Ten ways my Bachelor’s Degree in English & American Studies has enriched my life (Part II)
Graduating students must be familiar with one peculiar feeling after having submitted their theses, as the final sigh of relief is mixed with the uncertainty of the awaited grade and graduation certificate. Although I had already registered for my master’s degree when I submitted my BA thesis, I was also trembling over the outcome of my work. It was only after I was handed my interim diploma was I (partly) able to consider my undergraduate studies complete. As I left the examination office and later nostalgically looked through my BA course folders, I couldn’t help but reflect on the last three years of undergraduate studies and the assets I have gained from them:
Public speaking with confidence – Clumsily reciting what one has learnt in a lesson is a thing of the past and is simply unacceptable in academia. After three years of study, such recitations have evolved and been replaced by intriguing and informative presentations that hold the audience’s attention. Breathing, minding one’s body language and remaining calm despite the piercing eyes of the audience has also become easier with the frequent practice we receive in our courses.
- Putting pen to paper – From academic papers to essays, reviews, reports, blog posts and even poetry – students of English are constantly involved in the creation of different texts. Learning to get down to work despite the absence of a muse becomes an essential skill for meeting assignment deadlines, and completing the final draft is always followed by a sweet feeling of satisfaction.
- Effortless listening and reading – Watching news reports and movies no longer requires the attention and careful listening as it did previously, which makes the whole process more enjoyable and suitable for unwinding. This also applies to books in English, as you stumble upon fewer unknown words and can be fully consumed by the story.
- Relishing literature – Becoming familiar with the creative process of writing fiction both in theory and in practice has made me appreciate works on a more profound level. After gaining knowledge of literary techniques and cultural history, my morning reads have become more captivating and thought-provoking.
- Appreciating difference – From representations of otherness and minorities in Literature to variation of the standard language in Linguistics – students of English are often confronted with the complex diversity of society, which builds their intercultural communication skills and prepares them for life and business in a multicultural environment.
- Supporting exchange – Were it not for the compulsory semester abroad, I would probably be hesitant to undertake an exchange in another foreign country and would think it through numerous times. The module eased my decision and let me benefit from the rewarding experience of studying and working in France.
- Language curiosity – After studying the history and structure of English, I was interested in exploring other languages, which encouraged me to take up French. What started off as an effort to improve my English turned into a passion on its own and has gained me trusted friendships both in the language course and during my stay abroad.
- Sharing knowledge – Proficiency in English comes with a desire to pass it on in the form of teaching. The courses in vocabulary, morphology and second language acquisition have given me the annoying (to my friends) habit of explaining the formation of a word together with a couple of example expressions of its usage every time they simply ask me for a quick translation.
- Autonomous learning – Unlike at school, where a couple of textbooks are often enough for acing a subject, university courses require a considerable amount of individual research. Lectures and seminars cover the main aspects of the topics discussed; however, students need to read through the existing literature on their own and find a miniature gap to be filled in a 15-page paper.
A brave new world – Students of English often delve into theory from other subjects. Throughout these three years, my research has also stretched to some interdisciplinary directions: studying learner’s psychology in Sociolinguistics and psychoanalysis in American Film studies; connecting 19th century (pseudo)medicine and contemporary literature; and even reading through the rules of golf for a term paper on discrimination in Social and Cultural Studies…
These ten aspects of the BA English & American Studies programme are a small part of the spectrum of skills, gained in the field, yet they are the reason why I respond with the words: “An M.A. in English & American Studies – Most definitely!” every time I am asked: “You’ve got your B.A. degree: what now?”
I am wishing you all an eventful and successful winter semester!
(First semester: Master of Arts, English & American Studies)