I’m in my third (and final!) year of doing an undergraduate in English Literature at the University of Warwick in the UK. So I thought I might as well share my experiences in case anyone else was thinking about going the same sort of route! These are some of the things that I wish I’d been told when I started university.
You are smart enough to do this.
I was hugely intimidated by everybody when I was in my first year. This was especially because I hadn’t done A Levels, and seemed to have covered completely different genres/topics. However, this didn’t hinder me in any way. Everyone was in the same boat in the first year – scared shitless and hoping no one will notice! Once I relaxed about trying to ‘prove’ how smart I was, I found myself enjoying my course a lot more.
Time/self-management is key.
English Literature is notorious for having few contact hours. However, this means that when you go into a seminar, you need to have done some reading/research beforehand. You are expected to know at least the basics about the book/theory you are reading. So while all that free time is great for long lie-ins and an active social life, it needs to be used productively, too! Sitting unprepared in a seminar has always been a massive waste of time, for me at least.
Weirdly, not everyone likes books.
I have met people who never read the texts. (Or only read them when procrastinating on an essay.) I do not pretend to understand these people.
On a related note: you will not enjoy every book you read.
I have read some life-changing novels during my time at university. But I’ve also read novels that have been a physical torture to read. Try and get through these ones the best you can – the next one might just change your entire world-view.
There are jobs. I promise.
I’m of the belief that doing a humanities degree like English actually gives you a lot of options, post-university. Every employer is looking for someone who can communicate and analyse. You don’t have to become an English teacher or journalist if you’ve studied English literature.
If you have any questions about studying English Literature (especially at a British university), please don’t hesitate to ask! Now, I better get back to that essay I’ve been putting off…