Confronting the criticism over a degree in English

Confronting the criticism over a degree in English

A lot of BA students get unnecessary stick for their degree being useless. One of the main victims of this is the English degree.

I’ll confess that I haven’t quite done a runner and pursued my other interest (Business) like Arie did with Lauren. But this bachelor student has too betrayed her degree in English by getting cold feet.

So, consider this blog post a counselling session for my relationship with my degree and a response to the grievances people have with English. And a conspicuous plea to employers to take me seriously.

Studying English = unemployment

You know the scene in Finding Nemo when the big turtle, Crush, carries Marlin and Dory through the fast current before kicking them off into the murky waters? This is what university life is like. University is Crush from Finding Nemo. You are Marlin or Dory (take your pick). And life is the very fast blue current.

When you choose a degree like Dentistry or Veterinary Science, you know you’re heading to 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, as soon as your university journey ends – just like Marlin and Dory went off searching for Nemo. But if you choose a degree in English, like many other Arts subjects, you’re often hurtling towards the murky waters of post-uni adult life without a clear direction of where to go afterwards because it isn’t vocational (no, the English degree isn’t a predetermined path for teaching).

Confronting the criticism over a degree in English

This has been one of my main fears that grew as I studied English; I don’t want to be left floundering around.

But recently I’ve come to be more accepting of inevitably being thrown into the deep end and now choose to see it as exciting rather than scary. The fears I’ve had are because I’ve felt the need to have a path at all; that I need to have a set direction straight after university when I’m 21 and enter the ‘real world’.

My English degree is giving me all the more opportunity to test the waters of life, and as someone who’s not completely sure what they’re wanting to do later anyway (I want to start a business…but in what?) this is probably the best thing for me so that when I do find what I want to do, I’m certain it’s for me. The only thing that’s necessary is to just keep swimming.

Confronting the criticism over a degree in English

English is a doss subject

One of my flatmates often asks me why I’m always in my room; although this is in part because I have a poor social life, it’s also because my contact hours are very minimal at university. 9-5 students jokingly, or seriously, pin English students as lazy or deem the degree easy because we aren’t required to go into university often.

During time off, I’ve been able to pursue a marketing internship, work as a self-employed tutor, take up freelance writing gigs and pursue multiple extracurricular ventures – this blog included! Although wasting time can be an easy trap to fall into with lack of contact hours, the ‘freedom’ that an English degree allows for is a great way to spend time working on personal development outside of your degree.

There’s also a reason for the lack of hours spent ‘in’ university too; we have to read during the time outside of lectures / seminars. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. Like, your-degree-depends-on-it-a-lot, and this actually helped reignite my love for English because there’s no better investment than investing in books. When your course requires you to read the literary greats, you truly learn something from them; Nicholas Sparks taught me love, Ulysses taught me patience, the Victorian module definitely taught me pain – this degree is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Confronting the criticism over a degree in English

An English degree is useless

Despite the above, people often ask what the point of studying English is if you ‘speak it already’. Not to be one of those people who relates an English degree to all other degrees, but it really does contain politics and psychology and sociology and gender studies and law and philosophy and even science (holla Applied Linguistics / Psychology of Bilingualism / Neurolinguistics).

Unless you’re vocational or a really, really obscure degree (in which case you need to check yourself on the complaints), then English probably features your subject in some way.

Studying English is mastering our tool of communication. It’s learning how to be persuasive, to entertain and to inform. Knowing how to use language to your advantage is great for negotiation, for marketing, and for writing Finding Nemo metaphors in a blog post. It’s equipping you to read between the lines so you can thoroughly decode your crush’s texts and decipher your mates’ drunken messages. It’s prompting you to be imaginative, like when you need it most in a Tinder bio, and to be critical, and to take creativity beyond beginning stories with a character running through the woods in despair (save that for a mid-life crisis).

In all seriousness, studying English is really a degree that helps you study yourself, your thoughts and opinions. It’s given me a great springboard for future ventures that I’ll always be grateful for.

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