Advice

Join Community: Fordham English

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I can give you only two really good pieces of advice. The first is to never worry about how much pasta you’re eating, especially when in college or Italy. The second is to become a Fordham English major.             

There has never been a moment in my life when I wasn’t an English major. Even before college applications and SAT scores were on my mind, I knew when the time came I would major in English. Writing and reading—the act of imagining, creating, analyzing, and enjoying language—have always been a part of my life; being an English major, a part of my identity.

When I came to college in the fall of 2015, my decision to attend  Fordham was made mainly by the university’s location in New York City, where I always imagined I’d be a writer of something—plays, poems, it didn’t matter what. The plan was the write, that’s as far as I got, and Fordham got me that far.  Otherwise, I knew little about the school (what the heck is a Jesuit? being among my questions). I registered for my core classes, signed up for Urban Plunge, and dove head first into college.

It was not easy.

My first two years, I was hurting. I felt lonely and unhappy. I was struggling with my friendships, classes, mental health, and living in the city. Completing mainly core at the time, the only class I was excelling in was a 17th century poetry class, putting off Philosophical Ethics for another semester to indulge in the 4000 level course. By the middle of sophomore year, I was preparing my transfer applications. I even paid the application fees.

I never quite completed my transfer applications (I never sent off my transcripts). I was interrupted by an email from a professor named Elizabeth Stone, who was offering a two credit course in publishing. Specifically, students would be contributing to the creation and publication of The Comma, Fordham Lincoln Center’s literary magazine. As a writer, I was intrigued. A couple email exchanges later, and I became an official editor and contributor to The Comma.

That next semester, I felt like my life in college really began. I was an active member of an on campus literary publication, and I began really entering my major classes. I applied to, and was accepted into, the Creative Writing program, and attended events sponsored by the English and Creative Writing programs, finding friends within them.

The Fordham English department gave me what I needed: a community.

I have yet to meet a student in the program who isn’t an immediate friend (like Meg Crane, who I sat next to on my first day of Creative Nonfiction Writing by sheer gravitational pull, and have relied on as a supporter, editor, and companion ever since), or a professor who isn’t a willing mentor (like Professor Marwa Helal, who welcomed me to audit her class this semester and enabled me to feel confidence in being a writer again).

The study of English, by its sheer nature, is collaborative. Just like language doesn’t develop in isolation, neither does learning. Each classroom I entered was not a competition field for who could write the best poem or have the most impressive analysis of Othello—it was a space for exploration, where we worked through ideas and art together. In literature classes, I felt comfortable asking questions, being confused, prodding for thoughtful answers I didn’t quite have. In writing classes, I felt safe bringing in an imperfect piece, opening myself up for constructive criticism, being supported by my peers. There was never pressure for any of us to prove ourselves; we were there because we loved language, and we embarked on our linguistic journeys together.

For two years, I regretted moving to New York and coming to Fordham. Now, as I am graduating four years later, my only regret is not embracing this community sooner. I would give anything to have stopped stressing about being the best, or even just good enough, and to have found the affirmation and enjoyment in the Fordham English department those first two years.

Nonetheless, even as I graduate, I know I am not leaving this community. I have made friends and connected with mentors who I know I can rely on for years to come. Thanks to Fordham English, I have the confidence to learn and grow, replacing my once desperation to already know everything and be complete.

I could give you advice about what internships to do, how to stay ahead of your school work, the true meaning of success is a job well done, etc. etc. I could pepper my advice with my accomplishments as evidence, an expansive and specific cover letter. Certainly, there are things I’ve done here that I’m proud of, that look good on paper. But above all, what I’m proudest of, is being a part of something. The things that look good on paper are great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the things that felt good in my heart were even better.

So, put off a core class or two in your first couple years so you can begin being introduced to this community (I promise, Philosophical Ethics isn’t going anywhere). Submit and join publications that interest you until you find your right fit. Ask someone from your Jane Austen class if they’d like to join you for English Country Dancing. Go to a Poets Out Loud reading. Work through your questions in class with your peers. Invite people you hardly know over to your apartment to eat pizza and talk about writing (yes, I did that!) Enter as acquaintances, leave as friends. Write something, anything, leave it all on the page, and then let your classmates workshop the literary manifestation of your most vulnerable self.

Enter your career as a Fordham English major with an open heart and open mind, and let yourself be filled by all this program has to offer.

Congratulations, you are a Fordham English major, you are a part of something. Welcome, friend.

~ Cat Reynolds, FCLC 2018

Finals Advice from Fordham English Graduate Students

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Rachel Sternlicht

During finals my two pieces of advice are trying to allot time to get outside in the sun when it’s nice out, so I don’t feel like a cave bat the whole time. And second, surrounding myself with snacks.

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Valerie Guempel

Don’t put things off till the last minute and make sure to get sleep and eat food. While it’s technically possible to pull all-nighters and exist only on caffeine and energy drinks for a day or two, it’s definitely not the best method of acing final’s week and can be absolute hell on your body.  

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Stephen Fragano

My advice would be when time managing, allow even more time to do something than you think necessary. Often times, I find myself underestimating the time I need, and then being behind schedule stresses me out more. Overestimating segments of time is best, and lots of coffee!

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Dom Gentile

Don't forget to take breaks. I find I'm not as productive studying or writing for several hours straight. So I always try and have some music ready or a good T.V. show, just to step away from my work and clear my head. 

English Majors Find Career Advice at "Building Your Life as a Writer & Editor"

On Tuesday, December 6th, English majors attended "Building Your Life as a Writer and Editor," a writer's life and career exploration event guided by a panel of published writers from Fordham's English faculty. Panelists included novelist Stacey D'Erasmo, novelist Mary Bly, poet Sarah Gambito, and novelist Jennifer Gilmore.

The event began with D'Erasmo, Bly, Gambito, and Gilmore introducing themselves and speaking to their experience as writers and the careers they've had to support their writing projects over the years: from food service and corporate jobs to publishing and teaching. They stressed the importance of having time to write and writing for some "non-scary" amount of time every single day.

Gambito discussed working in literary nonprofits, the growing areas of content management and the career opportunities related to the way we access and digest writing, in addition to the resources at Fordham to help students get started now. She stressed how classes in communications, media studies, and digital content could complement English majors' course load.

D'Erasmo walked students through her own path as a writer, from an unrewarding MA experience to writing for the Village Voice. She shared her experiences in publishing and editing and how she came to prioritize joy as a practical element. She knew she found her place as a writer when she found a publication where she "actually cared about the massive amount of work [she] was doing."

Bly, who is a New York Times best-seller, stressed the importance of using one's years at Fordham to intern, write content, and produce tangible results. She encouraged students to find and hone their voice and interests: "Read all the time and think, Why am I enjoying this?" Noting the ways her own scholarly interests have influenced her popular fiction novels, Bly encouraged students to bring their unique outlook to their careers and writing. "You really need your passion, because it's all hard."

Gilmore echoed the other panelists' advice and offered her own experience on the writing life. "Touching your work everyday is so important." But she also discussed how different people might approach writing, depending on their career path and their personality. She stressed that for those interested in working in the publishing industry, there are so many areas of focus to choose from: marketing, publicity, production, and editorial. No matter what career path writers chose, Gilmore emphasized the importance of staying connected to other writers and those with similar interests. She also noted that curiosity is key to writing. "Be super curious. Live a little, too. Let things in and never say 'no.'"

Following the roundtable discussion, the panelists took questions from the audience. Following students' concerns, the panelists went in depth on the process of getting published, the MFA vs. NYC debate, and the uncertainty on planning for the future.

With all four panelists agreeing that planning for your life and career can be difficult to imagine, Gambito offered the following: "You should have A, B, and C plans that are all pretty fantastic and exciting to you, personally."

For more career advice for English majors, check out our new student guide with resources at Fordham, internship listings, and real experience from published writers. 

New Student Guide from Fordham English

Have you checked out the new Student Guide from Fordham English? Designed especially to help students navigate their undergrad studies and life after graduation, the guide is also a useful tool for faculty and staff members. If you have any questions about the English Major, Fordham in general, or the unique opportunities New York City provides, look no further. 

http://fordhamenglish.com/studentguide