At least I can quote Shakespeare

People are becoming doctors and engineers...I don't want my parents to worry that their son is an English major.

Abdul Siddiqui October 09, 2011
I am majoring in English literature. The statement in itself does not sound too dramatic, so let me provide some context:  I am a Pakistani immigrant, living in New York, majoring in English literature. 

Still, if someone is yet to see what I am trying to explain, let me clarify. Being an English major has led to several distinct issues that I now have to contend with. The first issue is majoring in English while attending a business school. Imagine a well-respected business school. Now, imagine someone who is in that business school and is more interested in Mary Shelley than he is in Morgan Stanley. As you can infer, my business student classmates had quite a bit of fun with this. For them, if someone is struggling in accounting, and I cannot overstate how much I was struggling, the only option is to switch to finance. Therefore, because they like to work with numbers, I asked them a question of probability:
"If someone has failed in the relatively simple class of intermediate accounting, how likely is it that he will also fail to understand the complex financial models involved in today’s investment decisions?"

The chances for failure, they agreed, were very high.

Next comes the issue of finding employment as an English major. Professors have told me that organizations need people who are efficient writers, the ability to express oneself eloquently is useful everywhere, and being a well-read person always helps. Yet, I am not satisfied. I can’t work in the technical fields such as accounting or IT, I am not good at networking and therefore cannot work in Human Resources, and I simply am not good at navigating office politics so I can’t be the one who is there simply because the boss likes him. All I have are good reviews from an internship, the well wishes and recommendations of my professors, and the ability to tell you the symbolic meaning behind the flowers in Jean Rhys’ 'Wide Sargasso Sea'. I will allow you to be the judge of how useful that ability is gaining employment.

Finally, there is the issue of keeping my parents unworried. Both my mother and father have been tremendously supportive in allowing me to do whatever I felt was right for me. This support and encouragement goes beyond college, I have to add. They have helped me in every step of my life. I want to see them pleased and satisfied with my life just as much as I want to see myself pleased and satisfied with my life. Therefore, it is very important to me that I find success in this field. Amidst relatives whose children are becoming doctors and engineers, I do not want my parents to be worried that their son is an English major. I want to achieve great heights because, if nothing else, I want to assure my parents that all their efforts, all their sacrifices, all the time they spent away from their loved ones, it was worth it. That is the biggest issue I face, but it is also my biggest motivation. It gives me confidence that I will succeed in this endeavor because I have an incentive much bigger than just success.

And, if nothing else, at least I can quote Shakespeare. How many cardiologists or hydraulic engineers do you know that can do that?
Abdul Siddiqui A student at Baruch College in New York City who is currently majoring in English and intends to pursue a PhD in the subject of satirical literature. He is also an essayist and hopes to someday be recognized as a satirical writer amongst literary critics.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Sidra | 12 years ago | Reply I have to say, even living in America where people generally pick majors based on their interests only, English Lit is one of those with pretty low employment prospects. And in Pakistan, I would say it's zero. The few people I know who have had the luxury of majoring in subjects like sociology, English, etc are girls from wealthy families or pre-professional students, for whom a degree is simply a credential before the next step. I think many people across disciplines have excellent English writing skills; so I think an English Lit degree alone doesn't confer any unique skill. And please don't quote Shakespeare; it sounds majorly pretentious. :) Hopefully you will be the rare guy who can actually find a good application for your degree.
AR | 12 years ago | Reply I have a social science degree from the best university in the US for econ but im not using it at all in my workplace. I'm also considering an MFA in fiction. So what? For a vibrant society, we need essayists and philosophers just as we need finance-y people.
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