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The Many Skills of an English Major: 7 Skills I Learned From My English Major

During my time in high school, I always knew that I would go to college to study English. Sure, I knew that it was possible that my passions would be swayed elsewhere, but I had never felt so connected to a subject as English literature. In my four years at UMass Amherst, my focus on English as my major has never deteriorated and my love has only grown for studying it. However, the oddest thing to realize after my time here is how many new things I have discovered and come to love from the English major. Some of these new skills have led me to minors and specializations, and others have opened my mind to aspects of the major that I learned to love.

1. Learning New Aspects of Different Cultures

One of the great things about being an English major is that while you’re studying literature, you’re learning about cultures all over the world and different worldviews. My English classes helped to expand my knowledge in African American literature and Native American literature. Being in these classes felt even more enlightening as I was learning about cultures within America, cultures that I discovered I knew very little about. I came out of these classes feeling not only smarter in my major, but enlightened on the world and having a deeper appreciation for other people.

2.  Learning Old English

In my junior year, I went to study abroad in Canterbury, England. As Canterbury is the location in the book "The Canterbury Tales," I took a class on Chaucer and had to learn Old English. It felt like a risky choice, especially because it was going to be hard and maybe would be too much for me during a semester in another country. While the class definitely forced me to study hard and read often, it was amazing to learn what English first sounded like and how it eventually became the language we speak today. Our professor even gave us the opportunity to go into Canterbury Cathedral and look at ancient books in Old English. It was an odd thing to do, but I came out knowing so much more about the English language.

3.  Learning How to Research for a Thesis

If you know me very well, you will know that I am completely obsessed with Jane Austen and her novels. I began reading her books in high school and they became comfort books for me. I decided to write about the male characters of three of her novels for my thesis and began to do intense research. I shocked myself about how much was out there and how much other authors had to say concerning my subject. During this last semester, I feel even more excited about Jane Austen with a new love for her minor characters (the male characters, in the case of Austen). Looking back to my freshman year, I had no idea I would even be writing a thesis and I am so happy my love for books led me in this direction.

4.  Learning the Classics World

My classics minor came to me through my love of storytelling. I decided later in my college career to take a course in Greek mythology. I grew up reading a lot of books based on Greek myths and I wanted to seriously take a course on all these myths and legends. The professor, the class, and these stories soon had me convinced to take classics as a minor and I moved on to take classes focused on Greek poets, history, and architecture. I was able to broaden my knowledge in all these subjects that I would have otherwise missed out on.

5.  Learning Software

In a surprising decision, I decided to specialize my English major in professional writing and technical communication. I felt a little daunted by going into a specialization that involved computers plus software, but I took the leap. I know have the skills to work in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and even a software called MadCap Flare. Although Microsoft Office has always been something I had to learn and use, I ended up working on intense projects that made me go deeper into the software. Besides this added bonus to the resume, I feel so comfortable now going into this different software and feeling more like a natural every day.

6.  Learning Professional Writing

The other aspect of this specialization is professional writing. In this other half, I learned how to write proposals, manuals, and feasibility studies. In some ways, the whole idea of doing one of these may sound boring and even tedious, but learning how to do these documents gave me skills that would help me in future jobs. In these classes, I had to produce these documents which we could give to future companies for examples of our work. Despite that tedious work of it all, these skills are now so pivotal to where I will soon be working and what I will need to know in the future.

7.  Learning and Writing for Her Campus

To finish, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how English led me to Her Campus. Early on at college, I knew I wanted to join a group that would allow me to practice my writing and spend time with fellow writers. A simple activities fair connected me to Her Campus and I happily found that the group was dedicated to producing articles and gave freedom to members on what they could write. I have been able to write, learn how to produce content online, and experiment with different subjects for my articles. Thank to English, I have connected to a great group and found skills that will help me so much in my future. 

Images/GIFs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Anastasia Armstrong. English Major at UMass Amherst.
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