Major Spotlight: Halima Samatar
Hometown: Roseville, MN
Why did you choose to major in English?
I guess the cliche rings true for me, as I’ve always loved to read. As a young child, books were my primary form of entertainment, a window into all kinds of different worlds right from the comfort of my own. Writing and journaling became the primary method of documenting my experiences and the way I made sense of what happened around me. That being said, I didn’t come into undergrad wanting to major in English, not until my second year anyway. I took an ENGL elective, "African American Lit II" (with Professor Nathaniel Mills), and over the course of the semester realized that I enjoyed the formal study of how writers and artists made sense of their reality, and how I could showcase my own.
"I have been building the analytical
reading and persuasive writing
skills necessary to overcome the
beast that is law school."
What has been your favorite part of your experience in the department?
The students. The people I’ve met in my English classes always have a wide variety of interests, and are generally open-minded as a result and always down to have insighful conversations.
Are you pursuing any majors, minors, internships, or interests outside your English major?
In addition to my English major, I am a double minor in History and African and African American Studies. With these three concentrations, I learn every day how to be critical of everything we read and are told. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by the construction of African historiography, and how historical narrative is documented through individuals, governments, and societies. Studying English allows me to go beyond what is considered "fact," and gives me creative liberty in my perception of the world.
In terms of an internship, I’m currently a writing and research intern at the Fundación Ortega Marañón, in Madrid (virtually, of course). My project surrounds the topic of how certain novelists’ depiction and popularized narrative of Spain in history had influence both in and out of the country. This opportunity really allows me to both show off the skills I’ve picked up in my major while also learning more about my particular interests.
I know that my English major will also be essential for my post-grad plans. Through my areas of concentration, I have been building the analytical reading and persuasive writing skills necessary to overcome the beast that is law school. Beyond that, my time constructing and deconstructing a variety of texts, arguments, and points of view will prove useful in my future career.
What English course would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an English class?
For English majors, I would recommend "Textual Analysis" with Professor Qadri Ismail. He did a great job of raising questions about what we often accept at face value: aspects of identity, culture, and storytelling. The texts for the class were eye-opening. For non-English majors, I would recommend "The Essay" with Senior Lecturer Ann Tandy-Treiber. Great writing shouldn’t be exclusive to one discipline or the other, and she encourages freedom of creativity in our work, so you write about topics you actually care about. Over the semester I’ve been enjoying sharing my work with others and seeing how my writing is improving with time.
Best book you've read recently?
I am currently reading To My Children’s Children, by South African author Sindiwe Magona. While it is a light read (which is pretty much all I have time for nowadays), it’s a powerful story that sheds light on the author’s early life in apartheid South Africa.