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English Senior Spotlight: Emma Behrens

May 20, 2024 English

Photo of Emma Behrens next to Testudo

Emma Behrens is an English and sociology double major who will be pursuing an M.Sc. in social science of the internet at the University of Oxford.

How and why did you decide to be an English major?

I always knew that I wanted to major in English. English was always my favorite subject in grade school, and I worked at a library for four years during high school. I loved reading, I loved writing, and I loved analyzing texts and media in general. I chose to pair English with sociology, and I’m now graduating in three years instead of four with my B.A. in English and sociology. 

What jobs and internships have you had during your time at UMD?

During my first year and a half at UMD, I worked for the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. That opportunity was amazing, and I never would've gotten that without the UMD English Department. I'm also a teaching assistant for introductory sociology courses. That's been a great experience as well. I've had to do a lot of administrative tasks with all of these positions, such as emails and professional communication, both in person and virtual. The skills that I developed as an English major have helped me excel in those areas. I actually have my first ever internship lined up for this summer. I'm going to be working at Princeton University in their human resources department doing administrative tasks.

Congratulations! So what’s next after the summer internship?

In my undergraduate studies, I focused on cultural sociology, which I believe is the perfect intersection between sociology and English literature. Specifically, I did an undergraduate thesis in the sociology of the internet and studying political discourse. This upcoming fall, I’ll be continuing my research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. I’ll be getting my M.Sc. degree.

What have been your favorite aspects of the English major?

I did a winter study abroad program in 2022–23. It was my first time ever leaving the country, and it was the most incredible experience of my entire life. I took ENGL 391: “Tolkien in Oxford” with Dr. Peter Grybauskas because I have always been a ridiculous “Lord of the Rings” fan. This was an incredible opportunity to live and study at Oxford for a couple of weeks. We got to learn about Tolkien's fantasy worlds that he created as well as his linguistic work at Oxford. The impact of that trip, both academically and personally, is indescribable, because it was absolutely fascinating academically and a wildly transformative experience personally. I grew so much and I learned so much outside of the classroom. When I was applying to graduate programs, I remembered how much I loved my time at Oxford, and I was like, I'll throw my hat in the ring. I want to go to school there. I would not have been able to experience it had it not been for my study abroad experience through the English Department. I am such a big proponent of the English major at UMD.