Although many comedians, including Chicago’s own John Mulaney, make fun of English majors, I have really enjoyed my three years here at DePaul in my major. Here are the top five tips and positive attitudes I learned as an English major.
1) An English degree is applicable to any job. When I decided to be an English major, I got a lot of comments about what I could do as a job. They would make fun of me saying that the only career you could get is being an English teacher. And, in fact, I do want to be an English teacher, but there is much more you can do with an English major. Being able to communicate efficiently, think critically, and analyze small details will never not help in any field.
2) There is a lot of flexibility in choosing classes. The English major curriculum at DePaul is tailored so that English majors can study what they want. There are core classes and some required classes, but, for the most part, English students can take the literature time period they like. You prefer medieval literature? 16th century poetry? 19th century romance novels? LGBTQ narratives? Native American Literature? Well, you can tailor your schedule to have those specific classes. There are so many literature classes and the ability to choose what class you want to take is very exciting.
3) English classes are challenging yet getting a good grade is pretty easy. Although there are exceptions, a lot of English professors grade based on big assignments being completed, not “good”. In all the classes I’ve taken so far, and that is a considerable amount, the professor will give me credit for thinking critically about the work and backing up my sources with textual evidence. The classes are difficult, especially my class where we read Paradise Lost and The Canterbury Tales, however I was able to get a good grade because I did the work. Unlike other types of fields like Math where you need to get the correct score to pass, in English, you can almost always do well by interpreting something and having the evidence to support it.
4) Similarly, I love that in English there is no wrong answer (for the most part). Because the poems and literature we’re studying have so many interpretations that could be possible, I never feel put-down in my classes. In some other fields, I always struggle because I feel as if I cannot find my way to the correct answer. In English, whatever you think may be true, as long as you have evidence and a logical progression of thought in your argument. I love that there is no wrong answer in English, so I am able to rhetorically persuade my audience that my answer is a correct one.
5) Lastly, the best part of being an English major is that I get to study stories. Although some literature is very difficult, I am proud to say that I read stories for a living. And I do. Literature, outside of essays, are all fiction and created through imagination of these amazing thinkers and writers in different time periods. Instead of reading textbooks, I get to read fun stories from all time periods. In addition to how much less money I am spending for textbooks, I love how creative and interesting English can be.
One of the biggest dilemmas about being an out of state student is what you do during breaks. Right now, we are in Week 9 out of 10 in the Winter Quarter. We only have a week or so for Spring Break, before we have to come back for another 10 week Spring Quarter.
Spring Break, in terms of time, is much different than the other breaks. We only have a week, unlike Summer Break that is about three months long and Winter Break, which is 6 weeks long. So what do we do?
For an out of state student like myself, the idea of going home is exciting and stressful. For someone who is very far from home, over 2,000 miles, there is a big choice to decide when to go home. Every year, I struggle with my choice. I’d love to go home and see my family, but I would spend more time travelling than I would like. It’s difficult because a lot of people at DePaul live in the area, therefore, if you stay at DePaul, a lot of the people will be gone with their families. And you’ll be here alone, with very little to do.
During my freshman year, I was homesick and wanted to go home to see my family. My sophomore year, I decided to stay in Chicago and pick up some extra work in the Film School. Although it was a little lonely and was jealous of my friends who took the train to see their family, I viewed more of Chicago than I realized. I took some walks alone, exploring the city of Chicago that I don’t have the time to see during the quarters. I learned about new restaurants and hubs of town that I didn’t know existed.
So no matter what you decide to do this Spring Break, you’ll have a good time. Staying here in Chicago is a great for exploration, and going home means you get to see your family. Both will be a positive experience.
One part of DePaul I was originally conflicted about was the liberal arts aspect of our curriculum. We have our major classes, which are interesting classes we really care about, but then we also have “learning domains” and “liberal studies program” classes, which are what the university tells us we have to take.
The learning domains are broken into six different categories - Arts & Literature, Philosophical Inquiry, Scientific Inquiry, Religious Dimensions, Understanding the Past, and Social, Cultural, & Behavioral Inquiry. Depending on what major you declare, you’ll have a certain amount of classes in each of these domains. If you’re in the Honors program or another specialized program, these run differently, but, for the most part, you get to choose from at least thirty different classes in each of these categories. So you are forced to take, let’s say, a history class that fulfills a Understanding the Past credit, however you can choose what historical context you like. I have taken an interesting Greco-Roman history class that I enjoyed so much!
The liberal studies program is the same for every student throughout the university, per specific exceptions. It includes the first year classes - two rhetoric classes, two math classes, a Chicago Quarter class, and a focal point. Then there are a class you have to take each of the successive years - a multicultural seminar sophomore year, an experiential learning junior year, and a capstone senior year.
At first, I didn’t really know how I felt about this. I have friends at other colleges who are allowed to take whatever classes they wanted. But now I really appreciate having taken all these other classes that are outside my major. Some of these classes were even better than my major classes. Looking back at all the learning domains I’ve taken, I am happy I could have taken a break from my literature and education classes to learn about topics that I am also interested in, but not enough to study it for a degree. Having learning domains and a liberal arts program allowed me to have a wide variety of knowledge, and still focus on the classes that I care about.
As a junior in my winter quarter, there is the depressing and looming fear of the “real world” coming in my near future. As I reflect back on my time at DePaul, I think of how I would have done my freshman year differently, or what I would have told my freshman self if I could go back in time. Here are the five pieces of advice I think are important to know going into freshman year:
1) Although your counselors or advisors or even your parents will make a big deal about how you need to make a decision about a major, don’t listen to them. You can always change your major, your concentration, or your minor. Just because you made a decision as a 17 or 18 year old about what you want to do about your future doesn’t mean you have to stay with that decision forever. You can always make a new choice.
2) You’ll make friends. Do not worry that no one will like you and you’ll be lonely. I promise, you’ll find a friend, if not multiple. If not, I’ll be your friend.
3) Strike up conversations with the people around you. My freshman year, I was a little too introverted than I should have been. I lived on campus, in the hub of DePaul. I wish I spent more time talking to people in the Dining Commons, in my dorm, and even in my classes. As an upperclassman living off-campus now, I don’t get as many opportunities to meet new people and I wish I could go back and make friends as easily as it would have been when I was on campus. So make sure to put yourself out there and meet new people. DePaul students are very friendly.
4) You may or may not fall in love and that is okay. I was scared out of my mind that I would not find anyone I would want to go on a date with. I was worried everyone would date someone and I would be single and lonely. That is not true. I have friends who are dating, I have friends who are not dating, and everyone is happy with their choice. If you want to date, the option is there. If you don’t want to date, you won’t feel left out.
5) Although the quarter system may seem stressful, everyone is in the same boat and you’ll make it through. The teachers and your fellow students are just as stressed about the timeline as you. The syllabus may look scary at first glance but everything will be okay. Just make sure you keep up with the readings, homework, and attend class. I was so stressed about homework my first quarter freshman year, and I wish I told myself that everything would work out. You’ll get the hang of it.
Although we are taught from a young age not to ask for help, having the courage to be vulnerable and say we need assistance is one of the most respectable things a person can do. Especially in college, where we are getting a taste of the real world and we are stressed about homework, work, social life, and pressures of the future, it is hard to do everything on your own. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
There are many different resources that DePaul has to offer, but one that I would like to highlight is the DePaul Counseling Office. I am not afraid to say that I am a frequent visitor of the Counseling Office. I love that they are currently working to get rid of the mental illness stigma. Just like there is nothing wrong admitting when you need help, there is nothing wrong with saying you have mental health problems and you’re struggling yet working through your depression, anxiety, etc.
Within the Counseling Office, there are many different choices of help. There is group therapy, individual therapy, and psychiatry appointments. I attended an all-women’s group therapy meeting for a quarter and it was amazing. I grew to love these powerful women who were going through the same struggles as me. Even if you aren’t having current problems, you could still learn because there is something nice about people voicing the similar insecurities you’re too afraid to say. Individual therapy is helpful because you can focus on your own personal problems with a therapist who is there for only you during a one-hour session. Psychiatry is also important because there is nothing wrong with needing prescriptions if the therapists think it could help your situation.
All of these resources and more are available through the Counseling Office. These appointments are only $5 - $10, which is a very low price to pay for your mental sanity and health.
One of the most exciting parts about DePaul, at least for me, was the number of student organizations and extracurriculars you can get involved in. From sports teams to acapella groups to Greek life to the Pokémon club, there is something for everyone to do. DePaul has over 350 student organizations in just about every field imaginable. And the best part is that if there is an organization that doesn’t meet your fancy, you can go ahead and create that club!
Like your soon-to-be running theme of freshman year: with freedom comes responsibility. It is overwhelming going to the Involvement Fair
(branded at DePaul the “real-life recess”) and seeing all of these clubs that you’d love to join. But I caution you to keep the clubs you actively devote your time to, to a minimum. As a freshman, you will join so many clubs and believe you can keep up with your commitments but don’t spread yourself too thin. Take the time to look over all the possibilities, but maybe select one or two that you can actively attend meetings for, become a member of, and possibly even become an executive board member. It is so much fun being actively involved in a club for years because you can bond with the people who share a similar interest with you!
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do everything you love. Freshmen have the tendency to sign up for 40 clubs and only end up doing one or two because of time’s sake. I encourage you to go out and explore all the ways you could get involved but caution you not to overload your schedule. Please attend club meetings, events, on and off-campus events with the organization of your choosing! But also keep in mind that classes are important, studying is valuable, a social life is healthy, and taking care of yourself is non-negotiable. I wish I told my freshman self that I could not be a member of DePaul Dance Company, DePaul Theatre Union, Writer’s Block, Chinese Studies Association, DemonTHON, DePaul Democrats, DePaul Women’s Soccer, DePaul Film Society, and HerCDM at the same time. In the end, I consistently chose DePaul Dance Company and DePaul Theatre Union, the latter of which I am now President of.
Go out, attend all the Info Sessions and Club Meetings you can, and then choose one or two clubs that mean a lot to you. You’ll appreciate this advice by the end of Fall Quarter when you are slammed with finals. Good luck!