Foreign doctoral students visiting Turkey are building bridges of culture and brotherhood while reexamining their preconceived notions of the country.
Coming to Istanbul to attend a series of conferences on "Abrahamic Reflections on Philosophy, Science and Religion" held by Bahçeşehir University, they highlighted Turkey's rich cosmopolitan culture.
"My first impression was that Turkey is a real European state," American Samuel Murray, a doctoral student in philosophy at Notre Dame University, told Anadolu Agency, adding this is his first visit to Istanbul.
Murray said he was nervous before coming to Turkey due to reports in the U.S. media which portray it as a dangerous country.
"We thought there was a war in Turkey too, as the ongoing war in Syria is so close [to Turkey]," he added.
Murray said he saw that Turkey enjoys a cultural richness which is a rich mixture of East and West.
He said Istanbul is a modern city along with its historical features.
"I can say that my ideas have really changed after coming to Turkey."
Murray said he was conducting research on Islamic philosophy and added that he understood what it means to be a practicing Muslim in Turkey.
Philip Neri Reese, another American doctoral student in philosophy, said he was impressed by Turkish culture the most.
Noting there has been a rise in the number of studies on Islamic philosophy in the U.S., Reese added that occasional tensions between Washington and Ankara have increased some Americans' interest in Turkey.
"As a Christian, I feel more comfortable in Turkey than I am in London," Reese said.
"When I first came to Istanbul as a British Muslim, everything was new and different," said Abbas Ahsan from Birmingham University.
Ahsan said Turkey is a country beyond what is depicted by the foreign media.
Recalling an earlier visit to Istanbul, Ahsan said he went to the historic Blue Mosque in the city and stayed there for hours, where he found peace.
"The thing I liked the most while visiting Istanbul is hearing the adhan [call to prayer]," he said, noting only Muslims living in a country where the adhan is not called could understand it.