When I applied to the Sweetland Minor In Writing program at the end of my sophomore year, I was looking at the program as an opportunity to diversify my collegiate educational experiences. My favorite classes in high school were my English and Literature courses—I loved having the opportunity to read new things and to express myself creatively. And honestly, I was good at it, always at the top of my class when it came to essay writing and grammar sections. So when I came to U of M and embarked on a pre-med curriculum, I knew that I would lose that literary, writing-centric aspect of my education.
After finding out about the program through some of my endless hours of digging through the LSA Course Guide and Curriculum Guides, I thought two things: one, blogging, writing, and new-age media all sound like a neat way to put a spin on traditional writing experiences and two, a Minor In Writing will stand out on my medical school applications and differentiate me from the cookie-cutter, biology and chemistry medical school applicants. Plus, in my egotistical way of thinking, I liked the idea of being a part of an acceptance-based program here at U of M. It made me feel important, different, unique.
Now after completing the program, I can honestly say that this was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed yet not one that ended up the way I expected it to. What I mean by that is that I came in picturing a classroom environment (in reference to the Gateway and Capstone Courses) that was dedicated towards nailing down the nitty-gritty aspects of writing. I expected that the use of blogging and new age media would be an avenue to working with things like grammar, syntax, and the ways in which to make my writing stand out from the crowd. I expected to examine different types of writing—novels, magazines, newspapers, websites, journalism, etc—and compare the different styles on how the authors reached their audience.
This is not what I got from the program. Classroom discussions were, well, that—discussions. We talked not only about writing, but about life. We talked not only about how new-age media is impacting how we and other people view the world, but also about our place in the world and what we have to offer. This did not disappoint me. Rather, I found the structure of the program to be refreshing, outside of the rigidity of my other classes. It was different because for once, I wasn’t solely analyzing other works and putting them into my own words and context. I was analyzing my works, my thoughts, and my ideology. For once, I was looking introspectively at myself and thinking about who I am and what I want from not only academia but from life. The writing assignments, like the “Why I Write” essay in Gateway or the “Evolution Essay” in Capstone, were not meant to challenge how much you could write but rather the quality of the work you produced. I really loved that—a 15 page essay often times doesn’t achieve what can be done in 4-5 pages, something that I feel like many teachers have a hard time understanding. And, perhaps best of all, I loved that I was never graded on the quality of my work. Sure, I had to complete everything adequately and up to the appropriate standards, but everything was self-motivated. I wanted to complete these assignments to the best of my ability because it was important to me—not a teacher, not for a grade, but for me. That is such a foreign concept at this school that it added yet another layer of beauty to the program itself.
Further, I never felt like the classes I had to take outside of Sweetland were a huge burden. I really only had to take four extra classes outside of what I would have had to take had I not been in the program (I would have had to take an ULWR course anyways), which always seemed like the perfect amount for an academic minor.
Where do I go from here? Well, I will be going to medical school in the fall, which is about as far away from writing as I can possibly get. That has made me appreciate what I have been able to accomplish in the Minor so much more. The Minor has been an outlet to try new things and do things that I will never have the opportunity to do so ever again. For instance, I’ve used Adobe graphic programs, created two online portfolios, and written a nearly 30-page story based in the world of Harry Potter. Never again will I be placed in such an environment that will allow me to explore these things in a safe and supportive way. From now on, my career in medicine will lead me on a road in a direction opposite of these creative outlets. I’m not upset about it—I cannot wait to be a physician, to interact with people on a daily basis and make a real impact in the lives of others—but it leaves me with a slight pang in my chest knowing that this type of environment will never be available to me ever again. Sure, I will be writing constantly as a doctor—patient notes, emails with colleagues and patients, research articles, etc—but it won’t be the same as the Minor In Writing.
Nevertheless, I know that reading and writing will continue to play a huge role in my life from here on out. Starting in fifth grade, I read the sports page of the newspaper every day before I went to school. I understand the value of reading, of thinking, of learning, and I know that writing is but one more tool in my lifelong pursuit of a healthy and active mind. Further, I have long made it my goal to write a book at some point in my life. While the next 10-20 years of my life will undoubtedly be busy with the development of my career and hopefully a family, I steadfastly maintain that at some point, you will read a book of mine at your local bookstore (if they still exist in the future!).
So, thank you to the Minor In Writing program, to Sweetland, to my teacher in both the Gateway and Capstone courses (Ray), and to all of the people I’ve met and been inspired by as a participant in this program. Adios!