Michael Richman

Worked as seventh grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher with Teach For America in Newark, NJ; Currently applying to med school

Grad Year: 2005


Follow your dreams

When I declared myself an English concentrator sophomore year, I never had any idea my life would have brought me along the roads I’ve since traveled. From leading canoe trips in Canada, to teaching in inner city Newark, to preparing for medical school, the open-mindedness and desire to question I discovered in my undergraduate education has proven a huge asset time and time again. Now truth be told, the nineteen-year-old version of myself probably didn’t have the foresight to reason this. Rather, I knew I had a deep love for literature, writing, good conversations, and the world around me. In the initial English courses I took at Michigan, I discovered an abundance of like-minded students and faculty, and I dove into the work, hoping all the old clichés about following your dreams would prove true in the end.  I’d like to believe they have, and I haven’t regretted my decision for a second. It could be surprising at first glance, but the skills learned from careful analysis of Shakespeare and Frost went a long way in deconstructing and fixing problems I found in my classroom and school while teaching seventh graders with Teach For America. My time at Michigan taught me to be wary of surface truths, to dig deeper and always search for the bigger questions. I tried to pass this along to my students, trying to help them see beyond the limiting boundaries of the city they knew. The work was often difficult, but moments such as the time my students begged that I find enough copies of the sequel to our classroom novel for everyone so that no one would have to wait to read it made the struggle worthwhile.

Following a new path

Though a complete different world, my side life as a volunteer EMT held just as much need for those skills of questioning and analysis. What seemed at first to be a routine minor situation was sometimes a serious emergency that might have gone uncaught if the initial perspective was quickly accepted. Now that I’ve decided to take my career further along the medical track and head towards medical school, I’m finding from professionals already in the field that the analytical reasoning, ability to communicate effectively, and general breadth of knowledge that are often so strong in English concentrators are invaluable.  My advice to current English majors would be to explore fully the wide range of courses available. In my time since graduation, I’ve discovered how the lessons of different areas of study so often come together into a greater whole: the analytic ability from expository writing with the creativity from fiction workshops; the historical perspective from sixteenth century literature with the expanded world view of postcolonial theory; the figurative world of contemporary poetry with the often overwhelming reality of Primo Levi. There are so many opportunities both in the classrooms of Michigan and in the doors they open to the world at large—I’ve been quite glad to explore and learn.

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