An MA in Writing? Why?

I have to say, I didn’t expect to see myself in graduate school pursuing my master’s in writing. After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I thought I would move to the north Jersey/New York area and find work as a journalist–writing articles for the New York Times maybe or producing a news broadcast with the anchors at ABC News.

After a few months of “Sorry, you don’t have the experience we are looking for” and “We want you to work as a freelancer and part-time,” that dream slowly faded away–because who can work as a part-time freelancer and live in the north Jersey/New York area and survive?

Living at home with my parents isn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I expected. I also didn’t expect the challenge of finding a good full-time job that came with benefits and semi-good pay. It was exhausting.

On Being an ESL Tutor

One day, a friend of mine told me about this job she was offered, and said she didn’t feel like the right fit for her. So she forwarded the email to me, and thus, I began my journey of becoming a part-time English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor at a private high school.

The school was only an hour away, so the commute wasn’t bad. The company I worked for told me I would be helping six Chinese exchange students with their English language skills. “That’s simple enough, right?” Boy, was I wrong.

Teaching them was quite the challenge; six students with seven different classes and varying language abilities, I was struggling to keep those kids occupied and giving them enough to feel like they were achieving something.

When it came time for my senior students to start writing college essays, I was there helping them do the best they could; checking their spelling, punctuation, grammar, all that jazz. It was quite a challenge for all of us, but I tried my best to give good advice and aid with the formatting as much as possible.

One day, when I was helping one of my students, I had this feeling: I yearned to be back in school. I thought it was just a momentary thing, but the feeling came back over and over again.

With a curiosity for what was out there, I looked up MFA and MA programs to see what was available. I read up on the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but never really applied. It was intimidating, and I wasn’t necessarily looking to move out at the same time–but if I did, that would’ve been an interesting challenge.

Eventually, I looked into Rowan University’s MA in Writing program and found out what I needed to do to apply. I was nervous, thinking I was going to be rejected: there were better writers out there than me and how could they possibly…

I was accepted!

After receiving my acceptance into the program, I was thrilled! “I will finally learn how to be a better writer!” And I have!

So, Why an MA?

Obviously, I digress.

It is not a requirement to pursue or achieve your MFA or MA if you want to be a writer. I could live without the degree and write my book on my own. An MFA or MA doesn’t define me or anyone else as a ‘real’ or ‘legitimate’ writer because without one, we are still ‘real’ and ‘legitimate’ writers (if that makes sense.)

I’m not pursuing this ‘piece of paper’ to be recognized as a writer. I went back to school for the academia.

Attending an MFA or MA program has its benefits: learning from professors, working with classmates, experiencing new methods or techniques of writing. I have read texts that I might not have interacted with without being introduced to them through my courses. My literary magazine publications might not have happened if I wasn’t introduced to them as an opportunity to publish my work.

Of course, all these things could have been researched and done on my own, but with an introduction to these materials, I have been able to seize opportunities and gain new experiences that I would have missed out on if it weren’t for the MA program.

If you feel an MFA or MA is right for you, go for it! Shoot your shot and see where it takes you! If you don’t want it, that’s fine too. You don’t need it, but the experience may be worth your while.

Published by Georgia Iris Salvaryn

Writing Arts graduate student

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