English Major Spotlight: Derek Wong

Double majoring in English and Computer Science, this junior envisions a career path combining those interests
person standing by short stone pillars in autumn forest, person's hand is placed a pillar, person is tall, has straight black hair, tan skin, wears a thick blue coat, black gloves, auburn pants, white crocks, and striped scarf

Year: Junior
Hometown: Mercer Island, WA

Why did you choose to major in English?

I first truly became interested in English in my Junior year of high school, when we were reading, of all things, The Scarlet Letter. It's hardly my favorite novel now—not even in the top 20—and I'm not even sure that I particularly liked it when we first read it in class. But that opening image of the rose bush by the prison door really caught my attention.

Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or interests outside your English major?

I'm also currently pursuing a Computer Science major. Honestly, I don't have a clear image of how the two fit together. I'm doing both because when it came time to decide what I wanted to pursue in college, I found that I couldn't choose between the two. I find computers absolutely fascinating, but I couldn't see a world where I would be happy if that's the only thing I did. I would like to find a career path where both are equally valuable to me in my journey. I'm still searching for that path that feels like it fits me just right, and so for now I'm just enjoying the classes. 

What has been a highlight of your experience in the English department?

The people. I've found that in my more STEM-oriented classes, it's all big lecture halls and distant professors. It can feel very lonely at times. But English has always given me a chance to connect with people, both teachers and fellow students. I love the opportunities the department provides to just sit down and share a conversation about a book that we've all read together.

What is a favorite book you read for an English class?

Pale Fire by Nabokov. I read it once in high school, and then again in 3001W. I'm just fascinated by its framing and overall structure. Nabokov was obviously no stranger to unreliable narrators, and I think that the way the book uses its central poem as a launching point for the narrator's wild story is wonderful. I don't want to spoil too much about the book, but if you've read it, then you know what I'm talking about.

What is your favorite thing about Pillsbury Hall?

I like the wooden beams that jut out of the floor in Pillsbury's attic. I've never had a class on that floor, but sometimes I like to go up there just to look at those beams.

If you studied abroad, what did you take away from the experience?

I did a brief study abroad experience in London, and one of the most significant things I learned from my time there was how to use buses and trains. I never really learned how to do that growing up, but now that I feel confident navigating public transport, I feel so much freer. The class was amazing too, of course, but I will always treasure my special edition Elizabeth Line oyster card for the London Underground.

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