5 things I love about being an English major at Illinois

Brendan McGovernHere are five reasons I love being an English major at the University of Illinois:

1. The flexibility you have in choosing coursework

After completing nine hours of core courses, the English major allows you to choose the remaining 30 hours of surveys, period courses, and electives independently. Having a wide range of flexibility in choosing English coursework allows you to take advantage of the 50+ course offerings each semester focusing on a wide range of major authors, such as Joyce, Hawthorne, Poe, and many more.

Additionally, the major recently added three new concentrations including “Literature and Science,” “Media Cultures,” and “Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality (RIGS).” These concentrations allow you to focus your English courses on specific topics within literary studies while also allowing for flexibility in choosing general education courses and further courses outside the major. 

2. The small class sizes

One of the most rewarding elements of the English major at Illinois is the intimate and collaborative class environment. While surveys and entry-level courses can be close to 90 students, the majority of English classes at Illinois are small enough that instructors can get to know each and every student and students get to know most of their classmates. Through group-work, open discussions, and class presentations, you are able to meet like-minded students who share the same passion as you do, and English classes are where I have met some of my closest friends.

The English department also offers honors seminars capped at 18 students, and the structure of these courses not only allows for you to very intensely study a topic you are interested in but also often allows students to lead the class discussions, which helps you to develop critical thinking, speaking, and writing skills essential for any career. 

3. My classes allow me to constantly utilize university resources

Many classes include some form of field trip or extra credit opportunity outside of the classroom. Both curriculum and independent papers/research allow you to utilize campus resources such as the University Library Archives, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Writers Workshop, and one-on-one consultations with librarians in the Literature and Languages Library. Utilizing these opportunities is not only a great way to strengthen your writing and research, they also further allow you to get feedback from professionals in the field. 

4. The department’s incredible advisors 

Each semester, English advisors like Anna and Keshia help students navigate their schedules and prepare for registration. The support they have provided me during my time in the major has allowed me to take advantage of every opportunity on campus and get the most out of my English degree.

In addition to the awesome advisors in the Department of English, every LAS student can take advantage of the Humanities Professional Resource Center. Here, Kirstin Wilcox and Julie Higgs will help you find internship opportunities, apply to jobs, and help you prepare for a future career. This network of support allows you to be fully prepared to enter the job market after graduation. 

5. The number of student events held each year

Every semester, I look forward to the events the English department hosts for its students. Some events allow you to meet other students and professors in the major, such as the English Course Showcase and New Student Expo, while others include talks from renowned writers, poets, and intellectuals. Events hosted each semester have allowed me to hear the perspectives of recent alumni, learn from successful authors, and learn more deeply about some of the concepts I have studied in the classroom. These opportunities are incredibly rewarding both in and out of the classroom.

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Brendan McGovern