Omar Zahzah, doctoral student in Comparative Literature at UCLA
Pursuing my degree in Comparative Literature and Classics at CSULB and working alongside so many brilliant and dedicated faculty members convinced me that I wanted to remain in academia, that I wanted to pursue my own research in the field of comparative literature as well as teaching. And so, my degree in Comparative Literature and Classics led me to commence PhD studies in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles.
- What is your present occupation? (2014)
Presently I am a second year PhD Student at the University of California, Los Angeles. As of this year, I have also become a TA, and am responsible for my own section of an introduction to Comparative Literature and Composition course.
- What are your career/educational goals?
For now, my plan is to complete my doctorate. I would like to become a university professor and literary scholar, publishing articles and, later on, books in my target area of interest in addition to teaching students. I have also always wanted to be a creative writer, and so far I have been fortunate in that, as busy as I’ve been, I’ve still been inspired and able to find time to write and publish creatively as well.
- How has the study of Comparative Literature/Classics informed your life, career, and the major decisions you’ve made?
What comes to mind most immediately is that the study of Comparative Literature/Classics convinced me to pursue graduate studies, and in this way influenced my career by showing me I wanted to remain in academia. But there’s so much more to it than that. At CSULB, I was a double major in Creative Writing and Comparative Literature and Classics, and while I received incredible guidance on the nuts and bolts of writing from some amazingly talented faculty members in the English department, it was my courses in Comparative Literature that continuously kept me inspired to write, to the point that my output was constant, whether or not I was in a workshop. And, at an even more basic level, it has become impossible for me to be a passive consumer of artistic goods. What I mean is that I can’t read or watch anything without scrutinizing it, taking it apart in search of the underlying implications, analyzing the ways in which the structure of the work contributes to their delivery, and assessing how successfully this delivery is realized.
- What advice would you give for current Comparative Literature students?
Given that my answers show that I’m fairly content with the academic life, it might seem strange that my first response is not to tell everyone to go straight to graduate school. But the truth is, I believe the benefits of a degree in Comparative Literature and Classics are far-reaching, and not only realizable to someone who has chosen graduate study. A friend of mine who graduated with her BA a little earlier than I had once told me that she had ended up in business, but that she felt her degree in Comparative Literature and Classics had better prepared her for her position than had the business degrees of the countless other individuals with whom she was competing. Why? Because, as she put it, she had learned how to write well, think critically, communicate effectively, analyze intricate situations and come up with solutions in a relatively short amount of time—all of which proved invaluable in a business environment. And so, my advice would be always remain attuned to the ways in which what you’re studying can benefit you down the line, regardless of what career and/or life path you end up choosing.