This afternoon, I had the privilege of getting to know Magda Garcia, one of Professor Amelia Brown’s GEW students. Ms. Garcia is the youngest of three siblings and learned the value of hard work, whether in the academic world or the professional world, from her brothers. She takes her college life very seriously, having prepared in high school with multiple AP classes. But her campus involvement isn’t limited to just her classes—it also includes her leadership in three CSUSM clubs. In our brief conversation, we talked about STEM, Tennessee Williams’s play The Glass Menagerie, Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, and Herman Melville’s story “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and we even managed to uncover a little-known shopping secret. It’s pretty easy to tell how impressed I was by Ms. Garcia based on the number of times I used superlative words like “wow,” “awesome,” “great,” and “cool.”
MH: So tell me a little bit about yourself.
MG: I’m a freshman. I am currently a pre-nursing major. And, so far, I’m in three clubs—AVID Alumni, Mock Trial, and Society of Physics Students. And I have a position in each one!
MH: Wow! That’s awesome as a freshman! It sounds like you probably like school. A lot.
MG: (Laughs) I enjoyed my last couple years of high school.
MH: Have you always liked school?
MG: Yeah. I like the social aspects, but I also like a few subjects. I loved literature in high school. My literature teacher was my favorite teacher. And I like math. My math teachers were always amazing.
MH: That’s very well-balanced. I know I very often hear from people, not just my students but people out in the business world, “Oh, I’m not a writer. I’m a math person,” or, “I’m not a writer. I’m a science person.” And I’m like, “It’s the same process.” You know? We think of them as being two different things, but they’re actually the same thing. That’s great that you appreciate both! Do you have any favorite memories of literature?
MG: I have a lot actually. It was actually not until [literature] class that I loved writing. Before that, I wasn’t really an English person. I was like, “Math? Okay.” I’m a STEM person. But once I got to [literature] class, everything changed. My favorite memory in that class, during lunch, was the fact that me and my friend would always go to his class and we would just hang out there, and he would play music. And it got to the point where he invited us to lunch where he would make everything by hand. That was my favorite part.
MH: Yeah, those teachers that you get to know them as people—I think those are really special teachers. Has there been a favorite writing assignment that you did? Are there any assignments that really stand out to you, like, “That was a great assignment”?
MG: I’ve always liked the analysis essays. I’m always into analysis essays. I like them a lot.
MH: That makes sense because that’s the science part of writing, right? We get to pick it apart, find the little pieces, think about how it fits together. What about reading?
MG: My favorite reading that we did in that class was The Glass Menagerie. I loved that one! My second reading that I liked was Heart of Darkness. That was the best book we read in that class, in my opinion. I liked almost all the readings, but those were my two favorites.
MH: Wow. Those are both pretty intense, way more intense than something like Twilight.
MG: (Giggles) “Bartleby” was intense!
MH: Yes! That was why Professor Brown recommended that I interview you! She was like, “She was wearing a ‘Bartleby’ shirt and she understood what it was!”
MG: It all started with that class. That was the first reading that we had in that [AP Literature] class, and it was a hard read, and then [my teacher] would just break it down. And when I would go at lunch, he would wear a shirt that said, “I would prefer not to.” And during the summer transitioning to college, I found that shirt at a store and I’m like, “Oh my gosh!” So I got it.
MH: That’s so cool! So you didn’t order it? You found it at a store?
MG: No no! I found it at an actual store!
MH: Really? That’s crazy! That sounds like a really cool store! What store was it?
MG: It was K-Mart!
MH: Nice! Go K-Mart! What do you think of GEW?
MG: I like it. It’s under my AP Literature class because in AP Lit we did a lot more writing. I like this one [GEW] because it took a little step back and explains some of the concepts of [literature].
MH: Nice! Is there anything that you’ve learned so far in GEW that you feel like has already helped you in other classes or you expect it to help you in other classes?
MG: I feel like I’ve learned this already, so it’s basically just reteaching me things I haven’t done in a year. That’s what I like about it.
MH: What are you working on in GEW?
MG: Right now, we are working on a few reading assignments and the books So What? and 50 Essays. It’s just analysis also, which makes it easier for me.
MH: Do you think that either the work that you’re doing in GEW or the work that you’ve done in other literature classes will help you in the Nursing program? Or someday, hopefully, when you become a nurse, is it going to help?
MG: Most definitely! It helps with analysis, and it has different words that I did not hear until I got into [GEW]. In literature, we never explained what catalyst is, and here, we’re like, “What’s the catalyst of the story?” which makes it a lot easier. I feel like that would be able to help me once I get into further education or even nursing.
MH: That goes back to that idea of how some people think writing is one world and math is a different world.
MG: It is not!
MH: It’s not, right? Even the vocabulary crosses over! I know a lot of my students come to me and they’re like, “I just want to sound smarter. I don’t sound smart enough to come to college.” But the more vocabulary you have, the more you sound smart.
MG: And I feel like that’s what you gain from being in college, not because you gained it in high school. It’s what you learned along the way.
MH: Awesome. Do you have any pointers for the freshmen coming in next year who haven’t taken GEW yet? Anything that you would recommend they make sure they do?
MG: Do all the readings. Fall behind, and you’re not going to be able to catch back up. You fall behind in one class, you slowly start to fall behind in another class.
MH: Alright. That’s some pretty solid advice. The falling behind becomes exponential, right? Anything else that you feel like it would be important for people to know about you or GEW or CSUSM? Any final words of wisdom?
MG: There’s a lot of walking here. You definitely won’t gain the Freshman Fifteen. GEW, in general, is something that will help you, even in the professional field.
MH: That’s good! That’s very good to hear. I think more people should hear that. I think a lot of people come in, dreading GEW.
MG: It’s a step back, depending on if you were an AP student or just taking regular English. It’s a step back, and it shows you exactly what it is and how to write and how to analyze things.
MH: So, not so scary?