A Different English Degree: Alumnus Gaurav Pokharel


Someone jested that the content of these interviews is so great I must be making them up.  Here’s another example, from a recent graduate in Honours English, Rhetoric and Professional Writing (Co-op), with a Digital Media Studies Specialization. Thanks to Gaurav for participating. –JLH

JLH: It’s not easy choosing a university: what other schools did you consider and why? What made you finally decide on Waterloo?
GP: While looking into universities, I applied to almost all of the major ones within Ontario (Queens, University of Toronto, etc.). My reasoning at the time was that I wanted to explore each of my choices to see what they individually offered in terms of things like scholarships, co-op programs, atmosphere, reputation, etc.   For me, it was between UofT – Scarborough and Waterloo. UofT was closer to home, and also offered co-op for their English program. At the time, all I kept hearing from friends/acquaintances was the good old “What are you going to do with an English degree?” line of concern, so I almost had a chip on my shoulder to prove to them that you can do plenty with it. This is partially why entering a co-op program was extremely important to me at the time.  I ultimately chose Waterloo because in addition to the co-op program, they also offered me a generous entrance scholarship, as well as the opportunity to experience living independently.

 JLH: Going into the co-op interview process, did you take advantage of on-campus resources? Or did you find yourself mostly asking your friends for advice?
GP:  In terms of the interview process, I found myself mostly relying on Google searches and books, mixed with advice from friends/family. Ultimately however, it was a combination of preparation and learning from my own interview mistakes that led to me landing my first co-op job. In hindsight however, I would have used our co-op services more frequently. Specifically, partaking in a mock interview critique would have been very beneficial.

JLH: You tailored your English degree so that it was quite professional—what did that mean in terms of courses people generally consider part of a standard English degree, focusing on novels, poetry, and drama?
GP:  I was never a fan of “standard” English degree courses, and didn’t particularly enjoy analyzing classic literature and poetry. However, the RPW degree is flexible in that there’s a certain amount of literary courses that are mandatory. This encourages students to step outside of their comfort zone and immerse themselves in a variety of courses, including “standard” ones. While I didn’t enjoy all of my mandatory literary courses (British Literature is a prime example), I learned a lot from them in terms of developing critical thinking skills and learning to write effective essays. This skill of persuasive communication translated very well in professional settings.

JLH: Can you say a little bit about how your experiences of co-op led to your current job?
GP:  Once I got into the co-op program, my goal was to figure out the types of roles I enjoyed doing, and what I excelled at skill-wise. As a result, I experimented with different positions, and discovered that certain job skills were not for me (e.g., tutoring/teaching, project coordination). During my final two co-op terms, I learned that I really enjoyed the challenge of deciphering and repurposing technical content, and that I wouldn’t mind doing it for a living. However, I also learned that I didn’t like working in isolated environments, and preferred a collaborative environment instead.   Currently, I work as a Proposal Writer at Desire2Learn Incorporated, a position I’ve held for over a year. This position pretty much combines everything I enjoyed doing during my co-op terms; it is a deadline-driven environment that allows me to write and manage technical documents while working cross functionally with others.     The beauty of co-op is that it allows you to discover your preferences before you graduate so that when you are ready to hit the workforce, you are less likely to feel miserable or inadequate in a position that may not match your unique skills and personality.

JLH: And sometimes it’s just nice to ask English graduates: what are you currently reading for fun?
GP:  I’ve finally gotten around to reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I had always heard that it was a great book, and was fascinated with the story behind it. Highly recommended!


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