Varol Kahveci was born in Turkey in a city called Konya, in the middle of Central Anatolia – Rumi-lovers probably already know the area! He spent three years in Istanbul and one year in England to complete his Bachelor’s in Western Languages and Literatures. After completing his Master’s at Dartmouth College in Comparative Literature, he began working on his Ph.D. in the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia University in New York.
Our DAAD network is a vast and global net of connections between DAAD award winners, ambassadors, alumni, grant holders, future applicants – all united by their love for study and research abroad and all things German. We asked Varol a few questions about his work and experience:
1. What are you currently studying and/or working on?
As a Ph.D. candidate in Germanic Languages and Literatures at Columbia University, my current research is centered on questions of migration and displacement, identity politics, and trauma studies focusing on the intersections of literature, philosophy, psychology and arts. I consider the experiences of migrants, refugees, and exiles in their new geographic and cultural contexts, as well as their fraught connection to the past. As a graduate student in the Comparative Literature program at Dartmouth College last year, I examined German and French autobiographies by Turkish and Algerian minorities, adopting and, at times, critiquing Homi Bhabha’s critical theory of “hybridity.” My work culminated in a thesis titled “The Pull of Home and the Fragmentation of the Body.” This year at Columbia, I am planning to extend my research by delving into trauma and memory studies as a means to better capture diasporic identities in the German context.
2. What sparked your interest in learning German?
I began learning German in high school, as it was the only “selective language course” I could take after many years of English. At that time, I wasn’t so thrilled by the idea of reading Heidegger, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche… in German; but German seemed to be my only escape. Now when I look back, I guess I could not have been luckier with this “selective language course”!
3. How did you hear about the University Summer Course Grant? Why did you decide to apply?
I somehow always knew about DAAD and its funding opportunities. Many of my friends applied for various scholarships before and encouraged me to do so as well.
4. What did the application process look like on your end?
I think the application for DAAD was one of the most straightforward processes I have gone through. In cases where I needed help, my e-mails were always answered promptly and in a kind manner, which I appreciated a lot.
5. Which course did you participate in? Why did you select this course and how did it turn out?
Since I am teaching German Language at Columbia University, I decided to participate in a summer course at Heidelberg University designed for non-native teachers of German. The main focus in the course was pedagogy; however, I also took part in classes on contemporary German cinema and literature. The summer school at Heidelberg is uniquely structured. While at the same time providing language courses in the morning, these afternoon classes offered various courses on German cultural and historical options.
6. What was one of the coolest experiences you had while you were in Germany?
The coolest experience I have whenever I am in Germany is being surrounded by so many languages—even though German is of course the predominant language. There is so much culture and diversity to explore in Germany.
7. What was the most challenging experience you had while living in Germany?
One of the challenges for me was the myth that Germans are very strict about punctuality— something one might want to reflect on especially when traveling with Deutsche Bahn (but for the time being I don’t intend to drag us into that nebulous space!).
8. What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study, particularly those considering an experience abroad?
Get ready to read, folks! And I mean it! Be prepared to read more than 600 pages weekly. Literature requires a strenuous reading and writing process. If that is not something you truly enjoy doing, think twice.
9. Do you have tips for students who are thinking of applying for the University Summer Course Grant?
Do not hesitate to get in touch with the DAAD staff. They are unimaginably helpful, and the rest is then pretty straightforward.
10. Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
I guess I still need time to work on that, since I never tried to cook a German dish myself!
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