Hands-On Learning in English

English Language and Literature majors have rich opportunities to explore their studies hands-on, both abroad and in the classroom.

Students interested in traveling abroad through the Office of International Programs can have $2,000 of the trip paid for through the Global Poet Scholarship.

Students and professor Tony Barnstone in Mexico.Studying Poetry in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, a city painted red, yellow, and orange, looks like a gorgeous flame miraculously given permanent form.

It’s in the heart of this beautiful city—the long-storied home of artists and writers—that English major Juan Zuniga-Mejia found a rekindled self-confidence in his craft. He and several other Whittier College students recently traveled to the Mexican city with Professor of English Tony Barnstone for JanTerm, the short term between fall and spring, just in time for San Miguel Poetry Week, where experienced poets taught them how to hone their skills.

“My writing as a poet has reached a level I honestly don't think it would have gotten to on it's own,” Juan said. “I came home with a lot of knowledge and brand new pieces and ideas.”

Fellow English major Ariel Horton feels the same way. Although she’s a lifelong writer, she had never worked with so many seasoned writers before. After spending a week developing her craft and being motivated by their stories, she came away feeling humbled and inspired.

“It was definitely the most inspirational thing I’ve done in my life,” she said.

They arrived just in time to join in the celebrations of Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day), including watching a joyous parade weave through the center of the city. San Miguel de Allende’s streets are filled with artistic history (Pablo Neruda once lived there, for example) and beautiful architecture, including its soaring cathedrals. Venturing beyond the city, the class also enjoyed touring the ancient pyramids and riding horseback into the mountains—a thrilling memory Zuniga-Mejia brought back with him.

canterbury-for-web.jpgRetracing Chaucer in England

During JanTerm, Whittier students can explore Geoffrey Chaucer’s massively influential Canterbury Tales by journeying through the bustling streets of London and the villages of the English countryside, including historic Canterbury.

Professor Sean Morris leads Whittier students on the trip to discover how text and history overlap. Students get to know the real places and people that inspired Chaucer’s story, such as through a scavenger hunt in the historic English cathedral city of Canterbury.

rome-for-web.jpgExploring Stories in Greece and Rome

On her study abroad JanTerm trip to Greece and Rome, Professor Wendy Furman-Adams helps students engage with a history as turbulent as modern day.

Among the temples, statues, marketplaces, theatres, and homes of classical Greece and Rome, students explore how some of the world’s most remarkable writers—Homer, Plato, and Virgil, to name a few—sought wisdom and solace in works that still possess edge and relevance. The class walks straight into storied history, from the impressive stony stadium of the Colosseum to the same salt-sprayed shores found in Greek myth, and returns home with a rich understanding of how ancient cultures are relevant to our modern day.

Moving to the Front of the Class

Advanced English majors who are interested in teaching, whether at the high school level or in higher education, can get involved in a preceptorship, a kind of internship (or at least an apprenticeship) in teaching literature. Normally, these opportunities are offered in lower division English courses.

Preceptors attend class regularly, read for each class session, and model appropriate student discussion. They also hold office hours to help students understand the material and provide assistance with their papers for the course. Sometimes they offer, or help with, review sessions before major exams.

Most preceptors meet regularly with the professor to talk about the course, sometimes help plan the syllabus, and will plan and conduct at least one class session with the professor present. While professors are responsible for assigning the final grade, preceptors read and comment on student work.

For more information, contact the department at 562.907.4253.

To learn more about studying abroad, contact the Office of International Programs.

To learn more about internship and other professional opportunities, contact the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development.