Volunteer Organic Farmer with WWOOF in County Cork, Ireland
Grad Year: 2004
Follow your own path
I am working on an organic farm a hitchhike away from here, through a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Basically I am a volunteer farmer in exchange for room and board. This may not sound like the ideal alumnus report, but actually I really love it. I live close to nature and work and play with like-minded souls from all over the world. Ironically, it was Prof. Whittier-Ferguson's course on James Joyce that kindled a strong desire to come to Ireland in the first place.
But to go back in time, I will start at the beginning of my English career. I was studying molecular, cellular and developmental biology and working as a research assistant in the natural science building for a little over two years. I love science, and value my experience in the lab, but felt like something was missing in my life. Then I took a creative writing course to fulfill a distribution requirement, and Prof. Williams' course on Shakespeare, and I knew without a doubt that my soul longed to be immersed in the arts. I think the body and mind has a natural affinity for balance and I was lacking in arts appreciation for so long I needed to do that. So I ended up with a double major in Biology and English. Then I took some essay writing classes, and more and more I began to feel like I was on the right track to doing what I loved. I especially liked how the essay was like a mini-exploration of a question through writing. I had no idea what to do after graduation but I knew I wanted to travel and experience living and working in a culture that would shake my world upside down. That's when I started hearing about the JET Program (Japanese Exchange and Teaching). I applied and was accepted. I moved to Japan the summer after graduation in 2004 and taught English at a vocational high school in a rural area. I was only going to stay for one year, but loved the job and the people around me so much that I stayed for three years. I learned Japanese by talking with people, I learned how to teach by watching my colleagues, and I learned an awful lot about the English language by teaching it. I also became part of a supportive International community of English teachers, who all loved learning about other cultures and were equally confused about what they were going to do when they arrived back in their home countries. So after three years I moved back to Ann Arbor, without promise of a job or place to live but relishing in the familiarity and comfort of the town and nearby campus, and worked as a waitress at a Japanese restaurant for about five months, readjusting to life in America, keeping up my conversational abilities in Japanese, and saving money to travel to Ireland.
Exactly where I need to be
So here I am in Ireland, at the fourth organic farm in six weeks, and I've already met some incredible people and had more adventures than I can recount. The Biology degree certainly helps with the organic farming, but I credit my courses in English and the Humanities for awakening me to follow my bliss; to be open and truly nonjudgmental when confronted with other cultures; to be able to express myself in words and in writing as close as possible to the ideas and images in my head; to explore all my creative possibilities and also be able to edit and analyze my words, my beliefs, and my interactions. I am extremely grateful to the English department at U of M for giving me the tools to develop these essential abilities. I may never find something that fits the mold of a "real" job. Eventually I'd like to run an integrated ESL/ World arts program to children in the States. But for now, I feel like I'm exactly where I need to be. I guess my only advice to English concentrators is to just relax and follow your own path. Don't just go to graduate school or get a job at some soul-sucking advertising agency because you think there aren't any other options for English majors. Go exploring with an open mind and you never know what you'll find.
Faith Adler Brown, Erin Crowley, Dory Gannes, Aric Knuth, Lawrence Landman, Katherine MacNair, Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Sarah Marwil Lamstein, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Amanda Richardson, Michael Richman, Melissa Shook, Rebecca Soares, Kurt Taroff, Lisa Vandenbossche, Lee Woldenberg, Anne Wyman, Elizabeth Bender, Rachael Hudak, Silvia Chung, Jennifer Conlin, Fred Uleman
Related Career FieldsEducation, Non-Profit, Teach/Work Abroad