My greatest strength lies in my ability to communicate effectively through my writing skills. As a freshman, I entered college certain that I wanted to be an English major because of my love of literature. I had a rather romantic picture in my mind as to what my studies would include: late nights relaxing with a cup of tea and a Virginia Woolf novel. Though my courses did offer me the opportunity to read many fabulous works of literature, they also challenged my analytical skills far more than I ever imagined.
Most of the late nights I spent were not with a cup of tea, but in the library researching critical theory or at my computer, devising my own critical perspective on a novel. Though my course of study was in reality far different from what I imagined as an eighteen-year-old, I soon learned that the sense of satisfaction I gained from critical thinking and writing far outweighed the guilty pleasures of reading. Thus, in my junior and senior years, I have learned to use my love of literature to enhance my practical writing skills, further my own knowledge, and help those in need.
My Senior Honors Thesis in English is a major researching and writing undertaking. During my junior year, I was one of a few students selected on the basis of grades and faculty recommendations to participate in the Junior Honors Seminar, where we learned the techniques for in-depth literary research and critical writing. In this time, I developed a thesis topic in the area of literature that holds the most interest for me. My specialty is Romantic Poetry (the time period of Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Keats and Byron), and my thesis examines the history of light and optic metaphors in their works.
To accomplish this thesis topic, I have had to do far more than just read poetry. I spent my summer researching the tradition of light metaphors in Antiquity, and found myself engrossed in the works of Saint Augustine, Plotinus and Plato. Furthermore, I am spending this fall acquainting myself with critical theory from all disciplines to gain a comprehensive view of the Romantic Poets’ works. Most of my days are now spent doing intensive research and writing for this independent study.
The Honors Program has offered me the opportunity to delve deeply into a subject of my own choosing, and has taught me the importance of self-motivation and scholarly discipline. At the end of the year, my work will culminate in an approximately sixty-page honors thesis, as well as an extensive oral examination on my chosen subject. Though this project is by far the most difficult, and at times the most frightening scholastic endeavor I have undertaken, it has challenged me to put forth my best effort in my writing and researching. The result is a sense of pride I have gained from the finding inspiration in my own work.
Though the Honors Program has taught me the value of academic research in my writing skills, my on-going internship with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has taught me the practical importance of the real-life applications of writing skills in the business world. During my internship, I have applied the writing skills I learned in my English classes to many projects. By far the most exciting project I worked on was one in which I saw my writing skills have major results for the Foundation and the families of fallen firefighters.
I wrote a grant proposal to the Allstate Foundation requesting fifty thousand dollars to help create a National Memorial Park to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes and their families. This grant proposal is now the template the Foundation will use to ask other major corporations for donations. To accomplish this, I researched how other non-profit corporations received grant money, and modeled out grant proposal after successful requests. I sought expertise by meeting with the former head of the Allstate Foundation to gain insight into what components are key to a grant proposal.
In other words, I used the research skills I learned as an English major to teach myself how to write for a major grant. This September I learned the results of my efforts: the Foundation was awarded the grant, and later this year there will be a groundbreaking ceremony to begin work on the Park. Though I am pleased with the results of my work, I find greater pleasure in the personal difference this Park will make for the families of fire heroes across the nation. My skills in English have helped make a personal difference in another area of my life.
The man who has taught me the most during my college career is not one of my professors. I have learned the importance of good communication and dedication to a difficult enterprise through my good friend — a Vietnamese refugee. Since my sophomore year, he and I have met faithfully twice a week to work on his English skills, as well as prepare for the Citizenship Exam. This October 14th, he successfully took the notoriously difficult citizenship exam. We have faced many challenges together, and navigated the difficult immigration system with much effort.
Due to the vast language barrier, I learned to express my ideas clearly and concisely, and find alternative solutions to problems our cultural differences could not overcome. Yet most of all, I learned to value and appreciate the incredible courage it takes for a man of such dignity to arrive in our country with nothing, and work so hard to achieve what comes naturally to so many Americans. Both his hard work for a good life, and his dedication to learning English and passing the citizenship exam have taught me that the most important practical implication of my major is that I can help others succeed.
Although the progress of my English career has been radically different than I originally envisioned, the work has been extremely satisfying. I have learned that writing and researching skills are crucial in many different areas of life, be it writing a piece of scholarly literary work, a business-oriented grant request, or teaching English to an immigrant. I hope to parlay my talents into scholarly work in the field of English literature, where I will be constantly challenged to expand my mind through writing, research and effective communication.