by Emily Neelon
I’ve always loved to read and write. I used to devour book after book, my well-worn library card burning a hole in my pocket, begging to be used. The characters in my favorite books were my best friends and the lines on the pages of a notebook were my closest confidants.
When I started college, I didn’t have time to read books anymore. I read journal study after journal study about communication theories in cross-cultural contexts. I read pages and pages on the effects of global warming on the environment. I read posts on my Facebook wall and tweets on my Twitter feed and articles in the newspaper. But I neither made the time nor had the time to read and write about literature anymore.
At the beginning of the spring semester, I decided to change this. I declared a secondary major in English.
Attending my first upper-division English class at UP was (and still is) a nerve-wracking experience and I definitely don’t fit the “English major” mold of students well-read in eighteenth century British literature with their mason jars of home-brewed kombucha and hand-knit beanies.
I’m still afraid to raise my hand in class for fear of sounding unintelligent and struggle with gaining confidence in sharing my personal interpretations of the texts I read. But adding English to my course load has proven very valuable.
My English classes have taught me critical reading skills and shown me the intersections between history and the human experience. I have learned about feminism and the battle between masculinity and femininity. I have analyzed the relationship between people and nature through the lens of Ecocriticism. I have psychoanalyzed poetry, plays, and non-fiction pieces. I have learned so much already in these first four weeks and found everything I’ve discussed in these courses to coincide and supplement the work I’m doing in my other classes in addition to giving me a better background on various societal issues.
Declaring English as a second major has allowed me to fully embrace my liberal arts education, but has also added to my anxiety about finding a job after graduation. No English major majors in the subject area because they want to make money, but we all still want to work somewhere after graduation. How can I make my knowledge of post-modern masculinity seem marketable and desirable to an employer? What kinds of jobs can I apply my reading and writing skills to?
Reading complex texts forces me to critically examine and interpret literature from various points of view, giving me a broader insight into various multifaceted and highly relevant issues. With reading comes better writing as I learn to streamline my thoughts into concise essays. The way I see it, what employer doesn’t want someone who can think analytically and write insightfully?
After graduation I can apply my skills to everything from editing, publishing, or reporting to fundraising, teaching, and managing. I can work in the realms of public service, education, media, and everything in between. There is a breadth of opportunities available to me if I allow myself to become open to them. But for now, I going to keep on reading and writing with the hopes of sitting taller and raising my hand higher in class.
Interested in finding out more about post-graduation options for English majors? Here are some links to check out: