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Every time someone asks me what my major is, I always get the same kind of response afterwards.

“Oh…that’s so brave!”

“You must want to be a teacher, right?”

“I wanted to do that, but I chose (blank) major so I could get a job. No offense.”

Well, all offenses taken. I’m tired of people constantly belittling the English major as being “useless” or “inadequate.” At times, these words jab at my insecurities and plunge my mind into chaos to make me feel that my decision will lead me into a perpetual state of failure, as if I’m just setting myself up to dig my own grave. But then I have to remind myself that it won’t, and that what I am choosing to do is equally important to someone choosing to study development software or pharmacology for their future careers.

There are so many persisting misconceptions and stereotypes given to the major — that it’s “taking the easy route” to obtain a degree, it yields no monetary value, it’s nothing more than a reverie — and it’s frustrating when you know that it’s much more than what others make it out to be. It’s not all about reading 15th century novels and examining ancient poetry.

Underneath its title, various skills are acquired and developed that open you to a myriad of career paths. The most obvious would be that I’ve continually learned how to become a better writer, using every piece of received feedback in order to improve.

Through the discussion-based classes that I’ve had to take, I’ve been able to articulate my ideas more clearly and expand on them through close-reading, analysis, research, and writing. The overlooked communicational aspect, both verbal and written, of the major is crucial in a variety of professions and in everyday life. 

Out of all the skills I’ve learned so far, the most important one has been empathy. Every story transports me to another world to be with the characters, where I’m exposed to uncomfortable ideas and can experience what it’s like to be in their shoes. 

Oftentimes, people will ask me: “How does reading (blank) book have any real world application?” The answer to that question can be found in reading that book. A text can evoke many histories within it, and hold meanings that are waiting to be found by its readers.

After all, literature is a reflection of life. What I read for my classes is not purely for the purpose of being taught an English lesson to wedge into my brain, but a life lesson to carry in my heart. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not a story about a boy’s youthful adventures, but a realist critique on the exploitation, pain, and marginalization faced by people of color who struggle to find a place of freedom in the postbellum South. The prejudice in the novel extends to our present moment where injustice endures towards minorities.

My English classes teach me to delve beyond the surface to take a look underneath, just as Huck and Jim do when they cut open a six-foot-long catfish to find a brass button and rubber ball among the rubbish.

While it’s only my second year as an English major, I can already say that what I learn will help me transition into the real world, where my skills are applicable and valued in a multitude of spaces. As such, it’s important to remember that any major is not to be discriminated against, but rather uplifted for what it can provide for our world.

Kayla is currently a second-year studying English at UC Davis. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, dancing, and learning photography.
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