Tag Archives: why I went to grad school

When, Where, and Why I decided to go to grad school

Going into college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents both have engineering degrees and my high school had a strong math program that was the focal point of my high school experience. The summer before I started college, I worked as a intern-of-all trades at an engineering firm, dappling in everything from organizing log books to CAD drafting. I signed up for an odd cocktail of classes for my first college semester: everything from the merit section of Calculus 3 to English 200 (introduction to the English major).

Despite math having been my focus in high school, the minute I got down to school I realized I didn’t want to take Calc 3. There was no concrete reasoning – just a feeling. I dropped the class, enrolled in a Spanish class and never looked back. I was a humanities major at heart ever since.

English at the University just clicked with me. I looked forward to going to class for the first time ever (high school didn’t inspire much academic passion in me). I enjoyed doing my homework (also a first). My second semester I enrolled in Introduction to Medieval Lit and Culture just for kicks. My instructor came in late wearing an unexplained eyepatch and started talking about Chaucer, Beowulf, and Anglo-Saxons. I learned much later that she had scratched her eye with her engagement ring and didn’t tell anyone just to freak us out. This instructor – I’ll call her KF – become a sort of mentor for me, helping me work through my research papers and change the notions I had conceived of how to write a valuable paper in high school.

Chester Cycle wagonThrough KF I also got the opportunity to go to a medieval conference in Toronto. The English Department needed undergraduate students to perform in an act of the Chester Cycle plays, which would be performed on wagons over three days at the University of Toronto. It was a reenactment of a medieval event that would have kept an entire medieval city entertained for days, with participation from everyone from the smith’s guild to the town’s carpenters. The 26 acts of the Chester Cycle followed the events of the Bible from Genesis to coming of the Anti-Christ, to the final Judgement Day. This is when I discovered medievalists like to have fun.

SAM_0302We spent the week in Toronto, watching the plays pass by during the day and going out to pubs at night. I was enthralled by the experience of it all – people trying to make sense of the literature of the past. I had a conversation with one of the conference’s leading presenters while tipsy off some Canadian beer and talked to a British graduate student who had come back to get his English PhD after having an epiphany that he wasn’t happy with his medical degree. I decided that week that I would at least look into the possibility of becoming an English graduate student.

So three years of classes, a year of working in the Writing Center, too many essays and research papers to count, attending many a TA and professor’s office hours, Latin, Old English, an honors thesis, and one quarter-life crisis later, I find myself an admitted graduate student preparing for my first year.