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Senior earning Professional Writing degree gears up for next chapter in South Korea

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For Desirée Jones ’20, writing always came naturally, so pursuing a degree in writing was never in question. Selecting a specific major once at York College of Pennsylvania, though, was a challenge.

Desirée switched back and forth from English to Professional Writing and back again before finally committing to Professional Writing. It’s more technically focused, with the ability to do copy editing, instruction manuals, or grant writing. “It’s a very lucrative kind of field,” says Desirée. “Every kind of business needs some kind of writing done in some way, shape or form.”

Still, there was a lot of room for Desirée to incorporate their interest in creative writing and journalism. “There’s this perception that being a Professional Writing major has a limited trajectory of where you can go career-wise, but it’s actually completely the opposite I’ve found,” Desirée says. “You can really take anything you’re interested in and use a professional writing degree to get a career in it.” In fact, it led Desirée to an unexpected opportunity.

Changing course

During a course to become a writing tutor, a professor suggested Desirée consider becoming an English teacher in South Korea. Desirée’s response at the time was a firm “no.” Teaching wasn’t ever a consideration. But, the seed had been planted in Desirée’s brain, and slowly over the next few years, it came to feel like a path worth pursuing.

Desirée worked at a summer camp with middle school kids and enjoyed it. The prospect of traveling and learning about a new culture sealed the deal. Now, Desirée is applying to teach at a hagwon, the Korean-language word for a private academy, and with any luck, they will be in South Korea this fall.

Despite never traveling beyond New York, Desirée has spent hours watching YouTube videos of what it’s like being an English teacher in South Korea. “I’m extremely excited,” Desirée says. “I have no nerves whatsoever, and I think it’s because I’m usually the person who likes sink or swim situations.”

While they will be the one teaching English, Desirée doesn’t want the learning to be a one-way street. “I want to be sharing something with people, obviously,” Desirée says, “but I want to be learning from them as well.”

Studying identity

Desirée has thought a lot about identity and how it affects everything from how we teach to how we write. At the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies, held in York this year, Desirée connected with two students in the hopes of studying how student identity affects undergraduate research.

The students, one from Hawaii and the other from Nevada, were preparing to present their findings with Desirée at the Conference of College, Composition and Communication. Though the conference has been cancelled, Desirée and their peers are still continuing the research.

After South Korea

Maybe Desirée will love teaching English in South Korea. Maybe not. Either way, there’s nothing to worry about.

Desirée feels confident that their education at York College and a degree in Professional Writing gives them a wide range of options to explore. And whatever path they go down, it’ll be an adventure.

“No one really knows what they’re doing, if we’re being honest,” Desirée says. “I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from a lot of adults. The idea that, 10 years from now I’ll have it figured out—the reality is no one does.”