‘So you’re going to be a teacher?’: How to annoy an English student

Oh my god so you literally just spend your whole time reading


Of all the subjects available to the university-bound scholar, English Literature is one of the most coveted. It’s easy, you’re told; it’s a hobby, and you barely even have to go to lectures.

The actual English student knows that most of this is fiction, which is why every stupid question you get asked by a pompous prick on a BSc brings you dangerously close to using your Norton Anthology as a deadly weapon.

These are just a few of the easiest ways to make an English Lit student see red – use with caution.

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‘Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?’

The obvious one: if you study English Lit, you’ve been fielding this question since you first picked up a book.

You don’t assume Luke from halls wants to make maps because he does Geography, or that Tom is going to be the next Indiana Jones because for some reason he decided to study Classics, yet you must have chosen books because you want to impart your knowledge on the younger generation.

In reality, there are loads of jobs an English grad can do. Like being a journalist. Or an author. Or… shit, maybe I am going to have to be a teacher.

‘I did English at A-Level!’

Good for you. I did Food Technology at GCSE but you don’t see me calling up Gordon Ramsay to let him know.

‘You must have so much free time’

I do have a lot of free time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t spend it reading novels and discussing sonnets and trading witty barbs with my dissertation tutor, thank you very much.

I mean, I don’t – I spend it either sleeping or reading Buzzfeed articles about “22 pigeons who really do not give a fuck” – but there’s no reason for you to know that.

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‘So you literally just read for your degree?’

Once again, ostensibly yes – whether that’s leafing through the four novels you’re set every week during every moment you’re not at uni, or feverishly scanning the Wikipedia synopses of those novels at 11pm the night before a seminar.

Either way, you have a lot of reading to do, and sometimes you wish you’d chosen something maths-based instead because the equations are so much shorter than Byron’s Childe Harold.

‘It’s going to be really hard to get a job with that’

The prospect already wakes you in a cold sweat at night, which is why it stings even more when someone voices it.

Sure, print media is dying, and sure, the likelihood of me getting the funding to do my PhD in “Twilight’s role in the domestication of the vampire” is pretty low, but I don’t need to hear it from Kieran who’s already on course for a First in Economics and a walk-in job at Goldman Sachs.

‘It must be so easy’

The scourge of the English Lit student is those studying Medicine or Physics or Mechanical Engineering, who’ll turn their nose up at your degree and tell you how many more hours and deadlines they have than you.

English isn’t easy, you protest, as you stealthily shield the well-thumbed copy of Where The Wild Things Are you’re making notes on for your Animals in Children’s Literature module.

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‘What’s your favourite book?’

Not an awful question on the surface, but the expectation that comes with it when you study English makes answering it correctly almost impossible.

You’ll pretend it’s The Sorrows of Young Werther or something equally douchey; in reality, it’s Fight Club.

‘It must have ruined reading for you’

Anyone who truly loves reading knows it’s not something you can just switch off – but spending so much time studying it during uni hours seems to knock years off your literary IQ when you finally get a chance to read for pleasure.

Thus, you’ll go on holiday with your family at the end of the year and relish the opportunity to reread the Gossip Girl saga, or dip your toe into Fifty Shades, or finally devour Michael Phelps’ autobiography.

The people by the pool will be judging you; you will wear their sneers as a badge of pride.

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‘Can you read my essay for me?’

Choosing this as a subject means being used by all of your flatmates as a free-of-charge ghostwriter and human spellcheck, despite being 99 per cent sure you’ve never used a semi-colon properly and still not really knowing the difference between they’re, their and there.

You’ll spend five minutes pretending to carefully analyse their four volume thesis on Sir John Ross’ advances in deep sea exploration, nodding thoughtfully and underlining a few choice words in pencil to fool them into thinking you care.

‘But you already speak English’

Haha yeah good one mate.