In a predominantly science-oriented school like Stony Brook, we English majors are a rare breed. Among STEM majors and other non-humanities students, constant conversations revolving around chem lab, bio lab and biochem lab get a little overwhelming at times and can leave us feeling like we have nothing to contribute. But at those rare moments when attention is drawn to us and people start with, “So how is it being an English major?” we often hear a predictable range of interesting questions and comments about what it’s like to be the odd man out.
1. “Wow, you’re the first English major I’ve met here.”
Yes, we know we are not exactly that common in a school where seemingly eighty percent of the population is biology majors. And yet, we can still confidently assure you there are more than just six English majors in the entire school.
2. “So … you want to be a teacher?”
Not necessarily. There are many English majors who go on to become teachers and professors, it’s true, and their desire to educate young minds and share knowledge with others is admirable. However, not every English major decides to pursue the same well-worn career path; many end up branching off into vastly different fields, whether it be journalism, law or anything else in between.
Which then often leads to the following question …
3. “What do you want to do with your English degree?”
Personally, I love books and I love writing. And I can’t speak for all English majors because we all have varying goals and interests, but ever since I was six years old I have wanted to be a novelist. (Whenever I have the guts to admit this to someone, they’ll usually bring up J.K. Rowling. I love J.K. Rowling) Yet, knowing realistically what kind of world we live in, I’m also interested in careers related to journalism, blogging, or publishing so I can gain some experience in the world of writing before launching an attempt as a novelist.
4. “I guess you’re not about making money after you graduate.”
Yes, some people have actually said this to me. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t always vocalize my thoughts, but my initial reaction isn’t to go into defense mode. Instead, I feel secure knowing that I’m not in it for the money. Right now I’m excited to be learning about something I thoroughly enjoy, and so I can’t wait to pursue a future career that will make me rich in happiness.
5. “You’re so lucky! I wish I had it as easy as you.”
Well, you’re right about one thing: we are lucky. Just like for any other major, we’re lucky to be studying something we love that can hopefully turn into a great future career. But, just like for any other major, the work we do is not easy. We are challenged by the courses we take, the papers we write, and our interactions with other students, professors, and potential career-related connections. We study English not because it’s easy, but because we love it, and we love challenging ourselves while doing something we find fulfilling.