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English literature graduate transforms obstacles into understanding

Graduating ASU student Aslihan Kilic / Courtesy photo

"All of the professors I had inspired me to look deeper at the world we live in," said graduating Arizona State University student Aslihan Kilic. She is earning her bachelor's degree in English (literature) this spring.

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Aslihan Kilic has certainly found this to be true in her life, though perhaps not in the way that Mann meant.

Kilic grew up in the San Francisco Bay area as a speaker of Turkish. She remembers well her difficulty in learning to speak and read English. Through her struggles, the Arizona State University student developed a keen empathy for others in the same position.

Kilic is graduating this spring with a degree in English (literature) and a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Her facility with the language isn’t just adequate now; this former English language learner devours canonical English texts: Plath, Dickens, the Brontës, Hemingway. She then reads the authors’ biographies.

Beyond this semester, Kilic will employ her adept language skills and hard-won empathy in her chosen career of counseling; she is on track to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in psychology at ASU this fall.

We caught up with Kilic between finals to ask a few more questions about her ASU experience.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: My first language was not English, but I remembered the struggle of learning it when I was young. The tenacity I had to learn English stayed with me for as long as I could remember! I decided to choose English as my major, and I learned that you could gain a certificate to teach speakers of a different language, alongside gaining a bachelor’s degree.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: All of the professors I had inspired me to look deeper at the world we live in, whether it be through an environmental, historical or cultural [lens]. I was introduced to a lot of different types of literature, which helped illustrate life in different time periods. I learned a lot from them and their unique perspectives.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I decided to go in 2016. I had a lot of difficulty in my personal life from 2013 onward, so I finally thought that my mindset in 2016 allowed me to make a leap to a university. ASU was the closest to me, and I heard a lot of good things about the school.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Never give up on what you want to do; the struggle you go through with each class and semester is worth it in the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I loved Hayden Library; I always did a lot of my studying there! I loved the little cafe inside of the library too!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I want to continue working where I am, but I will be researching different job opportunities and reaching out to professionals to see if they have any ideas. In the fall I will be starting a new degree.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: My mother passed away from cancer (many different areas of her body were infected). I would use [the money] to find and fund researchers who truly want to succeed in finding the real causes and cures to this horrifying disease.

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