My name is Jenn, and I will be returning this year as the Graduate Student Ambassador for the Creative Writing – Nonfiction MFA Program at Columbia College Chicago. I’m looking forward to another year of blogging and sharing my MFA experience with you all!
This year will be my third and final year at Columbia. This is a big year. Thesis, thesis, thesis! I’m a little sad that it’s my third year, because I have had a tremendous amount of fun for the past year getting to know my classmates and professors. To think that this time next year I will be graduated and this experience will be over . . . well, it’s almost too much to think about. I do seriously get emotional. I see my classmates almost everyday during the school year and have seen most during the summer at one point or another. I feel that I have developed friendships that I will take with me when I graduate. This is a bonus. Graduate school definitely helps with professional connections, but if you leave with personal connections, I think you’ve really made the most of your graduate experience. And, I’d say that the personal connections I have made are at the top of my list when it comes to things that have enhanced my graduate experience.
I’ve also enjoyed the amount of time that I’ve gotten to spend on my writing. Jenny Boully always tells us to enjoy this time while we can, while we have so many opportunities for other people to read and comment on our work, because after grad school, that is very hard to come by and nearly impossible on a weekly basis. The way you write and even the way you read will change over the course of your time at Columbia. And it should. If you came to the program writing a specific way and left writing the exact same way, I would ask, “Why did you come at all?” Deciding to pursue a creative writing degree, for me, was about honing my skills, about exploring my writing process, and about exposing myself to different ideas about writing and different forms of writing. I have certainly grown as a writer and as a thinker during my time at Columbia as a result of learning not only from the faculty, but also from my peers. We all came to Columbia with such different educational backgrounds (Technology, Journalism, Education, and Poetry) and we are from all over the country (Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, New Zealand, and Hawaii). Reading my peer’s creative work and hearing their contributions to discussions always helps me to think about the world and about my writing in new ways.
I feel like I am constantly in a conversation and that the conversation is continually changing and growing. I’m excited to be a part of that, and if I’ve learned anything during my time at Columbia, it’s that you must be a part of the conversation. You must stay current, no matter what your field of study is; you have to be active in the conversation with your community of peers. The Nonfiction faculty (Jenny Boully, David Lazar, and Aviya Kushner) are extremely involved in the Nonfiction and writing worlds—consistently publishing new books, anthologies, attending conferences and reading at events. And because they are so involved, they are able to offer their students opportunities to get involved. By recommendation or invitation of the faculty, I have worked as an assistant editor on several anthologies and put together several reading events throughout the city. Being involved in the community outside of Columbia and getting out into the city of Chicago has also been a positive part of my graduate experience.
Over the course of this year, I’ll be blogging more about what it’s like to be a graduate student in Columbia’s Creative Writing – Nonfiction MFA program, about what it’s like to live in Chicago, and about my experience as a working writer and teacher. Follow along with me this semester as I navigate the third and final year of my time here at Columbia College Chicago!