The Master’s Program that I am taking is rather unique. It is geared towards teachers, although you do not have to be a teacher to be a part of the program. It is through Middlebury College in Vermont and the program is the Bread Loaf School of English. The program is simple in concept: take two classes each summer during an intense 6 week session (a total of 12 classes; 36 class hours) for 5 summers and receive a Masters of Arts degree. We are mandated to take 2 British Literature courses pre-1700s; 2 British Literature course post 1700s; 1 American Literature course; and 1 World literature course. The remaining 4 courses are electives. The program takes place on four separate campuses: St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM; UNC in Ashevill, NC; Middlebury in VT; and Lincoln College in Oxford, England. I spent my first summer in NM and this summer in NC. I am now 40% done. I have completed the pre-1700 requirement and I have completed half of the post 1700 requirement. I took my first elective course this summer, a class entitled, Rewrite a Life.
This point in the summer is always bittersweet. I am more than ready to go home and relax: spend time with family and pets; sleep in my own bed; eat what I want to eat when I want to eat; and read something of my own choosing. And yet, there is always a melancholy feeling that the summer is over. I think we spend so much time in class, studying, reading, taking notes, writing papers – that when it abruptly stops we are left wondering how to handle the new-found freedom. There are times in the summer that I wonder why on earth I have chosen to torture myself in this way, and there are times that I am absolutely thrilled to be in the company of other like-minded professionals who love literature and learning as much as I do.
This summer has been especially wonderful. I managed to have a single room, which for some might have been too solitary, but for me was absolutely perfect. I am an introvert by nature and it was especially restful for me to know that I could always retreat into my own room in order to energize. The classes that I took this summer were mixed. The Shakespeare class did not meet my expectations, but the writing class more than exceeded any pre-conceived notions I had. I have never taken a writing class before and I must admit that I was very apprehensive about taking this one. While the work was constant: drafting, revising, editing, workshopping, etc…..the end result is that I discovered I really love to write. I have no aspirations of becoming a professional writer, in fact that would probably take the fun out of it, but I do love to write. It is a way in which I can be self-reflective and play “what if” in the safety of my notebooks. I have a voice – which was a surprise to me – and I have a need to express that voice, even if no one else reads it but me. I am hoping to continue this writing lifestyle when I return to Kansas, and perhaps even enroll in a continuing education class that will help further develop this voice, and the imagination muscle that has lain dormant for several decades.
I have one more class to attend tomorrow, the graduation ceremony of a fellow Bread Loaf student on Wednesday, and then I return to home on Thursday. Life will begin shortly after that, with meetings at school, lesson plans to write, family obligations to attend, and household chores to complete. I am ready – but there is a part of me that will miss the wonderful academic lifestyle that was lived in Asheville, NC this summer.