Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

English as a Second First Language

Madeleine Thompson
September 19, 2014

It has taken me three years on this campus stuffed with literary people and prowess to a) realize I am, at heart, a writer and b) take an English class. Any English class. Just one English class. As it happens I am currently taking two English classes back to back: Creative Nonfiction (202) and Literary Journalism (391), from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 2:40 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Let me tell you, diving right into these classes from a background of practical political science and no-nonsense journalism (as a senior, no less) has been an adventure. In order to best explain what the experience has been like as an English n00b, I present to you this listicle, complete with appropriate gifs:  

Walking into class on the first day I found I was the only non-English major in Creative Nonfiction and the only person who hadn’t taken English before. In Literary Journalism, there was a wider range of majors, and I found several of my fellow Collegian staffers in the class. We’re not in Kansas anymore.



In Creative Nonfiction we jumped right into the material, starting with a reading of a four-page poetic essay. I thought that couldn’t possibly be all that was on the docket for class, considering the essay was so short and the class over an hour long, but no, we discussed the hell out of that essay. For the whole hour and twenty minutes.



In Literary Journalism, we spent almost the entire time going over the syllabus. It was one of the most elaborate syllabi I’d ever seen. There were, like, a lot of words on it, which means, like, a lot of assignments. It was scary.



At the end of the first Creative Nonfiction class (which is a workshop, meaning you do a lot of writing and peer-editing), we were given our first assignment: Write a five-page piece. I looked around me and everyone was nodding and packing up, but I was confused. I raised my hand and asked, “Five pages on what?” and the professor side-eyed me and said, “Whatever you want.” This was incomprehensible to me since, in poli sci and at the Collegian, I have never, ever been able to write whatever I want. I had no idea what to do. The concept remains somewhat foreign. It makes me uncomfortable.



But then I started reading In Cold Blood for Literary Journalism, which might be the most amazing book I’ve ever encountered, and I did the rounds with Campus Safety on a Friday night so I could write about it for Creative Nonfiction (I hate writing about myself), and things started to feel pretty good.



I began to come to terms with my love of writing and the fact that I needed to practice in order to get better. I started to appreciate the insightful comments my classmates made that I never would’ve thought of, and I admired their ability to really put their personal stories and emotions on paper for a bunch of strangers to read.


After three weeks of classes, I can actually feel myself getting more comfortable with sharing my writing, which itself has already improved a lot. Reading and discussing the works of famous writers has made me want to try new styles and has given me some new heroes (Mr. Capote, you are a master). I’m 10 times more excited to write articles for the Collegian because I get to try to emulate these people and establish my own literary persona.



Bottom line: there’s a reason Kenyon is known as a writing school. Take an English class, no matter your major or life plan. Also, I should’ve been an English major.* Thank you for your attention — Benedict Cumberbatch will show you out.


*JK, poli sci 4ever.