Why I Want an English Degree

June 05, 2007

Clinging to the narrow railing, I eagerly waited for my turn to mount the remaining steps of the dilapidated book mobile. My seven-year-old eyes scanned the narrow shelves lining the trailer looking for the perfect book to borrow. As I glanced around, my eye was drawn to one particular book. Propped up in the back window and illuminated by a single ray of light, I picked it up, tingling all over with anticipation. As I read the title and thumbed through the pages, I instinctively knew James and the Giant Peach would become my next transport to a whole new world. I was born with a bookish predisposition and was fortunate enough to have parents who read to me, took me to the library often, and surrounded me with books. I learned how to read at the tender age of four - probably from watching early episodes of “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company.” Once I learned how to decode language, I was as precocious as Kipling’s elephant’s child, enthusiastically assimilating anything I could find in print. I also had an obsession for writing my own books. As a young author, I blissfully spent hours filling notebook after notebook with words and pictures, absorbed in the imaginative process and pleasure of putting my stories on the page. Although my unabashed love affair with the English language has continued throughout my life, it has only recently occurred to me to utilize my propensities and abilities in the pursuit of an English degree. Last semester, I had an “aha” moment when a classmate compared reading to inhaling and writing to exhaling. I suddenly realized that the act of reading, writing, and discussing has always been as natural to me as breathing. In that instant, I knew I had to continue following my passion for words – to develop and hone the skills and literary talent I have been given because I truly believe that words and the ideas behind them are one of the most powerful catalysts for change in the world.
I have a hard time answering people when they ask me what I want to do with an English degree. In my mind, I’m more concerned with what I’ll become with an English degree. There are many inherent rewards that come from the process of actively reading and writing. Becoming an educated person means relishing the opportunity to evaluate ideas, extrapolate meaning, articulate conclusions, and apply knowledge. As an analytical person, I derive a deep sense of pleasure and fulfillment when I expend the necessary effort required to reach a higher level of understanding. The study of literature is valuable to me at every stage in my life because it illuminates the human experience. Being able to vicariously learn through the triumphs and mistakes of real and imaginary characters helps me better understand myself. The hard work of writing gives me the opportunity to struggle with complexity and strengthens my problem solving skills as I attempt to coherently communicate with others. An English degree suits me because I need a course of study large enough to encompass all of my varied interests and capacity for acquiring knowledge. I agree with John Taylor Gatto who said, “Discovering meaning for yourself and discovering satisfying purpose for yourself, is a big part of what education is.” Indeed, my perpetual fascination with language has been the cohesive thematic element of my life up to this point and will undoubtedly prove to be the impetus that will guide me as I make my future college plans a reality.