When I first got to Rice, I had no idea that I would conduct research in the Department of English. I certainly did not know about the abundant opportunities to pursue independent projects, nor did I know that I could work on an Honors Thesis consisting primarily of my own original, creative work.
As a senior, I have come a long way. I arrived at Rice with aspirations to conduct psychological research (which I still did and continue to do today in Dr. Mikki Hebl’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology Lab) – and psychological research only. I then took a FWIS (Freshman Writing Seminar) revolving around American poetry, and felt fulfilled and at my happiest while reading and writing poems. It didn’t take long for me to take a couple more poetry courses and declare my English major – excited yet unsure about what exactly my future as an English major held. All I knew was that I loved to read and I loved to write, and I still loved to conduct research.
After completing the majority of the English major’s requirements, I considered taking an independent study where I could create my own coursework and study content that was not otherwise taught in the English department. Seeking mentorship, I reached out to my ENGL 300 professor, whose knowledge of foreign authors, philosophers, and films always sparked long conversations during her office hours. She was and continues to be incredibly supportive of my efforts to incorporate foreign poetry and translation into my academic experience. While taking independent studies with her during my junior year, I found myself exposed to foreign authors and poets. The most exciting part for me was the discovery of writers from my homeland; I was suddenly reading novels by Turkish authors and beginning to produce my own poems in Turkish. As a native Turkish speaker who grew up relatively unexposed to Turkish poetry, this was a huge step in not only my academic but also my personal growth. Poetry – reading it, writing it, and translating it – became my creative outlet as well as my medium for thinking through my homeland’s turbulent sociopolitical climate. With the support of my professor-turned-research-advisor, I experimented with a number of poetic forms, turned scattered ideas into portfolios of poetry, and spent 2 weeks this past summer in Boston researching foreign poetry and reading criticism on translation – all thanks to the Minter Summer Scholarship in the Department of English.
Some find it easy to get caught up with the idea that being an English major only involves writing essays and reading books. However, there are so many opportunities to take all of that a step further, to conduct research in the English department (and beyond as well – in the Humanities Research Center, for instance), and to pursue research topics more independently with the guidance and support of a mentor. My time in the English department has certainly benefited from all the work I’ve done in my independent studies (even though it never really felt like “work,” as I was reading and writing about material that either I chose or my professor recommended to me). Moreover, I feel fortunate to both pursue research and produce creative works. Now, I am excited to wrap up my time at Rice by applying everything I have learned in my independent studies and my summer research to my Honors Thesis: a book of original poetry.