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Alumni Testimonials

Alumnus Chani Rubenstein

Chani Rubenstein

I have always been a pragmatic person. While I’ll occasionally be moved by a sense of whimsy, it’s usually not before I’ve weighed my options carefully. For example, as I sat by a river at the age of sixteen, a frog jumped into my hand. As a lover of fairy-tales, I decided to give the slimy creature a closed-mouthed peck only after examining its coloring, and remembering that I had hand sanitizer in my purse (a well-stocked bag is essential for all adventurers—Samwise and Hermione have taught me well).

As a practical person, when it came to choosing a college to attend, I knew that Queens College was my best choice for a great education that would not leave me with crippling debt. I had always known that I wanted to teach, and as a lifelong lover of books, English made sense. While choosing classes for my first semester, I picked a Freshman Year Initiative course combination of English and educational theory.

My first class in the English department was a little rough. I struggled with the first few assignments—I stubbornly attempted to cling to my original ideas, and resented my professor’s urgings to revise. Despite knowing that I was right, I wanted to do well, so I tried doing what my instructor wanted, and was surprised to find that the pieces were actually improved. After learning the vital skill of revision, English class became a true pleasure. Each subsequent class pushed my writing and analytical skills further, and by the time I finished Professor Tougaw’s Honors Seminar, I was shocked by how my skills had been refined, although I still have trouble believing that my writing is any good until I’ve re-read whatever I’ve written objectively, and received feedback from others.

During my final year, I began researching my post-degree options. My pragmatic mind evaluated the situation’s circular logic: I knew that I would need to earn my MA within five years to retain my teaching degree, but degrees require money, and to get money, I would need to teach. Teaching while earning my degree was a possibility, but the rates of first-year burnout were a little too high for comfort. While deliberating my options, I received notice of a third possibility from Professor Tougaw—West Virginia University was taking applications for their fully-funded graduate school program. Students in this program would earn their graduate degrees in English while teaching introductory English classes to undergraduate students. It looked perfect, so I took my GRE’s, put together a portfolio, and sent in my application.

I loved my time at WVU. Teaching English on a college-level was amazing. Taking classes on a graduate level was transformative. I left the program with the ability to write publishable papers. I also managed to snag a wonderful husband.

I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, but I am grateful for where my decisions have taken me thus far. I know that I have marketable skills, and that the analytical thinking that I have refined during my time at Queens College will come in handy if I ever do decide to make a career change. I am glad that I pursued my passion, and know that I will continue to get much joy out of my ability to appreciate literary craft, hopefully passing that joy onto others as a mother and a teacher.

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