Visiting professor of German Gizem Arslan was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She came to America to attend Franklin and Marshall College, at which she received her B.A. in English in 2003. She completed a post-graduate year and earned a second major in German. Arslan then received her M.A. in German Studies from Cornell University in 2009. While she is visiting Knox, she is working on her Ph.D. from Cornell University and has many plans for her time at Knox.
The Knox Student: How did you end up studying German?
Gizem Arslan: Basically, I ended up studying German as a result of some serendipitous circumstances — I never had wanted to study German, but I was somehow always thrown into situations. After high school, I went to Germany with a high school exchange program and I had wanted to go to Italy, but I was sent to Germany. And then I just became interested in German and culture in college and I completed a major in it. And as I was graduating from college, the field of immigrant literatures in German was beginning to pick up, and that’s how I ended up wanting to study German literature and culture in graduate school as well.
My interests evolved quite a bit over time, but I think it was a combination of serendipity and personal interest and my great experiences of being an exchange student in Germany, some fantastic mentorship at my college, and then in graduate school, and also my own background as a woman who was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey and went through several languages in my educational and professional development that sort of led to this particular concentration of interest.
TKS: How did you end up at Knox?
GA: Well, I had a whirlwind summer and just as I was getting ready to leave for an exchange year in Berlin, I ended up getting a campus visit offer, an interview, and a job offer from Knox, and I have to say I was thrilled. I mean, I was very, very excited when I came to visit the campus with the people I met, the faculty, the students and everyone else. And I came here very excited to be here. I feel that especially when you’re changing places, you’re always apprehensive about what could go wrong, but I feel that this is a very democratic institution that’s really committed to equality on many levels — equality in education, equality between faculty, equality between the campus population in general and I feel I have really benefited from that and been treated very well.
TKS: What’s your favorite part about Knox thus far?
GA: In general, it’s that people are just very kind and they’re very welcoming, and as a newcomer you’re very attuned to how you are received and I feel I’ve been received very well, and I really appreciate the welcoming and openness. It’s very striking and great.
TKS: What are you teaching this term?
GA: I’ll be teaching the first-year sequence of German this year. This semester, I’m teaching the first term of it and I’m also teaching German 201. In the winter, I’ll be teaching conversation and composition, and in the spring, I’ll be offering a course on literature and culture in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall, so it’ll be a course about multicultural Berlin as it is represented by literature, in the media, in all kinds of texts understood very broadly.
TKS: In college, what were you involved with?
GA: I was an international student, so I was involved in the International Club on campus, and I remember organizing an international poetry reading and being involved in a tsunami relief drive in 2004. I sang in the choir. I was actually a member of the women’s center where we would discuss many things that touched women and gender but also larger topics, so we would have weekly discussions and organize events. I was in the piano studio and would practice quite a bit by myself — it was meditative.
TKS: What are your goals as a professor?
GA: It is a very exceptional instructor who can be in charge and stand there without looking like she is in charge and not getting in the way of interaction between students. That’s my greatest goal.
TKS: What are your plans for the future?
GA: I’m here on a two-year appointment. There are a couple of course ideas that I’d like to develop. I have another course idea on presentations on infinity and circularity in literature, and the human dimension of the longing for immortality and approaches to death and ways of overcoming mortality, and also a course idea on letters as visual forms, ideograms, as mathematical symbols, and the ways in which texts present letters and organize the ideas of a letter. I would be really interested in exploring other ways of getting involved on campus, I would be interested in advising students.