PURSUING AN ENGLISH UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE AT ST. NORBERT COLLEGE
The path I took at St. Norbert College was much different than I had originally envisioned when I first got to campus. Starting off as an Elementary Education major, I was excited for the possibilities and the future that came with teaching and working with kids. As I finished my freshman year, I became less and less fond of the idea of becoming an elementary school teacher. I felt trapped and confused as to what direction I wanted to take in life. One thing I did feel certain about was my love and passion for writing. Knowing this, I decided to take a leap and change my major from Elementary Education to English.
Some challenges that came with my experience as an English major included broadening my knowledge on different types of writing as well as learning to work through tough readings, no matter how tempting it was to just skip it. Authors such as Chaucer and Joyce were two that really made me want to throw my books across the room. I had never experienced readings like these in the past. I always enjoyed reading poetry and short stories. These two authors, especially, pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to engage with difficult texts. In reflecting on all of my English courses, the most difficult ones especially, I’m proud of myself because I worked through texts that I never imagined I could ever read or understand.
I have learned numerous things while being an English major that I will always be grateful for. I, admittedly, have never been fond of reading. Whether or not I had a choice in this, I’ve learned to become much more fond of reading because I was exposed to so many different types of styles of texts. I learned to love to work through difficult readings in order to gain more meaning from them. It’s like completing a never ending puzzle. Learning and understanding different types of themes and theories has given reading a purpose.
As for writing, I can see clear improvements in my writing abilities from the beginning of freshman year to the end of my senior year. Writing different types of essays has helped my ability to identify the purpose for a paper and then to really expand upon my thoughts and ideas. ENGL 305: Literary Theory and Writing was the class that helped this skill the most. Being able to look at one text and write about it from many different perspectives was a unique opportunity that allowed me to better understand my writing. This class helped me to think more critically and analytically; two skills that were necessary in ENGL 489: James Joyce. Each English course taught me to be adaptable when reading a text and then writing a text in order to gain multiple perspectives and understandings. This was something I took with me to all of my other courses as well.
In reflecting upon my time as an English major, I remember the classes and the texts we read. However, what stands out to me the most are the professors in the English department. I always felt as though the classroom environments they fostered were welcoming. Because of this, each professor created a safe space for students to feel comfortable participating and to not be afraid of making mistakes. I’ve found that the professors in the English department genuinely care about their students. I’ve felt that I’ve been able to have a close relationship with each of my professors which was something that not every college student can say that they’ve experienced. While some may say this is because of smaller class sizes, I believe that it is the compassion that each professor has for their class and the success of their students. Each professor gave me skills to keep in my toolbox that help me to continue to grow my writing skills.
Although my passion for reading has gone up from nothing, I still feel as though I want to continue to push myself to read and explore difficult texts in the future. As previously mentioned, I’ve gained a lot of skills from each professor I’ve had which makes me feel confident that I can continue to learn and grow outside of the St. Norbert college community. My writing ability has also improved greatly since freshman year. I want to work and to push myself to continue to expand my writing skills in the future as well. While college may be complete for me, I never want to stop learning and always want to continue to grow as a scholar.
The English program at St. Norbert has opened me to new perspectives on the world. During my time, I worked with many different students that come from many different backgrounds. Having the experience of listening to their stories and their perspectives gave me a broader world view that helped me to not only better understand the coursework but to better understand myself as well. Being a student in the environments that St. Norbert’s professors fostered allowed me to become more comfortable in expressing myself and participating in class. Prior to being an English major, I rarely participated in class because I was always afraid of being wrong. While it took many English classes to realize this, I began to understand that in a lot of cases, there isn’t an option to be wrong. Many texts we worked with allowed for multiple interpretations and perspectives. This alone, gave me more confidence to trust myself and learn to have the confidence to participate more in classes, even ones outside of the English department.
If I could give any advice to an incoming college student or any college student, it’s to trust your gut. The main reason I chose to switch to English as my major was because I was passionate about my writing ability. I didn’t have friends or family persuading me to choose that path. I didn’t know any other English major other than the famous comedian, John Mulaney. I also wasn’t exactly sure what my options were after college with a degree in English. All I knew was that I wanted to continue to grow my writing skills and learn to love reading, even if it was a small amount more than I did. The English program at St. Norbert helped to shape me into someone who is confident in their abilities, solid in their beliefs, and excited to continue to learn and grow throughout life’s journey.