Afterschool Special: On Being A College Student

by Alex Dang!

I come from a family where education is as important as our last name. School will always be in my blood. Learning will always be a lifelong endeavor for me.

As I write this, I’m between my third and fourth year at university as an English major. I have learned a lot about writing both inside and outside the classroom. There is a laundry room in the Bean dormitory where I was whining about how annoying it was to pay for the machine use and that experience lead to me writing Everything Must Go. In one of my English courses last Spring term, we read Frankenstein which ultimately lead to me writing An Open Letter From Frankenstein’s Monster To Victor Frankenstein. In the office of my favorite professor is where we talked about the possibilities of slam poetry in academia. The lounge of my dorms is where I polished my poetry. For me, once I allowed my writing to accept inspiration from anywhere, I dove into my studies (and world around me) ferociously.

My roommates joke that whenever something significant happens to me, I’ll turn it into a poem. That’s not much of a joke as more of a commentary on me. It’s true. I write about the thing I know the most about: my life. And currently, I am a 21-year-old student living in Eugene, Oregon. There is nothing wrong with that.

The biggest advantage of being in school with professors who care about literature more than I do is that I am exposed to new things I would have never read on my own. I’m obsessed with bringing my lens to these canonized texts to see what I can get out of them. My class taking is mostly selfish in the sense that I am building into my pen; I’m stacking up more ammunition for my writing arsenal.

I’ve learned that being an English major does not make you a better or worse writer. It gives you a lot of clay to mold. It makes your horizons expand and gives you both depth and breadth. But what you decide to do with this is completely up to the individual. The work excites me and the technical aspects of writing are more toys for me to play with. What rules can I push? What challenges will I rise to? The history of the author and the analytical aspects give me more and more material to create.

I’m a strong believer of knowing everything about the craft you love. When I was in high school, I did a lot of theater. So I learned how to direct, and write plays, and how to do tech, and how set design worked. All of these fields that were related to acting helped me become a better actor. By understanding the world you want to inhabit fully, you are that much more capable of creating your own.

I have never been good at school. But, I think I’m a good student. I want to learn. It’s about finding the thing you want to know everything about. How or where you learn that is completely up to you.

Alex Dang is a poet from Portland, Oregon. He was the youngest team member to ever join the Nationals team for the Portland Poetry Slam and has competed in NPS for 3 consecutive years from 2013-2015. Alex is the Eugene Poetry Grand Slam Champion for 2014-2015.  His slam poems have been featured several times on Button Poetry and he has been a speaker at TEDxReno and TEDxUOregon. His debut book of poetry, You Can Do Better, was published through Where Are You Press in 2014.  He has four things in common with Hamlet:  words, words, words, and an affinity for stabbing curtains. He is the Burger Master.

Find his first book, You Can Do Better, here!

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