How an English class in my first year and the support of passionate professors inspired my career path

Julia Chin in regalia
Julia Chin ’21 at Gettysburg College in May for her Commencement ceremony

As a longtime bookworm, I was eager to take my first college English course; however, I never expected one class to change my life’s trajectory. Within a year of attending Gettysburg College, I walked into resident Shakespeare expert Prof. Chris D’Addario’s office and declared, “I want your job.” Such was the beginning of my academic aspirations. Three years later, I am packing my bags and books for Yale to begin the six-year journey to a doctorate in English. Ultimately, I hope to become an English professor and inspire future college students to love literature just as my passionate professors at Gettysburg College have inspired me.

Declaring my major

students crossing in front of Breidenbaugh Hall with orange maple leaves
Breidenbaugh Hall in the fall

Declaring a major in English with a writing concentration in my sophomore year allowed me to tap into my creative potential as a writer, soon expanding my penchant for short stories into the genres of nonfiction and poetry as well. My four years as a staff editor of The Mercury Literary and Art Magazine taught me how to effectively edit and evaluate creative writing, and my internship under Prof. Betsy Duquette at J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists likewise offered me an insider’s glimpse into academic editorial work and the peer-review process.

Simultaneously, my employment as a student assistant in the English department office, beginning my sophomore year, allowed me to get acquainted with more of the faculty that I had yet to meet in class. Making photocopies of syllabi and course readings piqued my curiosity for various facets of English I had yet to explore. Moreover, the same professors that casually chatted with me as they made their morning coffee in the office soon turned into academic mentors as I progressed through my college career. Prof. Len Goldberg’s regular greeting as he came to check his department mailbox, for instance, turned into two-hour-long weekly discussions on mid-Victorian poetry a couple of years later, when he advised my senior honors thesis.

Exploring academics and cultivating new passions

In my sophomore year, I also decided to add a second major in East Asian studies with a focus on Japanese literature. I became particularly interested in the intersection of Eastern and Western culture when I researched European perceptions of geisha and Japonisme in the opera “Madama Butterfly” for a musicology class in the Sunderman Conservatory of Music. My interest in cross-cultural literature likewise carried into my research project with the Digital Scholarship Fellowship at the Musselman Library, which focused on the Western commercialization of 19th-century Japanese photography.

Julia stands with arms spread in front of the Globe Theatre
Julia Chin ’21 outside of Shakespeare's Globe in London during her time abroad

Thanks to the Center for Global Education’s individualized support, I was able to spend the entirety of my junior year abroad. In fall 2019, I enrolled in small seminar classes taught by Oxford professors (including another Shakespeare course) in Bath, England, with Advanced Studies in England; in spring 2020, I lived with a Japanese host family and participated in Kansai Gaidai University’s Asian Studies Program in Hirakata, Japan. Having the opportunity to experience two very different cultures for a semester each really encouraged me to broaden my horizons and think of English literature’s impact on an international and historical scale, ultimately guiding my decision to apply to grad school.

As an imminent doctoral candidate, my dissertation topic is not yet set in stone of course; however, I’m hoping to focus my studies on nineteenth-century British literature, specifically global reimaginings of the Victorian novel. In a way, my first English class with Prof. D’Addario, Global and Radical Shakespeares, inspired me not only to appreciate the pinnacles of canonical literature—such as Dickens, Eliot, and Brontë—but also to consider the aftereffects of their legacies on the global sphere.

Cherishing lifelong connections

Julia Chin wears a mask in front of the Divinity School gate in winter
Julia Chin ’21 outside Yale Divinity School

My professors provided incredible support as I began to seriously consider pursuing a doctoral degree in English while facing a pandemic. Even across time zones, Prof. D’Addario reached me via Zoom in Japan, and I spent the subsequent summer in regular conversation with English faculty such as Prof. Duquette, Prof. Goldberg, and Prof. Suzanne Flynn, who all offered personal insight on the path to a doctoral degree, the life of an academic, and future career plans.

Recent English hire Prof. Jesse Cordes Selbin proved particularly instrumental in my post-Gettysburg success, as she took it upon herself to become somewhat of an informal advisor, despite having only met me in fall 2020, in her first Gettysburg seminar, Theory of the Novel. Throughout the entirety of my senior year, Prof. Cordes Selbin was always there for me, whether that be with recommendation letters, extremely individualized feedback on application drafts, or simply the reassurance that I could do this.

The invaluable support of these professors and many more eventually led me to my next destination: Yale. Though it is a bittersweet feeling to leave Gettysburg and step beyond the walls of the English department in Breidenbaugh Hall, I feel confident in beginning the journey that lies before me.

Gettysburg has truly shaped me into the person and thinker I am today, and I have no doubt that the connections I have made here are ones to last a lifetime.

Read more Gettysburg College outcomes stories.

Julia Chin majored in English with a writing concentration.

By Julia Chin ’21
Photos by Shawna Sherrell and courtesy of Julia Chin ’21
Posted: 07/26/21