It’s homecoming week here in Mo-Town, so a lot of alumni are back on campus. Today they had an alumni networking event and a panel composed of alumni who graduated with English degrees was put together by the English department for current English students.
Now, I have a double major in history and English, and although I love my English major, I tend to flaunt my history major more. History is my main passion, so much so that recently I’ve been considering getting an advanced degree in history with the goal of becoming a history professor. I view English as my “fun” major because the only reason I majored in it was because of my love of reading and writing. I see no future career in anything directly related to my English major.
As a history and English major, you might imagine the amount of flack I get for my educational decisions. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been asked, “So, what are you going to do with those majors…teach?” and I just want to scream in return, “WHY SHOULD IT MATTER WHAT I DO WITH THEM WHEN I’M STUDYING TWO SUBJECTS THAT I LOVE?” Until recently, I’ve swallowed my pride and simply told people that I plan on working in museums. However, lately I’ve begun to question if truly want to make a career out of museum work. I loved my internship at the Postal Museum, but there was just something missing from my experience there…I just didn’t feel inspired (of course, one might ask, do you need to be inspired as long as you have an income…well, that’s a topic for a different conversation).
Anywho, since I’ve been questioning if I really want to work in museums, you might imagine that I’ve been freaking out a bit (see But Really, What DO I Want to Be When I Grow Up?). I thought I had everything figured out, and it would happen that I’ve started to question everything during my senior year of college. At the panel today though, one of the panelists said something that I found to be extremely useful; it really truly helped me to appreciate my English major for what it is. She said, “when I was an undergrad and people asked me what I was going to do with my English degree, there got to a point where I would reply, ‘Literally anything!” She now works in student affairs, a far cry from a homeless person with an unusually large vocabulary (see the meme at the bottom of this post).
But really, the skills I have learned with my English degree are so useful for just life. The critical thinking skills I have gained from analyzing texts are invaluable and the different ideas I have been exposed to through the literature I have read have changed my perspective of how I see the world. Currently, I am in this amazing, amazing class, Understanding Writing, where the boundaries of everything I thought I knew about academic writing and writing in general have been completely thrown out the window (I may cover this class more in depth in another post…it’s not even mid-semester, and this class is already changing my life, something that I can’t say happens often about a class). I can already tell that the skills I will take away from Understanding Writing specifically will be invaluable for any career that I go into. I am a better writer and a better thinker because of my English major. I am more willing to challenge my own and others’ ideas and ways of thinking because of my English major. Some of the best professors I’ve had at Morris have been English faculty. I am a loud and proud history major but dammit, my English major has been under appreciated for way too long, and attending the panel today helped me to realize that.
Say what you will about the humanities, and the English major specifically. I’ve heard before that there are too many English majors out there, but I don’t think that’s possible. English majors enter the “real world” with a better understanding of the world around them; they have the tools to write well and think critically, two skills that employers across the board are looking for. I may not change the world with my English major, but I sure as hell will graduate with a better understanding of this strange and crazy world that we live in. Isn’t that the purpose of college anyways…to better understand the world around us before we become active members within it?