For Indian students seeking to study abroad, Turkey, with its government-funded higher education scholarship programme, is slowly emerging as a popular destination.
The "Turkiye Scholarships" — specifically designed for international students — is one of the most extensive programmes being coordinated from a single centre.
In 2016, the country received as many as 122,000 applications from 175 countries, according to the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, which is responsible for the Turkiye Scholarships.
Since 2012, over 100 Indian students have received the scholarship.
"I belong to a farmer's family from south India. It was unthinkable for people like me to come here to Turkey and get a high-quality education. I applied to 'Turkeye scholarships' and I was accepted," said Mustafa Ujampaaly, a PhD student at Ankara University, in a statement.
Currently in India, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said before embarking on the official visit: "We embrace students from all over the world coming to Turkey."
The Turkiye Scholarship project first began in late President Turgut Ozal's rule in 1992. The project initially covered Central Asian Turkic Republics and was later extended to other parts of the world.
The scholarship, offered for undergraduate, graduate, PhD, proficiency in art and research levels, includes allowance, accommodation, tuition and fees, health expenses and a compulsory Turkish language course.
"There is a misconception propagated by the media that being a Muslim country, Indian students of other religions may face difficulty many restrictions. But I am living here, it feels really awesome to be here nice place," said Kanika Walia who is pursuing PhD in communications from Gazi University.
The students who are eligible for the "Turkiye Scholarships" and do not speak Turkish are also granted free Turkish language training for one year.
Students who successfully complete the language course are allowed to pursue their education at the university they have registered with.
In addition, the programme is aimed at enhancing Turkey's relations with other countries in the fields of higher education and culture.
For students who wish to know about the art, culture, history or music of the country, additional certificate-level programmes are also available. For such students, study tours are also conducted free of cost.
"It is a very good thing to be in Turkey. I had always dreamed of studying abroad and never dreamed that I could study in Turkey. I was accepted after I applied to the government-funded 'Turkiye Scholarships' of the Turkish Prime Ministry (YTB)," said Navaz Kuttakkaren, a BA student from Kerala at Ankara University.