Reflections on My English Major

At the end of April I finished my last course at Brigham Young University, and once I defend my thesis I will be finished with my master’s degree in English literature. Naturally, I have been reflecting on the many hours and years of work I have spent at BYU in the humanities as I approach the bittersweet experience of graduation within the next year.

When I first started college I had the same type of reluctant attitude about majoring in the humanities that many parents do when they’re paying big bucks for their kids to go to college. I originally never considered getting a degree in English because it seemed impractical. I liked to read, but I figured that you couldn’t really make a career out of that. However, I decided to try taking a couple of English literature classes starting with the introductory survey courses. These courses were different than my high school classes; they were more than just enjoying literature and counting rhyme and meter. Rather, they provided a lens by which to view the world. I finally decided to change my major to English with the intention of becoming a professor.

As I progressed through the major I soon discovered that studying English provided a backdrop for studying anything I wanted in connection with literature. Often, when I explained my major to people and told them I was doing research, many would laugh and say, “How do you conduct research with an English major?” I explained that English studies are often paired with many other philosophies and studies, and I researched many topics in connection to literature including trauma studies, memory studies, nostalgia, psychology, philosophy, history, religion, art, mathematics, law, human rights, personhood, adaptation, and film, to name a few. Combined with my minor, I also learned technical writing and editing skills, refining the craft of writing, and I learned basic computer skills that have proven to be very useful with the help of digital humanities classes.

Through my studies I have developed a more nuanced approach to the world and the different perspectives it has to offer. And while I recognize that I still have a very limited view of the world, I have gained tools that will help me continue to explore different perspectives as I enter the work force.

My career opportunities have also taken unexpected but very rewarding directions. As a humanities major, I have participated in numerous editing internships and jobs. I have taught composition classes at a university level, but I also learned in my master’s program that English majors can do more than just teach. In this internship for the Humanities Center, for example, I have had the opportunity to develop and refine communication skills, research and writing skills, editing skills, and layout skills. I have met many brilliant people from universities across the nation and have had my perspective broadened and my education continued through the events at the Center, with weekly colloquia that feature topics from diverse fields in the humanities. This position has been a perfect opportunity to apply my major and minor to the work force in a deeply satisfying way.

In addition to my experience as an intern for the Humanities Center, I will also be working for a technology company as a technical writer, and I am pursuing an international internship in Amman, Jordan. The skills I have learned as an English major have opened up doors and opportunities for a life I couldn’t have anticipated, and I get to do all of it with a skill set that will provide me the tools I need to be deeply involved with literature and the humanities for the rest of my life. I can now say that changing my major when I was a scared young student was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Written by Brittany Bruner

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