Senior English Major Reflection: Kayla Elkin
Growing up with a pretty STEM-heavy family, I knew that my college education would look a lot different than that of my parents, grandparents, cousins and sister. What I didn’t know before starting in Clemson English was how radically divergent not only my curricula but my entire overall experience would be. Being an English major at Clemson has, without a doubt, been the most rewarding experience I have had across my educational and personal development, and I believe that it is completely because of the department and the faculty, which allowed me to explore the subject widely, thoroughly and completely unfettered in an environment where I never once felt unsafe or ignored in the classroom or in the community.
One statement about my time in Clemson English that takes my family and friends by surprise is that I have developed a strong positive relationship with every faculty member that I have come into contact with, even those with whom I never took courses; like the English Majors Org’s faculty advisor, Dr. David Coombs. These relationships have been crucial to my view of Clemson English as somewhere I am safe to learn and grow, to share my interests, my successes and my stressors. Compared to friends in other majors or universities who are surprised that some of my professors introduce themselves with their first names, I feel like I have truly taken part of something special during my time as a member of the powerful close-knit community that Clemson English represents for many of its students.
Within the classroom, the situation is identical. My studies in English have been limitless, even if the course I’m interested in varies from my previous coursework and knowledge. For example, when I wanted to study abroad in India through a third-party program, other departments made me fight and negotiate for their signatures on my transfer credits. Yet, in English, that year’s director of undergraduate studies left it open, asking what I was most interested in and helped me make a plan that would keep me on track for graduation while still taking every course from Gender in Bollywood Film to Literature of the Indian Diaspora. Similarly, for my senior seminar, I was able to take Dr. Walt Hunter’s poetry seminar. Before the class began, having never taken a poetry course before that point, I worried that I wouldn’t be taken as seriously as the other students. That fear was completely unfounded. I was accepted by the professor and my classmates on the first day, continuously encouraged to develop my own ideas, however divergent from the critical discourse they might be. As a result, I learned so much more from this course than I thought possible, and furthermore, my professor and classmates insisted that they saw “The Tennis Court Oath,” the poem I fell in love with during the course, differently after discussing my viewpoint.
Now that I am applying for post-graduation jobs in marketing, I’ve gotten used to talking about my time in Clemson English in professional terms. On Skype or over the phone, I explain how I work with students to improve their written communication skills at the Writing Center, hold the position of treasurer in the English Majors Org and help publish a literary magazine with the South Carolina Review. Something that always goes unsaid in these conversations is how much I have grown personally and academically as well as professionally thanks to Clemson English. While I deeply wish my time with Clemson English hadn’t been cut short by COVID-19, that I could have finished organizing South Carolina Review’s poetry panel at Lit Fest, participated in the CAAH Honors and Awards Ceremony and walked with the rest of my classmates in our May graduation commencement, I will still always hold Clemson English and every member within it who I have met along the way extremely close to my heart. To me, they are the true embodiment of the Clemson family.
Edited By: Carter Smith