Anya Mullen has had the travel bug since her family took her on a trip to Sweden when she was in fourth grade.
“We went to Stockholm, Gothenburg, and the town my grandfather was born in, Falkoping,” says Mullen. “At the time, I was learning about Norse mythology in my Waldorf School and I was terribly excited to go to the land I was learning about. This was the trip that inspired me, even at that young age, to explore the world.”Mullen continued to travel throughout her teen years and her parents sent her on a trip to Greece as a high school graduation gift.
“My family taught me that traveling is the best learning experience,” says Mullen, who is from Marietta, Pa. “It is also what laid the foundation for choosing Anthropology as a major at Ursinus.”
In addition to studying Anthropology, Mullen was also an Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies minor, which she designed herself. She studied in Istanbul the fall semester of her junior year at Koc University through the CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) program. Although she had never been to a Middle Eastern country nor did she speak Turkish, she never hesitated about embarking on the new adventure.
“Anya is sharp-witted, keenly perceptive, and refreshingly direct and honest,” says Dr. Kelly Sorensen, a philosophy professor at Ursinus who taught Mullen in the CIE (Common Intellectual Experience) class. “She is adventurous and ambitious and chose a unique study abroad experience in Turkey over more pedestrian international opportunities.”
Mullen immediately fell in love with her new foreign city and university. While taking classes, including a Turkish language course, she also found time to wander the city, explore, shop, and eat the local food.
“The university sits atop a mountain almost always covered in fog in the mornings,” Mullen explains. “But when it cleared, I could even see the Black Sea from my dorm window, which was amazing.”
This past summer, Mullen visited with friends she made from Istanbul while they were in the States. Reinvigorated by the contacts, she decided to write an article about her experience and send it to National Geographic Traveler. Soon after receiving the submission, an editor called and told her they were going to publish it on the web site. A natural writer with a zest-for-life voice, Mullen described all the places and things she loves about Istanbul, including where she sneaks off to avoid crowds and where she enjoys her favorite local dishes and drinks.
“My ideal job is to work for National Geographic as a travel correspondent,” she says. “It is a part of my dream.”
Since graduating from Ursinus this past spring, Mullen’s travel opportunities continue to expand. She plans to move to Australia in March and tour the country for a month before settling down in Cairns to write more travel pieces and seek a job. Mullen will live in Australia for at least four months, before traveling to Ireland and Scotland with family for more experiences and writing opportunities.
“I am half Irish and half Lithuanian, and I am returning to Ireland this summer for a family reunion,” she explains. “I am super excited, especially since I get to stay in a castle. All my childhood fantasies of being a queen are coming true,” she jokingly says. “Forget ever having to travel to Disney. . .I just want to explore the real deal!”
To see Mullen’s piece on National Geographic, go to: http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/05/i-heart-my-city-anyas-istanbul/
You can also follow all of Mullen’s travel adventures on twitter at @yar_a_pirate and on Instagram under the same name.