Something I achieved in my English literature degree that I am proud of.

– By Sidhi

Being an international student from India whose first language is not English, I was anxious about choosing to study English literature at King’s College London (KCL). Now, first and foremost, I would like to make it clear that I am not of the opinion that any language is inferior to the English language in any capacity, and neither do I believe that education in the UK is better than back at home. My anxieties had more to do with the fact that I had enrolled myself into a course that I believed I knew little about, in the sense that I was not remarkably familiar with western literature and classics. Of course, the Department of English at KCL mentioned that previous knowledge about western authors and literature was not a prerequisite for studying the course; however, I still felt as if I was not ready.  


And because I believed so, I kept holding back myself.  


During the first few weeks of the first semester, I remained comparatively quieter in my seminars as I had already made myself believe at the time that whatever argument or opinion I possessed about the texts was probably wrong. My professors kept reiterating in an encouraging way that any opinion or insight, no matter how right or wrong, was very welcome in the classroom, but because I feared embarrassment, I did not speak much. However, after a while, I realised I was not all wrong all the time, and that in fact, I could comprehend the set readings well. I would listen to the arguments and opinions of other students, and if their opinions were similar to mine, then I would notice how the professors were reacting to them. The professors would always appreciate every point of view and insight.  


I remember this one instance where we were reading a passage from Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’ and I found myself feeling like everyone knew something that I did not. The discourse was about the garden of Eden, and I had not read about it in depth before. But I quickly realised that I did not understand not because I was too dumb to understand, but because I was genuinely lacking the knowledge required to understand it. And so, I gathered all my courage and asked a question to my tutor about it in front of the whole class. (YES, IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS.) He answered my questions and said something that completely changed my life.


“I am sorry. It is my fault for assuming that everyone in the room was aware of the context but thank you for your question. I will be careful now.”  


His words made me realise that I did not need to know everything. And somehow, I felt like I was finally ready then.  


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