Read more alumni reflections in the English Department’s “Letters to a Young English Major” series.
Dear LMU English Major,
I hope this letter finds you well—not too overwhelmed by midterms, finals, or papers—and with enough time in your schedule to still take a sunset walk along the bluff. I suppose this leads to the first thing I want to say: don’t over-commit. It can be incredibly difficult to say no to opportunities, especially when the university is encouraging you to do everything, to try everything. But there is a difference between doing and trying. Freshman year is certainly the year to try many things, but once you reach your sophomore and junior years, listen to what is important. And organize your time so that you can honor those things that truly seize you.
Congratulations! By majoring in English, you have already chosen one worthwhile way to spend your time. LMU’s English Department has outstanding faculty, and a rigorous, yet highly enjoyable, curriculum. Hopefully, at some point you will find yourself experiencing speechless wonder in one of your classes. Let this wonder take you places. Talk to professors outside of class. Ask questions that won’t be on the final exam. It is too easy to focus on the end goal, on wanting that A. However, like the sunset walk along the bluff, your real growth will occur along the way. Try and be present to it.
Now I suppose I should talk a bit about what happens after graduation. It will be different for you than it was for me, but one thing we will share is some degree of uncertainty. Sometimes even overwhelming uncertainty. But within this uncertainty, there is so much potential for growth. I am currently in the Peace Corps, teaching English in the eastern part of rural Zambia. From coping with the local language barrier, to learning how to navigate cultural norms, to grappling with the lived difference between a developing and developed nation, I still wake up every morning to a lot of uncertainty. But I am no longer afraid of it, and have found that my major sustains me in unexpected ways.
My favorite thing I read at LMU was William Wordsworth’s “The Brothers.” It chronicles how rapidly a way of life—in this instance, the rural life of Wordsworth’s youth—can be lost when the surrounding world starts to radically change. I think about this poem a lot here in Zambia and sometimes feel like I am living inside parts of it. What I am saying is that, like a text, you never know how the different parts of your life will be in conversation with each other. My life at LMU and my experiences as an English major are all at play here in Zambia. Perhaps what I have learned most is that English, whether we like it or not, is the language of power. To know how to control this language is an invaluable skill. Use it well.
The note I will end on is not about English or post-graduation, but about friendship. No one will know you like your friends in college. You will go through things together that only happen during your college years. I wish you laughter, growth, and a lot of openness. If college life is hectic, post-graduate life is even more so. Only now, your friends are no longer at the end of the hall. So be intentional about fostering friendships that will last many years after graduation. If you’re like me, you will meet one or two of them in an English class. I wish you all the best and many, many walks along the bluff.
Class of 2014
Mimi Jacobie is a Peace Corps volunteer in East Zambia. She is currently learning the local language, discovering the complexities of the Zambian education system, and awaiting the onset of mango season.
Are you an LMU alumnus/a whose English degree has served you well? Contact Professor Kelly Younger to submit your “Letter to a Young English Major.”