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A bird\'s eye view pic of a blue tote bag with a water bottle, claw clip and book.
A bird\'s eye view pic of a blue tote bag with a water bottle, claw clip and book.
Original photo by Kate Green

What’s In My Bag: English Major Edition

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

If you’re anything like me, you fell in love with “what’s in my bag” content during the Golden Age of YouTube. There’s just something so intimate and addicting about getting glimpses into what other people deem their day-to-day essentials. Recently, fellow Her Campus at UCLA writers have revived this classic trend and gifted us glances into the bags of a UCLA pscyh major and a UCLA bus-econ major. But what does a typical English major bring to campus? Do we just wander around Kaplan Hall with armfuls of novels, à la Belle in Beauty and the Beast? Well, not quite. Let me pretend to be 2014 Zoella for a minute and provide you all with a peek into what I carry around each day. Here’s what’s really in an English major’s bag:

The Bag Of Choice

There are a lot of slanderous North Campus stereotypes out there (can we stop hating on humanities majors?), but one joke is totally true: we only carry tote bags. Poke your nose into any English class and you’ll be hard-pressed to spot a backpack. I like to feed into this trend by carrying around a corduroy Urban Outfitters tote. It’s not as ludicrously capacious as the viral Succession bag, but it’s the perfect size for fitting my school supplies, snacks and miscellaneous products. My particular bag is no longer sold in the pastel blue shade I have, but there are similar options online. Why is my tote bag blue? Maybe the color is an allusion to UCLA’s iconic blue and gold, or maybe it symbolizes the tears I cried in English 10A or maybe the shade juxtaposes—ok, I’ll stop.

A bird\'s eye view pic of a blue tote bag with a water bottle, claw clip and book.
Original photo by Kate Green

Clips and scrunchies: What’s with English majors and having cool hair? I swear, as I walk to my upper divs in Rolfe, the closer to class I get, the more shaggy mullets and pastel locks I see. I try to keep my hair up to par with my colorful claw clip and scrunchy (both gifted by my lovely roommates). The accessories don’t apply too much tension to my hair but keep my layers out of my eyes as I hunch to do my readings.

Blotting sheets and a mirror: Touch-ups are necessary for those of us who have to walk all the way to North Campus. When I arrive at my English discussions looking shiny, the quickest fix is to whip out these Tatcha blotting papers and a mini mirror (another roommate gift!). Pro tip: the mirror is also essential for checking for food or lipstick in your teeth before dazzling your classmates with some commentary on “liminality” and “historicity.”

Roller perfume and lip gloss: I round out my on-the-go cosmetics collection with a vegan, non-sticky Tower 28 lip gloss and a vegan rollerball Pacifica perfume (in the vanilla scent). Romance is often in the air as we English majors pour over epic love stories and Shakespearean sonnets. It doesn’t hurt to stay looking and smelling tip-top in case your close reading partner falls for your poetic analysis.

Beauty items including lip gloss and a claw clip.
Original photo by Kate Green

Tea bags: In general, English majors aren’t the most caffeine-reliant students on campus. While the pre-med gunners chug Celsius after Celsius and the bus-econ folks down their black coffees, English majors largely lean on tea (with the occasional iced oat-milk latte). Something about freshly brewed rooibos or chai pairs delectably with reading at the tables by Northern Lights.

Bento box: It is a truth universally acknowledged that English majors possess top-tier planning skills. We don’t really have tests, which means we can’t cram for our midterms or just wing our finals. Instead, we constantly juggle long-term essay projects. This phenomenon is why I personally think a lot of English majors are meal prep masters. I always prepare my school-week lunches and bring them to campus in my cute, pink bento box.

A water bottle, tea bags, bento box and apple sauce squeeze.
Original photo by Kate Green

Notebooks and reading materials: Ok, I know I said that English majors don’t just carry around armfuls of books, but I’ll admit that we do need to lug around our fair share of reading materials. I always have a notebook and at least one novel (for class) on hand. These necessities aren’t great for my shoulder pain; however, they help me look cultured when I’m hanging out in the Sculpture Garden.

Laptop and AirPods: While I aspire to be one of the cool STEM majors drawing equations on their iPads, English majors don’t need many tech devices. I mostly just bring my laptop to campus to look up words in the OED and covertly send Her Campus emails during lectures (I’m so sorry to my professors, it’s just necessary sometimes!). AirPods are a plus for watching Jack Edwards book hauls between classes, and my charger comes in handy when I’m camped out in the ERR all afternoon.

Lots of pens: If you reach your hand down to the bottom of my tote, you’ll feel my copious collection of colorful pens. Pens are essential because most English homework involves close reading and annotating. So, keep a range of pens and highlighters so you can underline, circle and question-mark passages to your heart’s content.

School supplies including notebooks, a computer and pens.
Original photo by Kate Green

Makeshift bookmarks: I don’t know a single English major who carries around a genuine bookmark; we’re all out here making do with the random bits and bobs. From old grocery store receipts to BruinWalk flyers, anything is a bookmark if you try hard enough. So, don’t stare at me in Powell if you see me sliding a bandaid into Barnaby Rudge.

Anti-COVID gear: We might not be virologists, but the English department has stayed pretty on top of keeping COVID-19 at bay. Maybe it’s because we all read A Journal of the Plague Year during Medieval Lit? Anyways, I always carry hand sanitizer and at least one mask.

The practical bits: I often hear other majors make fun of literature students as being “impractical,” but most English majors I know are actually the type of mom-friends who have everything in their bags. When some spillage goes down at Kerchkoff Coffee House, do you think a poli-sci bro is going to have a Tide To Go pen? Please. Your English major friend will swoop in to save the day.

Miscellaneous purse items like a receipt, a tampon and hand sanitizer.
Original photo by Kate Green

Though I don’t claim to speak for every single English major at UCLA, I think that my tote bag items generally reflect trends among my peers. Our major utilizes a distinct set of daily accouterments beyond the Norton Anthologies we always complain about. As we enter Spring Quarter, consider seizing this opportunity to look through your own school bag and assess its components. Are your items best suited to your major’s lifestyle? If not, I hope my bag provides you with a bit of inspo for your next shopping spree!

Kate is a third-year English major at UCLA, hailing from San Francisco. When she's not editing articles for Her Campus at UCLA, she enjoys getting lost in a good book and experimenting with vegan recipes.