istanbul to give you a view of the country beyond the metropolitan.

During the last month of the semester you will visit Egypt for ten days, and then spend three weeks in Israel/Palestine visiting sites of Biblical and early Christianity, while being an eye witness to the current conflict and meeting with politicians, preachers, academics, and activists on both sides.

ITINERARY Spring 2016

January 16 --Arrival & Orientation

Weeks 1-9: Istanbul

Week 10 : Travel within Turkey

Weeks 11-12: Egypt

Week 13-15: Israel/Palestine

May 3, 2016 -- Program Ends


While all classes will be taught or supervised by Westmont faculty Heather Keaney and Jim Wright, a significant amount of our learning will come from Turkish, Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian speakers with whom we work during our time in their respective countries.

In the process of learning about Turkey and the Middle East you will learn far more about American society than you could ever do if you had stayed at home. You will study how people in the countries that we visit are struggling to find a balance between rooted cultural authenticity and coherent national identity on the one hand and a rapidly changing and globalizing culture on the other.

You will earn 16 credits and meet five GE Requirements and several major/minor credits.


Cross and Crescent in the Middle East--4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Historically, major/minor credit in History or Religious Studies)

Roman Empire

You and your fellow students will study the historical, textual, and cultural foundations of Islam and then compare these with the living reality of Turkish, Egyptian and Palestinian societies. You will spend most of the semester in Turkey, a country that is 99% Muslim. You will also visit Palestine and Egypt, two other majority Muslim countries, the latter being in many eyes the center of Sunni Islam.

You and your fellow students will also visit significant sites of Biblical and early Christianity. You will study the evolution of Christianity from an opposition movement to the religion of empire, and thence to protected, subordinate and marginalized minority. Attention will be given to the interaction between theological developments and cultural and political developments. You will learn more about the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through meeting with different Christians living in the Middle East today you will be challenged to consider afresh what it means to be a part of the global body of Christ.

Modern Turkey--4 units (Satisfies GE: Understanding Society and satisfies GE Communicating Cross Culturally)

You and your fellow students will study the modern history of Turkey: its transition from a multi-ethnic, religious and linguistic empire into a modern nation state that removed or marginalized religious and ethnic minorities. You will study what it means to be a modern nation, and how a nation may or may not make room for the “other” while forging a coherent unity.

Istiklal St
Change Change and Conflict in the Modern Middle East--4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Globally, major/minor credit Political Science and major/minor credit History)

Love Wins- Wall

You and your fellow students will study some of the dramatic political changes in the Middle East which have taken place since 2011 and will consider if the “Arab Spring" is or is not an appropriate name for these changes. You will study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of both Israelis and Palestinians. We will ask together where we can find hope for peace, what we can learn about the struggle for influence and resources in the region, and what this may mean for us as Americans and Christians.

Turkish language (Satisfies GE: Foreign language)

You will study Turkish throughout our time in Istanbul, both in a formal class room setting and through daily opportunities to practice.







Applications are open for submission Tuesday, 27th January and close Monday March 2, 2015.


The cost of the program will be standard Westmont tuition, fees, room and board. There will be no program fee but you will be responsible for the cost of round trip airfare from the USA to Turkey.


Jim and Heather--By Keaton HudsonPROFESSOR HEATHER KEANEY is an alum of Westmont who spent twelve years between 1999 and 2011 living and teaching in Cairo at the American University in Cairo and at the CCCU’s Middle East Studies Program (MESP). As the acting-director of MESP in Fall 2009 she led 30 students through Turkey, Syria and Israel-Palestine. Professor Keaney is enthusiastic about helping students place the events that make headlines in the Middle East within their historical and cultural context in order to reveal their human dimension. She hopes students will come to share some of her love and passion for the place and its people.

JIM WRIGHT was born in Devon, England, which no doubt explains his difficulties with the American language. After studying law at Cambridge University he worked for a multi-national corporate law firm in London and Dubai. He left this to study cross-cultural and Biblical theology in the UK before arriving in Egypt in 1993. He spent 18 years in Egypt, initially studying Arabic and then working as a corporate lawyer. His life in the region convinced Jim of the strategic importance of the Middle East. His interaction with students from the Middle East Studies Program of the CCCU over the years convinced him of the strategic importance of American Christian College students for everything from regime change to climate change. Jim left the law and joined Westmont in 2011 in order to align these two convictions.


SHELBY (2015) is currently pursuing a BA in Religious Studies and is highly involvedwith the RS department at Westmont. When not enjoying her studies on theology and Church history, Shelby loves reading poetry and theory on interpersonal communication.She also loves puns and will discuss American Beauty with anyone willing to do so.

JARRETT (2016) is currently pursuing a BA in Political Science and has a strong interest in understanding the intersection of theology and contemporary politics. A member of the Westmont Orchestra, Jarrett performs as the one-man trumpet section and student chaplain. Aside from school, Jarrett is a jazz enthusiast, loves baklava, supports Galatasaray futbol, delights in Theodore Roosevelt paraphernalia, and makes frequent visits to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Shelby and Jarrett are both alumni of the last Istanbul program and will be helping Heather and Jim co-lead in 2016.












Following the January 11 bombing near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, the following letter went out to Spring 2016 Westmont in Istanbul students, their parents and the Westmont community


January 13, 2016

Dear Westmont in Istanbul Program Parents and Students,

As you may have heard in the media in recent days, Istanbul was the victim of terrorist activity on the morning of January 12th. We are deeply saddened by this event and remain in prayer for those affected. We are also concerned with the ongoing safety of our faculty and students. Westmont College has been offering global learning programs for more than 40 years and student safety remains our highest priority.  We know that safety is highly important to you as a parent and/or student, as well.

In response to this event, Westmont would like to assure you that the administration has carefully assessed the current travel itinerary and conditions for the Westmont in Istanbul program. In recent years, Westmont has established the Global Travel Advisory Group (GTAG) to evaluate potential and actual risks associated with off-campus programs travel.   Members of the GTAG actively monitor travel alerts and warnings from a variety of sources and meet, whenever necessary, to discuss alternatives for program itineraries. The GTAG relies on several data points for their decision-making process. The US State Department travel advisories and warnings are considered, alongside information gathered from external risk consultants and on-the-ground regional partners.

Following the recent attack in Istanbul on January 12, the GTAG has reviewed the current Westmont in Istanbul travel plans. After extensive discussion, we have decided to adjust the Westmont in Istanbul Program itinerary to areas within Turkey that are perceived to be safer. For the first two weeks (January 16-Feb 1), the program will be relocated to the town of Izmir. Izmir is a city on Turkey’s Aegean coast, a metropolitan city in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey.  

Following these two weeks, students will move to Ortakoy, a residential area some distance from downtown Istanbul, Turkey (Feb 1-March 24). This location will allow students to live in apartments close to their classrooms. Students would be away from city center and would not need to move around the densely populated areas of the city. Student visits to tourist sites will be restricted.

As of today, the risk of isolated terrorist incidents in Turkey remains very real, as it does in many overseas locations. However, we believe that the January 12 incident is not part of a pattern warranting the cancellation of the Westmont in Istanbul program. We will continue to monitor the situation. The program leaders have identified alternative sites in the region and a contingency travel plan should the conditions require it. Although Westmont College cannot guarantee travel safety, you can feel confident that informed constituents are regularly monitoring and considering the current conditions of regions of student travel.

Notwithstanding what we've done to minimize harm, some risks remain. Off-Campus Programs are voluntary and students are not required to participate in order to graduate. The college carefully assesses the level of risk from an institutional perspective, and we would expect that students and their families go through a similar assessment. Please contact the Office of Global Education at Westmont if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for supporting your student’s interest in global learning and engagement and for your continued support of the Westmont College community.


Cynthia D. Toms, Ph.D.

Director, Global Education

Westmont College

955 La Paz Road

Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Office: (805) 565-6025

Fax: (805) 565-6116

Email: ctoms@westmont.edu