Major of the Month: Abbey Benning
Hometown: St. Cloud, Minnesota
Why did you choose to major in English?
I had always enjoyed English classes more than any other classes in high school, and I had some great teachers who inspired me to want to become an English teacher myself. I also looked forward to classes that would require me to read as homework—I usually save that type of work because I genuinely like doing it.
"That's one of the best things
about being an English major—
there are so many different fields
that need good writers, we can
work in almost any area that
we find interesting."
What has been your favorite part of your experience with the department?
The English department has been an incredibly welcoming and encouraging place; I feel so comfortable asking questions and requesting feedback.
Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or fields of interest outside of your English major? How do you feel they interact with or enhance your study of English?
I am also majoring in Journalism, and I have found that the two fields intersect frequently. Between my two majors, I've learned how to write professionally, academically, and creatively. The research skills I've learned in my journalism classes have improved my English papers. For my honors thesis, I'm writing a piece of creative nonfiction, and the reporting-style writing I practice in my journalism classes should help me significantly.
The summer after my sophomore year, I worked for Children's Theatre Company as their marketing and public relations intern. I had the opportunity to start my own article series focused on the behind-the-scenes workings of the Theatre, which ran on its various social media channels. The internship was a fantastic way for me to hone my writing skills in a professional but extremely friendly work environment, and I loved being able to work in the theater industry. I think that's one of the best things about being an English major—there are so many different fields that need good writers, we can work in almost any area that we find interesting.
What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?
For English majors, I would recommend taking ENGL 3601 Analysis of the English Language. It was an incredibly interesting introduction to linguistics and the structure of the English language. I learned so much in one semester, from phonetics to the origins of modern English to the preservation of dying languages. I felt like I walked away from each class with a better understanding of language in general, plus so many fascinating individual fun facts about English. For non-majors, I would recommend ENGL 3025 Literature of the End of the World. The class focuses on the apocalypse as presented in ancient religious texts, modern novels, and even zombie movies. (It sounds a little weird, but it was one of my favorite classes ever.) I left class every day wanting to share what I'd learned with everyone I ran into because it shifted my perspective so much on things we take for granted, like the way prayers are phrased or archetypes in mass media.
If you studied abroad, what did you take away from the experience?
Traveling is a great way to find things to write about. Since studying abroad, I've also enjoyed reading books set in the places I traveled to because I can picture the scenes a lot more vividly. Also, I returned with a great appreciation for how much I love the U of M!
What is something about the English department that most people wouldn’t know?
The department puts on a lot of great career-focused events for a variety of interests. I think there's a stereotype that English majors have to write, edit, or teach, and the department does a really good job at making students aware of all the options available to those with an English degree. [Abbey is a peer counselor in Lind 227, where English majors can drop in and meet with career counselor Joyce Halverson every Monday 1-3 pm.]
Best book you’ve read recently?
I just finished a historical fiction novel titled Everyone Brave is Forgiven, set during World War II. It was the best writing I've read in a long time—I wanted to copy down so many of the sentences because they were just beautifully created.