Yesterday I turned in the final draft of my undergraduate career at Trinity. And last night I had a dream that I had another paper that I forgot to finish.
It’s been a busy four years of joining clubs, leaving clubs, taking classes, not finishing readings, turning in first drafts, and procrastinating between short bursts of productivity. There have also been chances to experience idyllic liberal arts university moments, of course—late-night talks with classmates over paper writing, laboring on careful revisions, participating in lively discussions and original research, and seeing amazing speakers like Margaret Atwood and Bernie Sanders.
But now that classes are over and the library is nearly empty, the question of what comes next is increasingly on my mind. Sometimes it’s easy to be cynical about the college experience, especially as an English major who has been asked countless times, “What are you going to do with that?” I wish I had an answer—it’ll be a surprise for me, too.
Stand-up comedian John Mulaney recently released a Netflix special in which he makes fun of his own experience as an English major. “I gave them $120,000 for a degree in a language I already know how to speak,” he says. It’s impossible not to laugh and nod along with the audience. At the same time, I know a department full of English professors ready to fight Mulaney for his jokes and faculty across all departments who will tell me and generations of students to come that there’s no limit to what we can do with our Trinity degree. Plus, the writing skills an English major develops have definitely had an impact on Mulaney’s comedy ability.
Having professors who believe in what they’re doing and in their students’ abilities made all the difference in my Trinity experience. Thanks to their support, I’ve been a peer tutor, done summer research, studied abroad, shared my creative writing, and gotten internships. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my gratitude.
The nasty flip side to this amazing network is when you let down the people who believe in you. I signed up to do an English honors thesis in part because I had some vague ideas for a project that really interested me. I had the full support of the English department and the enthusiastic guidance of my professors, but in the end I didn’t complete the project. It was a long year of feeling like I was failing a little more each day.
My advisers eventually helped me transfer the credits into an independent study, and I was able to use my research in a shorter paper. They never stopped supporting me, and they were proud of what I accomplished, even if it wasn’t on the scale I’d originally planned. The project made this semester my most challenging one, but it was also one of my greatest learning experiences. It has driven home to me that Trinity attracts people who care. They want their students to succeed.
As an intern at Trinity University Press, one of my tasks was reading manuscripts and making notes of my impressions. Having supervisors who care what their interns think, whether or not it ultimately impacts their publishing decisions, reinforces what Trinity aims to teach us: first, how to think, and second, that our thoughts are worth sharing.
Through struggle and success, the support of Trinity faculty and staff, of friends and family, including those freshman-year friends I don’t talk to anymore and the people I forget to keep in touch with, has meant so much. Even if some parts of my Trinity experience didn’t turn out the way I expected, I look forward to walking across the stage on Saturday knowing I’ve accomplished things my professors, mentors, family, and I—if I let myself—can be proud of.