“So… do you just, like, study America?”
American Studies: perplexing everyone I have ever met since 2010. My favourite ways to answer include ‘Actually it’s a mixture of philosophy and interpretative dance’ ‘Sometimes but it’s mainly Ancient Peruvian architecture and finger painting’ and ‘Yes. That is literally what I do. I just don’t know how you guessed.’
Being sassy isn’t required for the degree*, but a general interest in America is handy. There is no easy way of answering the aforementioned question, because quite simply we study everything American. And it is fantastic. From film, to literature, to politics, and even music, the degree that has confused so many who don’t study it has delighted all of those who do. (There isn’t a module on Brad Pitt yet but we’re working on that).
Most importantly, I study the degree that I love at one of the best institutions for American Studies in the country. It may not be neuroscience or developing the cure for cancer, but I have hundreds of faculty that will back me up to tell you that yes, this is a “proper” degree.
For any prospective American studies students, you’re in for a treat. First year usually has a nice blend of literature, history and politics to ease you in to the world of our trans-Atlantic cousins. It’s a good way of getting your teeth into specifically American topics if you haven’t had chance to previously, and certainly gave me a better idea of what type of modules I preferred.
Second year was a bit more flexible with multidisciplinary topics bringing film into the mix, which was a lot of fun. There was one module choice to give us a bit more freedom with what we studied, and obviously being second year more was expected in terms of effort and quality. As much of an uphill struggle as it seemed sometimes, my dissertation topic spawned from one of the modules I took and gave me plenty to work with. I’ll talk more in depth about second year another time, as many students find it to be the toughest part of their degree (by many students I mean me; I ended up having a weekend retreat at Chalet de Home to recuperate).
Still, I powered through and was rewarded with a holiday in America. Just kidding, I had a year abroad which was packaged as a mini vacation but turned out to be a hell of a lot of work. And multiple choice quizzes.
And now, Final Year: The Final Stretch. I chose ALL of my modules which I was pleased about, and I’ll be studying Franklin D.Roosevelt and McCarthyism in first semester, and continuing the FDR module along with culture after 9/11 in second semester. I have always loved FDR so I nearly squealed when I saw the chance to study him for an entire year. I’m also fascinated by 9/11 and its aftermath, and actually wrote about it on my UCAS application so I’m happy to be studying it. I’ll also be having a documentary day on September 11th as I usually do, so look out for that blog if it takes your fancy.
So really what I’m trying to say is for anyone thinking about doing American Studies, go for it! Chances are there’s something there for you. For those gearing up to study it in September, good luck! Leicester has a great department for it and if in doubt, call on Linda (the American Studies secretary and Wonder Woman for any American Studies students). And for those who didn’t know much about American Studies before reading this, and those who give me sceptical looks when I announce my degree, I hope I have enlightened you! It may not be scientific or directly related to a specific career, but it’s taking me where I need it to and in the meantime I’m enjoying the ride.
Now shush, we’re about to watch Jaws.
*Desired but not essential as full training will be given.