Bella Bledzki: JMU English major at Oxford


by Morgan Lyle Aderton


SUMMARY: Bella Bledzki is a senior English major with a minor in Creative Writing. She is studying abroad in Oxford through the Center for Global Engagement at James Madison University. Bledzki participated in a Q&A with the English Department's public relations and marketing specialist, Morgan Lyle Aderton.

Q: Why is JMU English important to you?

"JMU English is important to me because studying this particular subject in JMU's environment was the first time I felt academically fulfilled and knew, without a doubt, that I had made exactly the right decision in both my major and university. My very first college class EVER was with Dr. Pennington, and the enthusiasm she brought to our lessons only made me more enthusiastic about literature in return. I've been so grateful to have the best professors I could have asked for, who have challenged my academic abilities and invited my creativity in order to succeed and improve."

Q: What made you choose JMU English?

"The answer I tell people is that I've always loved reading and writing, but the answer that is honest is I watched Dead Poets Society as a senior and it changed my life. I had known for years that I would eventually study English, but when I watched that movie, I knew without a doubt it was where I was supposed to go."

Q: What is the largest lesson or skill you will take away from your time here?

"To be as creative as possible, to take risks with thinking critically and questioning the status quo, and to be curious. When you take these three traits and combine them with hard work, you will surpass your own expectations." 

Q: Is there a specific book that you would recommend?

"A book that changed my life was the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Even though it is extremely mainstream (which isn't a bad thing!), it has taught me so much about the person I want to be as well as life lessons that have helped me navigate personal battles. Two quotes that live in my mind rent-free are "The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers" from Empire of Storms, as well as "You could rattle the stars...You could do anything, if only you dared" from the first book in the series."

Q: What has been your favorite English class you have taken at JMU?

"The Victorian Novel with Dr. Pennington! We read so many intriguing novels, and while each class was filled with meaningful, critical discussions, it felt like a book club because everybody was so excited to talk about the reading material. I made some amazing friends in that class that I still talk to today!"

Q: What made you want to study at Oxford?

"Honestly, just the opportunity itself. It was something I had never considered until I saw it on the JMU Study Abroad website, and after reading the application requirements, I knew I had to apply. Oxford had always felt like a dream, something unattainable that only existed in my head before I'd fall asleep (or needed a distraction from class). So I really don't have words to describe what it's like to be here, because how can you explain a dream?"

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of studying at Oxford?

"The people, from the tutors that I'm working with to the friends I've made in my study abroad program. My tutors have both already helped me improve as a student and a person, and its been amazing to have access to the boundless knowledge that the Bodleian libraries provide. But the friends I've made have also made my experience, I got really lucky to have such an amazing group of people around me that motivate me to be my best self and student!"

Q: Any advice to give current/perspective English students?

"There is so much to explore in the English department, so EXPLORE! Try new subjects, read literature that you might not have read before. Write an essay about fantasy (I did, and it helped prepare me for my Oxford tutorial which is based on fantasy literature). Have fun with it. This is your time to explore your academic interests, surrounded by a supportive staff that wants you to succeed. These skills are so transferrable to other jobs as well (I work in marketing and social media, and my employers LOVE that I am an English major because of the skills it gives you). Take chances and don't be afraid to fail, because you will learn either way and that's what college is about."

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Published: Monday, November 13, 2023

Last Updated: Friday, November 17, 2023

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