ICS Student Spotlight: Ezgi Ustundag '16

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February 18, 2016

Background info: From Ames, IA (Ames High School), International Comparative Studies major (T’16) concentrating on the Middle East, Markets & Management Studies certificate, University Scholars Program merit scholarship recipient.


After finishing high school, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do during my undergraduate career but I was certain that I wanted to experience and learn as much as possible. While my primary academic interests lay in studying the Middle East and particularly Turkey, I did not want to limit my studies to a single discipline; I wanted to take classes in literature, history, economics, computer science, public policy, and other departments. Fortunately, I found a home base in the ICS department very early in my career, as I took the gateway the second semester of my freshman year. The program proved to be exactly what I was looking for: the curricular requirements were stringent enough to narrow my path of study but still encompassed enough departments and disciplines to allow me to explore different areas of the university throughout my four years. The major also fit very well with my certificate in Markets and Management Studies and a study abroad experience with Duke in Istanbul at Boğaziçi University.

Jeopardy! also fits into my ICS story, as my interest in various subjects began when I was an avid Jeopardy! viewer and quiz bowl player throughout high school. I was fascinated by the amount of knowledge in the world and loved the thrill of learning something new, as well as the thrill of recalling a fact under pressure. Like ICS, the culture of Jeopardy! emphasizes the joy of learning and understanding the world (of course, in the case of a TV game show, some money is at stake!). I appeared on the show on October 1, 2015, after taking the online test and going through the audition process on a whim. From preparing to actually stepping behind the podium on Stage 10, the whole process was easily the most fun I had in my college career, and I documented both the experience and the outcome in this post for DukeToday (Spoiler: I placed second and walked away with $2,000 against Matt Jackson, a thirteen-time champion and one of the best contestants in the show's recent history).

Although Jeopardy! was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I find my time as an ICS major to have been even more valuable. This program has taught me how to read, integrate, and evaluate different sources of information effective essentially, my love of learning has been heightened and deepened during my studies. So while pulling out random facts at pub trivia nights is still a lot of fun for me, I know I will use the skills I picked up as an ICS major every day after I graduate from Duke.


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