SENIOR | North Lauderdale, FL
Why did you decide to become an English major?
Ever since I was little, literature has been a subject I’ve kept close to my heart. As cliché as it sounds, reading helped me to escape the grimmer realities I faced even as a child. I remember having teachers who asked me to write less when it came to assignments! Therefore, I knew from a young age that literature was going to be something I pursued well into the future. The actual decision of pursuing a Bachelor’s in English was an intensely difficult one to make, however. I still remember—and likely won’t forget, as it is one of those critical moments in life which forever alters your experiences thereafter—the phone call I had with one of my older sisters. I was lamenting over my workload, inability to comprehend or enjoy much of the material in my classes (initially, I was pursuing a BA in Neuroscience and English), and depression. I revealed to her that I was considering pursuing solely a bachelor’s in English, but began posing all the questions I hated being asked myself: “What will you be able to do with a BA in English?!”, “Will you find sustainable work after graduation?!”. Once she pointed out how I was limiting myself by living in fear, and forcing myself to be in despair over this, I made the decision that night to conclude my Neuroscience studies, and become an English major. I will always be grateful for that phone call; not once have I looked back with regret.
What did you love to read when you were growing up?
My reading was vast; I pretty much picked up anything I could get my hands on. One of my sisters and I were slightly addicted to this series called The Baby-Sitters Club, which is pretty self-explanatory. I also enjoyed Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Looking back, I read a lot of “slice-of-life” stuff, and was blown away when I could get my hands on the limited children’s works written by people of color. A few of the pieces which heavily shaped my childhood were: Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and Gary Soto’s poetry.
What are you reading right now?
Admittedly, I have not been reading enough this semester given preparations for graduation. I’m reading Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work for my Creative Writing Capstone Colloquium, and it’s just what I need in my life at the moment. I’m also in between trying to read or finish various stuff, including Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, and The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I. (New Directions).
How is your English major affecting other areas of your life?
As I consider life beyond NYU, I’ve noticed that my English major—as well as my personal work experience—has prepared me well for pursuing various job and academic opportunities. This is ideal for me, given that I’m an individual with (too) many interests! Currently, I’m waiting to hear whether I’ve been accepted into a program that would allow me to teach English in the Japanese countryside. I’ve also been contacted by a couple of educational organizations in the U.S. I think my English major has had the most impact on my personal life, however. I’m a poet by heart, and the social issues which surround me, have impacted me, and influenced my own pursuit of literature, often resurface in my poetry (the poet does not exist in isolation, contrary to popular belief!) For the past year, I’ve been using my poetry to raise awareness about issues in the U.S, in particular: racism, sexism, Feminism, sexual abuse, and minority rights. Currently, I’m writing a chapbook for my colloquium which explores the boundaries between personal and public life in regards to tragedy. I hope to continue this piece following graduation, and perhaps submit it for a (potential) future application to an MFA creative writing program.
If you could create a class in the department, what would it be?
By far my favorite English course at NYU was Reading as A Writer: Hybrid Genres, taught by professor McLane. My peers and I read and examined works which don’t fit into the traditional categories of “poetry”, “prose”, “fiction”, etc. It was one of the most diverse syllabi I’ve encountered. So, I think I would make a course similar to that. I would also likely pose a course which dips into cultural linguistics a bit, featuring English-speaking authors from various ethnic backgrounds/time periods, and examining how the authors’ relationships to the English language and their engagements with English literature manifest in their respective writings.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Please start exploring the major early; there’s so many amazing courses here, and not enough time to take them all! I’m a big proponent of seminars, as they feel more personal, give you greater time to participate in class, and introduce you to a more rigorous discussion which could prepare you for grad school, if that’s something you’re interested in. Go to office hours, even if you’re not sure what to ask, and develop a personal relationship with the professors whose words resonate with you; you’ll want to keep in touch with them. Finally, please soak in as much as you can in class from your peers and professors, and abuse Bobst’s collection (it’s mind blowing how much material there is in there). But most of all, don’t let any fears stop you from pursuing the English major. If you want to study literature, go for it :)