Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Turkey?

April 19, 2019

Occupation: International Teacher
Industry: International Education
Age: 33
Location: Mersin, Turkey
Salary: $36,000 USD
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,022

Day 1: Saturday

In the morning, I book a Turkish Hammam for $18, including tip. I messaged for an appointment and was on the table in less than an hour.  I enjoyed a 1.5-hour massage, tea before and a coffee afterward. The hammam is within walking distance to my apartment.

For brunch, I make a Turkish breakfast dish at home.  The Turkish economy is in a recession, so locals report a significant increase in the price of produce. However, I can purchase a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery for $1, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oranges, lemons and herbs for less than $10 that will last me for the week.  

After working at home, I earned a night out so for $2 round I can take a trip train into the next city, the price is reduced when I remember to show my government issued a teacher ID card.  The train station is a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment.

$25 dinner out with friends including appetizer, main dish, dessert, and drinks.  The restaurant is a 10-minute walk from the train station in the next city so I avoid paying extra cab fare.

Day 2: Sunday

In the morning, I do some professional development and take the Google Educator Recertification Exam for $10.  Three years ago I made my first exam and decided to take the exam to keep myself current. Living in a smaller town means there aren’t too many things to do so I find I am reading more, catching up on TV series and films, and taking online courses while working on my future application materials.

In the afternoon I go out for a walk to do my weekly snack run. I visit a local candy and nut store.  These shops sell a variety of nuts, dates, corn nuts, and coffee which I take to work and munch on in the evenings and weekends.

I have a busy week that includes late nights this week, so I prepare a vegetable curry that I plan to eat each night after coming home. I use the vegetables I purchased on Saturday, along with some lentils and coconut milk I find in the cupboard.  

Day 3: Monday

After work, I visit the gym.  For dinner, I check out a new dessert place that recently opened in town.  Lokmaci is a sweet fried dough akin to a doughnut hole with toppings, cost $2. For dinner, I eat leftovers from Sunday.

Day 4: Tuesday

For $17, I purchase a belated birthday gift for my mother on Amazon.  I was delighted to find I had Amazon card, perhaps from selling some textbooks over the summer.  A benefit from living abroad is I don’t shop online often. There are local sites in Turkey where I can buy online, but I’ve chosen not to register because I can find everything I need locally. Again, I eat leftovers for dinner after visiting the gym.

Day 5: Wednesday

After work, I visited a burger joint with a colleague and spent $5.50. We go back and forth paying week to week.  This week, but next week it will be on him.

$12 On the way home we stop by a grocery store.  My school provides daily lunch, so I benefit from eating healthy salads and fruit.  A more significant benefit is that I don’t have to pack and prepare a lunch bag or leak-proof containers. When I visit the grocery store, I stock up on oatmeal, yogurt, and snacks.  I buy fresh fruit and vegetables at my neighborhood market on the weekends.

Day 6: Thursday

Nearing the end of the week, and perhaps feeling a bit tired of leftovers for dinner.  I spent $3 for flavored coffee and simit toast, basically a Turkish bagel with cheese at the school canteen. Each morning I prepare my coffee or tea, throughout the day I visit the school’s instant coffee and tea area, but every so often I enjoy a coffee with a colleague.

For $2 on the way home I grabbed an ice cream bar with my neighbor and then prepared to visit the gym with a buddy.  For dinner, I finished leftovers from Sunday.

Day 7: Friday

After visiting the gym, a friend and I decide to spend Friday night at the local mall.

For $5, I eat American inspired fast food in the food court. After eating I notice a shoe store I like to check out, and the Mango store is gone, possible signs of the recession in Turkey.

The oddest purchase I make this week is a $2 pair of stockings I see near the cash register as I wait for my friend to check out. I can feel warmer humid weather is coming, but some mornings are still a bit chilly.  I justify that one more pair of stockings may be necessary.

Before leaving the mall, we hit up a beauty store where I spent $6 for cotton buds, a lip mask, and some face cream.  I give the cashier my phone number each time which may result in some discounts, but I don’t speak enough of the language to understand the benefits programs at the various stores.  One change in Turkey is a new plastic bag fee to encourage a reduction in plastic consumption. I generally bring my reusable bags with me to the store and if I forget I buy a new one or don’t shop that day.

Monthly Expenses
$400/month international travel during holidays
$150/month groceries
$100/month clothing
$90/month virtual counseling
$80/month restaurants and meals out
$50/month apartment cleaning
$33/month retirement fund
$16/month gym membership
$12/month Audible subscription
$12/month beauty supplies
$3/month Netflix

This article was submitted by an ISC member. Why not submit your Money Diary article for your area of the world and earn free premium membership to the ISC website? Contact us here if you are interested.

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The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Tarsus American College (Turkey)

January 30, 2019

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries at which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Tarsus American College (Mersin, Turkey), described the way she gets to work as follows:

The road to Tarsus American College (Turkey)

Tarsus is a city near the Mediterranean near the larger cities of Mersin and Adana. The school is located in the old part of the town means rich Roman and Biblical historical sites, that include an old Roman road, the Well of St. Paul, mosques, a bazaar, crumbling Roman Baths, Cleopatra’s Gate and a nearby waterfall.

I’m originally from a small town in the state of Iowa in the Midwest USA, so while Tarsus is not a major city, it is larger than where I grew up, but smaller than the capital cities I worked in before coming to Turkey.

My commute to work is a five-minute walk from my school furnished apartment located near campus. Most local teachers live off campus, in the nearby towns of Adana or Mersin and take school buses each morning and afternoon. Most international faculty live on or near campus.

Living on or near campus means teachers can use the school’s, fitness equipment or join others to play tennis on the outdoor courts while walkers and joggers can find flat paths or stroll through parks in the city.

Tarsus American College is a bilingual school that follows the Turkish Ministry of Education and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. International teachers work in English, Science, and Math Departments or International University Counseling and Administration.

The school is located near a number of shops and bakeries, so In the morning, I don’t have to walk far to find a warm simit at a nearby bakeries or bring in office treats such as a box of cezerye, a Turkish dessert made from caramelized carrots, shredded coconut, and roasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios. Following are more photos of food that can be found near campus.

On the way home from school I usually pick up fresh produce oranges, lemons, mandarins and grapefruit. Pomegranate season means I eat delicious pomegranates every day.

A few new drinks I’ve grown to love while living in Tarsus.

Şalgam Suyu, is fermented turnip juice, it can be spicy and draink alone, or enjoyed with rakka on a night out.

Cinnamon topped salep is made from a flour of ground tubers of wild orchids, and is a warm alternative to coffee or tea.

Baklava is commonly known as the Turkish dessert, but there are many more treats to try. Turkish Künefe is served with the same sweet syrup, but has cheese inside a crispy shredded wheat type outer coating and covered in pistachios.

On the weekends, I can find a traditional Turkish breakfast served with tea and Turkish coffee, break, cheeses, olives, butter, honey, jam, and eggs.

Hummus is served hot and is a full meal, not just an appetizer when served with bread, tomatoes, and pickled vegetables. Most restaurants allow diners to choose from traditional covered in olive oil, or served with beef.

A common meal here is the Turkish kebab and the best kebab in my opinion comes with decision salads.


This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author, Ellen Johnston.

What to know more what it is like to visit and live in Turkey?  Out of a total of 25 international schools we have listed in Turkey, 17 have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:

Bilkent Laboratory & International School (135 comments)
Enka Schools (Istanbul) (45 Comments)
Istanbul International Community School (54 Comments)
MEF International School Istanbul (156 Comments)
MEF International School Izmir (58 Comments)
Robert College of Istanbul (47 Comments)
Tarsus American College (47 Comments)

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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Highlighted Articles

International Primary Curriculum: Children discover first-hand about the brain and learning

May 3, 2013

Children at The British Embassy School in Ankara, Turkey have been discovering first-hand about the brain and how people learn in, what teacher Tom Henley describes as a “profound learning experience.”

BESA (5) As the Entry Point to their learning with the International Primary Curriculum Brainwave unit, the 8 and 9 year old children from Year 4 took part in a hands-on experience to learn about the composition and layout of the brain.

“We used cow brains from a local Turkish butchers (they are on the menu here)” says Tom, the Year 4 class teacher. “We initially decided on sheep brains which are more common, but they were actually a little too small [for the learning experience].” The children wore science lab coats, glasses and gloves to conduct the investigation and used scalpels for dissection on wooden boards.

The school has a Science lab with a highly qualified specialist teacher and lab assistant who supported Tom with the learning. “They prepared the lab in advance and delivered a presentation on the parts of the brain and how, in very simple terms, the brain works in relation to learning,” explains Tom. “They modelled good lab practice such as how to use a scalpel safely, and wearing safety glasses, gloves and lab coats.”

The children dissected the brains to explore and see for themselves the major areas that had been identified and discussed during the presentation by the Science teacher. “We looked closely at how the brain is connected and in particular why greater surface area (wrinklyness) is a key indicator of greater brain power. Rabbits have quite smooth brains compared to dolphins or humans,” Tom explains.British Embassy School Turkey

“The children were very surprised at how soft the brains were, they expected them to be quite hard and firm,” says Tom. “After some initial squeamishness, they all got stuck in and really enjoyed themselves. It was a profound learning experience. They still talk about it now.”

The British Embassy School in Ankara is one of over 1,500 schools in 85 countries around the world learning with the International Primary Curriculum. The IPC leads children through an engaging learning process that has clear outcomes for academic, personal and international learning. It helps children look at everything they learn through a local and global perspective, developing adaptable, globally-minded learners prepared for the world of tomorrow that they will be living and working in. For more information about learning with the IPC go to


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Highlighted Year for Int’l Schools

International schools that were founded in 1988 (Budapest, Johor, Berne, Bordeaux, Hanoi, Rome, etc.)

December 25, 2011

Random year for international schools around the world: 1988

Utilizing the database of the 1018 international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found 10 international schools that were founded in 1988 (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites):

Koc International School (Istanbul, Turkey)

“Founded in 1988 by the Vehbi Koç Foundation, the Koç School has quickly become one of Turkey’s most selective and competitive university preparatory schools. It attracts an outstanding academic staff of Turkish and foreign teachers, and students who score at the highest levels of entrance examinations. Koç School seeks to be a leader and a pioneer in Turkish education and to set standards for other schools to follow.”

Bordeaux International School  (Bordeaux, France)

“Bordeaux International School, also known as BIS, is a private (fee-paying) international school for ages 3–18 located in Bordeaux, France, established in 1988 by the non-profit making Association Linguistique et Culturelle Internationale. Students are from both France and other countries. The medium of instruction is English and French in the primary streams and mainly English in the secondary school. The school moved to new premises in rue Judaïque in August 2005.”

British School Bern (Berne, Switzerland)

“The British School of Bern is an English-speaking, International day school established in 1988. It is for pupils of all nationalities from the ages of three to twelve years. It is an independent, nonprofit day school located in Gumlingen, a suburb of Bern. The school provides a modern British curriculum. The teaching allows each child to develop to his/her particular need through both same-age and cross-age groupings.”

International School of Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)

International School of Johor (Johor, Malaysia)

United Nations International School (Vietnam) (Hanoi, Vietnam)

“The United Nations International School of Hanoi is an international school in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1988 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam (UNDP) with the aim of providing an education to the children of UN staff and others. It now caters to the children of diplomats, aid workers, businessman, and other expatriates living and working in Hanoi. Classes range from pre-school to high school, and the IB Diploma is available to students in grade 11 and 12.”

Rome International School (Rome, Italy)

“RIS opened its doors to its first elementary school students in September 1988. We offer an international education to children aged 2 to 18. The Middle School opened in September 2001 and the High School in 2007. The school is located in a fully equipped campus comprised of classrooms, ample sports facilities, science labs, music rooms, libraries and computer labs, next to several acres of a public park, Villa Ada.The location is well connected by public transport.”

Khalifa School (Safat, Kuwait)

“Khalifa School, founded in 1988, is recognized as the first private educational institution for special needs students in Kuwait. Motivated by her grandson, Khalifa, Mrs. Lulwa Khalifa Alghanim established Khalifa School with the vision of providing equal opportunities for special needs students. The school combines the latest teaching methods and state of the art technology to provide appropriate educational opportunities for the students. The school is located in the capital area of Kuwait and is accessible from all locations of the country.”

German-American International School
 (Menlo Park, California, United States)

“The concept of a German-American School in the Bay Area in order to promote the German language and culture started in May 1980, with an ad-hoc committee under the leadership of Dr. Liedkte, Professor of German at the San Francisco State University. He was assisted by a group of dedicated parents and Mr. Rothmann, the German consul at that time and the Swiss consul, Mr. Frey. The result of many years of dedicated work, the German American School (GAS) was created by a small group of parents wanting to provide a good bilingual education for their children.”

Adana Gundogdu College (Adana, Turkey)

“Adana Gündogdu College was founded in 1988 by Mr. Yunus Gündogdu. It started with 88 students and now there are approximate 2000 students. Our school is located in Adana, which is located in southern Turkey. Adana is the city in the south of Turkey and has a university and several colleges. We have many attractions, a lake and not far from the center is the ocean. Our school includes a kindergarten, an elementary school and one comprehensive school.”

Check out the rest of the more than 1018 international schools listed on International School Community here.

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Discussion Topics

Out of the thousands of international schools, people ask me why did I choose to work here?

December 10, 2011

Sometimes it’s like life keeps throwing you those ”Sliding Doors – moments.” Remember that movie with Gwyneth Paltrow where one decision can change you entire life? It’s these moments where you have to decide in a split-second, completely unaware of the repercussions, or how life-altering that decision might be. We have all been in that situation when you’ve had an international school put a contract in front of you, to be signed by you.  When you start to think about it, it might take your breath away for a second, knowing that each decision you make is somehow unique, and to put it more metaphorically: is the beginning of yet a thread in the tapestry that is your life.

In meteorology there is a term called “butterfly effect.” It is derived from the chaos theory, and describes the contingent phenomena that when a butterfly flaps it wings on one side of the planet it can cause a hurricane several weeks later another place on the planet. It basically means that events are connected, and what may seem as something insignificant and small, has consequences way beyond the first perception. It’s the obvious remark, in a somewhat grander scale, that there’s consequence to everything we do, and the choices we make.  One year you are thinking that Asia is the place for you to move to the following school year, but then suddenly you open your eyes and you are actually in South America having the time of your life!  It is so hard to predict where is the best place for you at a future time in your life.

There is a plethora of decisions to be made every day, some of them are of more significance than other, but we are faced with decision-making every single day of our lives. As we grow older, we learn about the term “consequence.”  We later learn that some decisions are to be based on solidarity and some solely on ourselves.  We learn that we are part of a community or a society, where some of our decisions are expected to coincide with the norm, and that breaking away from that shows lack of solidarity and selfishness. It’s all about making the right decision at the right time.

In childhood it is given that we act selfish, and each decision is derived from our own needs, selfish needs. The older we get the more vital our decisions become, and suddenly we have to think about ethics and how that decision may affect everyone around us. And thus begins the never ever ending circle of think and decision.

“At the international school job fair in Toronto, I was faced with so many options. I had offers from schools in Okinawa, Japan; Izmir, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Ibadan, Nigeria; Rangoon, Burma; Bahrain; Monterrey, Mexico and Mexico City, Mexico. I felt like the prettiest girl at the ball.”  Taken from the blog Thatsawesome.  Most international school teachers have also been in this position.  So many cities in which to live and work, but only one can be possible.  This international school teacher chose Izmir, Turkey (and he told us that he is quite happy working and living there), but have a look at his influences and thought-process.  At times there can be so many factors to consider!

Decisions can be tough, and of course their importance varies, but in the end there’s only one person who can make them. Not every decision we make has the “butterfly effect” etiquette, but they do change our lives in one way or another. It can chisel the engine of your mind to almost overload. What really is the best decision?  How can we possibly choose from the plethora of choices that are sometimes placed in front of us?  It is a fact though, at times in the international school community split-second decisions need to be made; even when you have only hours to decide after you have been offered a contract.

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