Oscar Luckett and Denizcan Ozdemir

Oscar Luckett, ATA, Columbia College ‘25 (Left)

Denizcan Ozdemir, ATA, Columbia College ‘25 (Right)

Date Interviewed: 07/26/2023

Introduce yourself!

Oscar: Hi, my name is Oscar. I'm a junior at Columbia, and I'm one of the ATAs for F&C this summer.

DJ: My name is DJ. I am also a junior at Columbia. I'm studying Political Science and Human Rights, and I am also an ATA at F&C.

What drew you to work at F&C?

Oscar: I wanted to work at F&C to try out teaching, which is something I've always wanted to do, and because I think there's a lot of richness to these ancient texts that can be really valuable if taught in the right way. I wanted to have a small part in making that happen.

DJ: I also wanted the teaching experience and to do the same things that Oscar was talking about. But I think a lot of it is because I wish I had this program when I was in high school. And I wish I was able to benefit from this program, not just in terms of college access, but also in terms of learning about these pivotal ideas to Western civilization, as well as the support and the community.

What is your favorite part of the program?

DJ: I love ATA tutorials because I think the kids come into it expecting to hear about or learn about one thing, but I love when I can make it into something completely out of the box and unexpected that teaches them something new about themselves and about the world.

Oscar: My favorite part is also the ATA tutorial because I think it gives us a more informal way to talk about the texts, to really get into some of the hardest questions that these texts ask.

What is your favorite reading in the program and why?

Oscar: Definitely “The Trial and Death of Socrates,” specifically “Phaedo.” I think it teaches this interesting methodological practice of asking questions about life, examining your own life, and having the duty to examine be something that everyone can undertake. I also think it tells you a lot about how to live your life in the face of death and being told you have to die.

DJ: I’m going to answer this question in an interesting way. My favorite text is also my least favorite text. I absolutely hated the liberalism text. But I really enjoyed reading the students' responses to the liberalism text, because I think they took some really big difficult ideas and turned them into responses that were enlightening and surprising for me, and changed the way I thought about the text. So that was a really pleasant and lovely surprise for me.

What is one piece of advice that you would like to give F&C students?

DJ: Number one, don't lose yourself, you're gonna go through a lot in your life before college, during college, and after college. And I think it's really easy to try to become someone you're not. But above all else, stay true to who you are, stay true to your community, and stay true to your roots. Number two, don't sweat the small stuff. There are going to be a lot of things that come up every day that make you think the world is going to end. But at the end of the day, because you're part of such an amazing program, and because you built this amazing community, everything is going to be okay. And I can't promise that but I can say that this program has helped make that more possible.

Oscar: That's great advice in totality, but just what I would add is, you should always rely on each other as resources. Part of being a part of a group like this is that everyone has something really insightful to add. You are each other's greatest resources.

DJ: Don't lose touch!

Oscar: The second thing I would say is to think about examining your life, not just as something that you do while you're reading great books, but as something you do at all points in your life. There's this great quote where Rilke is writing to his student, and he says, “no matter what you go through in life, you always have to remember to live the question.” So it's not about finding the answers, but it is about making the question and the struggle a part of your life.

DJ: Yeah, and adding on to that, the current moment in your life is that of the college application process and I think one of the many questions you're asking yourself is what is the point of college? What is the purpose of college and why does college exist? Something that was really important for me to remember and some really good advice that I got is that above all else, college is for you to advance as a thinker, to make yourself a better thinker, and to challenge the way you normally think. So going into it with that mindset definitely helps you not lose sight of who you are and why you're in it.

Oscar: Yeah, that's good advice.

What is one fun fact about you?

DJ: There’s a couple facts. One fun fact about me is that I am an enjoyer of many different genres of music, ranging from Indie Pop to Habibi Funk.

Oscar: A fun fact about me is that I write crosswords in my free time.

DJ: I support your crossword endeavors. I feel like we can make this more fun by sharing fun facts about each other, because I have a fun fact about Oscar.

Oscar: Okay, a fun fact about DJ that you would’ve never guessed from having a conversation with him is that he enjoys Turkish culture. He’s from Turkey and enjoys Turkish psychedelic folk rock.

DJ: Correct. A fun fact about Oscar is that he enjoys working out. So whenever you ask him “Oscar, do you want to hang out,” he’ll say “I think I'm gonna head home and maybe work out.”

Oscar: A fun fact about DJ is that he said he wants to be a lawyer after college.

DJ: This is true. A fun fact about Oscar is that he enjoys American Studies and that he has almost exclusively taken American Studies classes so far at Columbia, which he has enjoyed many of.

Oscar: A fun fact about DJ is his amazing laugh.

DJ: A fun fact about Oscar is he's an enjoyer of reading.

DJ + Oscar: HAGS! (Have a Great Summer!)