A Day in the Life of an English Major

Posted by Tyler Herman, GD Creative Non-Fiction Reader for 5.2

Tired of being belittled for choosing to major in English? Me too. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most English majors have an aunt who repeatedly, “You’re still an English major? How are you going to get a job when you graduate?” And if you don’t have that aunt, then good for you, but you probably have that chemistry major friend who thinks his life is a million times more difficult than yours. I have gotten a lot of backlash for being an English major. When I tell people what my major is, I know to expect the “are you at least going to go to law school” look. But, hey, we do a lot, we know a lot, and we are proud of what we do.

I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do before getting out of bed is scroll through Twitter. I notice the typos and the grammatical errors that over populate my news feed. I resist calling my friends out. I whip out my copy of Mrs. Dalloway (or whatever I happen to be reading that week) and scramble to read 45 more pages before I have to get into the shower (because I spent the night before reading I am Pilgrim on my kindle instead). Shower time is brainstorm time. I challenge my thesis for my Merchant of Venice presentation, thinking about how I will be able to counter my classmates when they pick it apart in class.

On my walk to class, my chemistry friend asks me to edit his e-mail to a pharmacy school. If I had a dollar for every time I e-mailed the director of a pharmacy program, I would never run out of printer balance because of 12-page research papers. When I get to class, we sit in a circle—none of those fascist rows—and we talk about literature and its historical context, social commentary, marginalized authors, the craft of the piece. I have learned more about politics and the state of the world in my English classes than anywhere else.

When class is over my friends and I “talk English.” We don’t step out of class and ignore our major until the next time we meet. Classroom debates and conversations carry over into our free time. One second we could be talking about poor Desdemona and the next we’re on to talking about a piece from creative writing that really blew our minds. And when the day is over, and I am back in bed reading for pleasure instead of for school, I smile. And I know what I should tell my aunt and my chemistry friend when they ask me what I can do with my English major: Everything.

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