Over the past three years, I have discussed my degree with a lot of people; family, friends, classmates, weird people you meet at bars… I’ve talked to them all. At first, it was fun to hear what people thought I should do with my life after graduation. I actually enjoyed hearing their opinion on my degree. Fast forward three years, and I’ve realised that there are some things that many people will tell you, over and over again.
1: “You should be a teacher/ do you want to be a teacher?”
This is something I’ve heard approximately 1.5 billion times since beginning my degree. The conversation usually goes something like this…
‘Them: What are you studying?
Me: English Literature
Them: Oh, so you want to be a teacher?
Me: Nope, not really”
This is usually followed by either them trying to persuade me to become a teacher, or questioning (somewhat indignantly) why I don’t want to be a teacher. The truth is, teaching just isn’t for me. My mum is a teacher- a great one, I have to say- and I have witnessed first hand how stressful it can be. She always says that you have to really love kids and really want to teach; and, although I have a fondness for some kids, it just isn’t really what I want to do with my life.
2: “Oh, did you not really know what you wanted to do, then?”
This one gets me every time. It’s become darkly comical, and usually follows my refusal to become a teacher. Why does everyone assume that teaching is the only job to come out of an English degree? Or do I just speak to incredibly narrow-minded people? There are literally countless jobs that you can go into with an English degree; Google it, people.
3: “It must be great to just read all the time!”
Yes, theoretically, it is great to be able to read all the time. But, please remember, that the books English students read don’t tend to be the books we want to read. Do you think I wanted to read Moby Dick? No, no I did not. But I did because my degree needed me to. In addition, we aren’t just reading all the time. We’re analysing, we’re thinking, we’re reading into the simplest of sentences to uncover irony/metaphorical meanings/innuendos, we’re figuring out how we can incorporate Mr Darcy’s overall sexiness into an essay without sounding like we fancy him. So no, dear stranger, we aren’t ‘just reading all the time’.
4: “God, I bet you’re a Grammar Nazi”
No, I’m not. I honestly don’t care if you spell the simplest of words wrong (girl who went to my school who insists on spelling ‘gorgeous’ as ‘gawjuss’, I’m looking at you) or if you get ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ confused. It literally doesn’t matter to me at all. When you have 5 books to read, 12 pieces of criticism to decipher, and 3 essays to write, other people’s grammar just really doesn’t seem all that important.
5: “Can you help me with my essay?”
Okay, on the surface, this seems absolutely fine. I’m not a bitch, I get that some people struggle with writing essays; even I struggle sometimes. So I will happily help anyone with an essay, I’ll even colour code the good and not-so-good points of whatever you’ve written so far. But, as I have discovered over the past three years, when people ask you to help them with an essay upon finding out you study English, they actually mean “will you write my essay for me?”. I have enough to do without adding your essay onto my pile of reading/writing/presentations.
6: “So if you don’t want to be a teacher, I guess you want to be a writer?”
Listen carefully to this, I don’t want to repeat it for the millionth time in my life: NOT EVERYONE WHO STUDIES ENGLISH WANTS TO BE A WRITER. No, I do not want to be the next J.K Rowling (mainly because her books, from a literature point of view, aren’t that well-written) nor do I want to become a best-selling author. A lot of English students actually have no desire to write fiction, or to write books in general. There is a great big world out there, with thousands of jobs that are perfect for English grads. Please, do some research and don’t stereotype us.
7: “Isn’t English kind of a pointless degree? You already know how to speak it haha.”
Yes, my degree in English is pointless but your degree in Fashion Marketing is going to get you a job immediately. (Sidenote: what actually is Fashion Marketing? I genuinely don’t understand it.) Also, my degree is obviously not studying how to speak the language, you utter twat.
8: “Have you read (insert random book here)?”
Amazingly, I have not read every single book in the world. I am an English student, not a magical all-knowing presence amongst books. Would be cool if I was, though.
Similarly, asking me for book recommendations and then getting irritated when I only suggest classic literature is not cool; my degree is in literature, I only have time to read what is on my syllabus, and this tends to be classic literature. I am very sorry that I have not had time to read the latest chick-lit, it just doesn’t tend to pop up in literature degrees.
There’s a million more things that I have frequently throughout my time studying English, and honestly it would take me way too long to list them all. Plus, I have to go and revise for an exam in my pointless degree that will only lead to a job in teaching.