Emir Kulluk ’21 first discovered the Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet’s piece, titled “On Living” when he was a teenager. Ever since, the poem has held tremendous meaning for him.
During Conn’s 103rd Commencement ceremony in May, Kulluk, who grew up in Turkey, delivered this year’s Senior Speech, addressing the audience both on campus and tuning in from around the world. A Film and Philosophy double major, CISLA Scholar, and Connecticut College Ambassador, Kulluk spoke of the unique challenges and inspiring moments brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and shared some of Hikmet’s poem, which has long given him comfort during difficult times.
CC Magazine spoke with Kulluk about his experience at Conn and why Hikmet’s poem continues to mean so much to him.
CC Magazine: What is it about this poem that still resonates with you today?
Emir Kulluk: When I first read it, the dichotomies presented in the poem really struck a chord, as it truly represented life as not all good, or all bad, but with ups and downs. It argues the importance of valuing the very fact that we have life itself, regardless of what it entails. I think that message is more important now than ever.
In my Senior Speech, I also wanted to share something that was part of my culture; the Turkish heritage that I carry and represent on a daily basis. And after learning more about Hikmet’s work and life, I realized he was the perfect individual to talk about. A poet, writer and philosopher, he was imprisoned and later exiled for his political beliefs, yet his love and appreciation for his culture, community and motherland never diminished.
CC Magazine: What initially drew you to Conn?
EK: I spoke to an alumnus of my high school who went to Conn, Anil Timbil ’20, and he emphasized that Conn was a very tight-knit community with small class sizes, more time with professors, and a philosophy of encouraging exploration and combining interests. I was drawn to this.
CC Magazine: Throughout your time at Conn, is there an academic achievement or experience that stands out more than others?
EK: Making a movie in my film class. Getting to experience every step of the process of filmmaking, from coming up with the idea to writing a script to preproduction, filming and then postproduction was thrilling. It allowed me to put everything that I had learned through various film classes into use, making the movie that I wanted to see. Making a movie is intimate, not just for you, but for everybody involved, and it is out of this intimacy that you make unforgettable memories and strong friendships.
CC Magazine: So, what’s next for you?
EK: I’ve been interning for Team Basilisk, an Esports startup founded by a Conn alum, Christopher Bothur ’07, and I’ll be continuing to work there. Esports is an exciting new industry with a lot of potential, and I love what I do there. I help create content and visuals that we utilize both inside and outside the organization, but I also get to use a lot of the other skills I have picked up during my time at Conn for management and communication.