If you’ve taken a computer science course in recent semesters, there’s a good chance you’ve already met Joomy Korkut ’17. The Argus sat down with him to learn about his experience as an international student from Turkey, his love of Balkan music and creating new apps, and his take on the election.
The Argus: What makes you a WesCeleb?
Joomy Korkut: Well I don’t really know, because I’ve been TAing computer science classes for a long time and some people have been saying saying stuff like, “Oh, you should be a WesCeleb. You basically know all the computer science people.” But that’s because it’s been, like, six semesters at this point. But I don’t really know if I actually qualify, so I was surprised when I got your email.
A: What’s your major?
JK: I’m [doubling] in Computer Science and Math, and I’m also minoring in Russian Studies.
A: What do you miss most about Turkey?
JK: I guess food and high school friends. But I learned how to cook Turkish food, so I don’t miss it as much now.
A: Really? What type of things do you cook?
JK: Um, stuffed peppers, what else…rice pudding…cauliflower and ground beef.
A: What’s the best part about being at Wesleyan as an international student?
JK: It’s about having access to people from a lot of different places and cultures. Especially politically, it gave me a lot of different points of view that I never really heard of before. And also coming from a really conservative country, it was really amazing to see how the main concerns of people here differ from those in Turkey.
A: What are some major concerns in Turkey right now?
JK: In Turkey, people are primarily concerned with secularism and religion…so, yeah, like the dichotomy you have in the U.S. between Republicans and Democrats exists between Secularists and Islamists, so it’s a really different look at the situation. And the right-wing parties in Turkey don’t really discuss healthcare or taxes. Those are not really popular questions as much as religion is.
A: What was it like being here during the election this year?
JK: First of all, it just felt really long, considering the Democratic primary elections. And also it was interesting to see how there was almost a single point of view on campus, in a way. Most people supported Bernie Sanders, who I also support. And then when he lost, it was almost like people were disillusioned. But still, they felt like they had to be engaged because of Trump, obviously. And then the day after the election itself, it was kind of interesting to see, because as someone who almost lost every election I was interested in, I just felt like people were finally feeling how I felt my entire life.
A: What languages do you speak?
JK: Hah…so I speak Turkish, English, I’m taking Russian here, and I speak some German.
A: How does leading such a different life from your parents affect you?
JK: We’re obviously kind of disconnected in a way, in the way we think about religion, or other kinds of politics, especially policies about minorities and all that in Turkey. So we have very different views, and we don’t have many things to talk about. But since I’m away from them it’s not such a big problem I guess. They seem to be fine with that. We don’t really have that much tension.
A: I saw online that you have a blog called “Cat Theory.” Where does this name come from?
JK: It’s a pun on a mathematical field called “category theory.” And I like cats, too.
A: Do you have one?
A: What is the objective of your blog?
JK: It was just for me to ramble on about mathematics, computer science, or history.
A: On your LinkedIn, it says you made an app called Foody Call. Can you tell me about that?
JK: So, are you familiar with the concept called a “hackathon”?
JK: So, a hackathon is basically a coding marathon….We used to have those at Wesleyan when I was a freshman and sophomore, I think. They were called WesHacks. And this was one I attended. We made this app called Foody Call. I think the greatest part was the name….It’s basically a way to order food from Summies using this online app. We didn’t really sustain it, so it’s not usable anymore.
A: Do you have any secret ideas for new apps to make?
JK: I don’t really have any new ideas, but I think reviving old WesHack applications would be a good idea….One of them was an app that showed you on a map which parties on campus were “lit.”
A: That sort of sounds like Yik Yak.
JK: Well, this was pre-Yik Yak.
A: You’ve also been a TA for five comp-sci classes. What makes you so committed to being a TA?
JK: I am kind of still planning to do a PhD at some point and go into teaching…and at first, starting to TA was kind of an experiment to see if I liked teaching and if I’d be good at it, especially as a non-native [English] speaker. I thought it’d be good for me. And it was.
A: Was it hard being a TA without English being your first language?
JK: Uh, surprisingly no. I thought it would be. But the first TA session I held, I was so confident that I could speak so fluently, and I was so surprised I could.
A: What’s the Turkish community like on campus?
JK: Hah. Nonexistent…there are only two people who are from Turkey, including me. And there are two Turkish Americans.
A: Do you ever feel lonely because of that?
JK: Not really. It maybe even helped me with English.
A: What else are you involved with on campus?
JK: I’m involved with some bands, and I was doing some a cappella groups. I was in Mazeltones, the Jewish a cappella group on campus. I was raised Muslim. I think I was the the only non-Jewish member. But I like the music. It’s kind of Middle Eastern in a way. I also play the accordion; I was on the WestCo open mic one time.
A: Where did you learn to play the accordion?
JK: By myself.
A: What’s your current go-to song?
JK: Can I spell it? It’s not in English. The band is called Kitka and the song is called “Strahil Hajdutin.” It’s a beautiful a cappella song, from I think Bulgaria.
A: Are most of your playlists a cappella songs?
JK: No, but they’re mostly Balkan music.
A: What’s your favorite place on campus?
JK: In front of Olin. Obviously, Olin’s view is magnificent.
A: Any advice for international students?
JK: I guess I can say if their first year is basically spent getting used to living in the U.S. and getting used to speaking English, they shouldn’t worry about it, because things are going to get better. Much better for them.