Since graduating from WKU in 2002, I moved to South Korea to teach English in December of that year. I was there intermittently for six years where I taught English as a second language to students between the ages of 5 to 65. In 2004, I returned to Bowling Green and taught at WKU’s ESLI before returning to Seoul in 2005. Near the end of my career in Seoul, I taught mostly adults and found that this was my passion.
When I returned permanently (or at least for the time being) to the United States in 2009, I moved to San Diego, without a job or a place to live with my fingers crossed that my future might be as bright as I had heard the California sunshine would be. Because I had seven years’ experience under my belt, it was easy for me to start subbing at various ESL schools until I finally got a job at Intrax (fka Intrax International Institute).
I’ve been working there since September 2009–two years as a teacher–and I was recently promoted to Academic Supervisor. As Academic Supervisor, I help students with their classes and oversee a teaching staff of just under 20.
If you had asked me when I graduated what I would be doing with my English degree, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. If a recent English grad can’t answer the same question, explore by teaching English as a second language in another country. Even if you think you don’t want to be a teacher (and trust me, I never did), it’s a great way to explore the world until you find what you want to do.
I am very happy with my current work. I am a Registration Specialist at the US Copyright Office, which is part of the Library of Congress. My job involves using my English major all day, every day — I am an examiner in the Literary Division of the Office (other divisions include Performing Arts (working with music, motion pictures, etc.) and Visual Arts (working with sculpture, jewelry design, paintings, etc.)). I examine copyright applications by determining whether works are copyrightable and whether the legal and formal requirements of the copyright law have been met. I am in constant contact with authors, agents of authors, attorneys, and publishing industry representatives to resolve registration issues. I also make selection decisions, determining which books the Library will keep in its collections (the Copyright Office was incorporated into the Library of Congress as a way of bolstering its collections).
The Literary Division reviews a wide variety of “nondramatic literary works,” including not only novels, stories, and poems, but also computer programs, databases, websites, blogs. The challenges we face are making the registration system work with these less traditional literary works. The law has always moved much slower than technology, but this is especially the case now in the “digital age.” I am involved with drafting a revision of Copyright Office registration practices that tries to wrangle with these more difficult types of works. These types of problems, though difficult, are extremely satisfying to work with. The aim of the Office, as directed by the Constitution, is to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts,” and it is very rewarding to work toward increasing creativity by being an advocate for authors and authors’ rights.
Working at the Library of Congress has been wonderful — Library staff are allowed to borrow books from the collections, so I have access to nearly every book ever published in the US (and in the world, to some extent). That’s been extremely nice. (Though last summer when I took out a copy of Ulysses around Bloomsday they gave me the 1934 US First Edition, which is a $500-$1000 book. I gave it back and got a newer edition. The collections are accessible only by a few “searchers” who send the books to various locations throughout the Library on an elaborate conveyor belt system, so you never know what you’re going to get. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque). Also, there are always lectures, concerts, film screenings, and other interesting things happening every day here (e.g. there’s a Langston Hughes birthday celebration and reading today at noon). It’s been very good for my brain.
WKU’s English program gave me an understanding of tone, form, and style and that I use every day in my current job. I have to write to a wide variety of applicants daily — I have to adjust my tone and style according to my audience. For instance, my letters to copyright attorneys adopt a formal tone that assumes a fairly high level of knowledge of the copyright law. My letters to authors assume a lesser level of knowledge, and provide more explanation of both the law and the rationale behind the law’s requirements. WKU English professors’ guidance gave me a sense of control over my writing that has served me extremely well.