Improving one’s writing skills does not happen overnight. This accomplishment takes infinite time, dedicated effort, and the willingness to receive potentially harsh criticism from others. Enter The First Step Forward: Selected Essays from English 100 brought to print by Mason Korea’s English Department. In this book, several essays written by Mason Korea’s very own students were selected to showcase the progress they made as writers during their first semester at the university.
The students behind the chosen essays are Eunmi Joo (sophomore in Business), Sukmin Lee (junior in Computational and Data Sciences), Hyejin Jang (sophomore in Conflict Analysis and Resolution), Sunghee Bae (sophomore in Economics who plans to switch to Accounting), and Dong-Hun Lee. Additionally, each student took an English 100 or English 101 course with either Professor Alice Wrigglesworth (S. Lee, Jang, and Bae) or Professor Jason Kifer (Joo). Each student included two of their essays, one being the very first writing assignment of the class and the other their final research project, to highlight their individual progression as writers.
“The final paper of the course was the longest essay I’d ever written,” S. Lee exclaimed. “The project made me realize I was capable of writing such a long and effective essay which I never would’ve known if it hadn’t been for the ENGH 101 course.” He also mentioned how he can apply the writing skills he learned not only in his other classes, but also for the rest of his life. “I apply the fundamentals I learned from ENGH 101 for other classes, and with some modification, such fundamentals always direct me to the best of me.”
Of course, the process of creating an excellent paper does not come without its own set of challenges. As Jang recalls, “There was a time when I was depressed when I got a lot of comments on parts of my paper that I needed to improve. I felt less motivated and interested in writing and reading.” However, support from her professor and friends helped her persevere. “They were passionate and willing to help me with writing and gave a lot of detailed feedback. Their passion and support led me to start again.”
College-level English courses, also, give students more freedom to write about topics that spark their passion. “Although it is easier to work on essays when there’s a set topic, when I choose my own topic, there’s a lot more to learn by going through obstacles of shaping out my own authentic essay content,” Bae stated.
Lee, also, felt empowered with this freedom. “Before I took the ENGH 100 class, I did not know how to support my own opinion in a systematic way. However, I could now write and assert my own opinions by utilizing what I learned in the class.”
All five students strongly recommend new students to take these classes. Joo advises new students to wisely manage their time when it comes to assignments and major projects. She says it’s better to research information and write a draft early on instead of waiting until the last minute to avoid the mistake of lacking the time to gather sufficient research and properly revise the essay.
Although these five began their English 100 or 101 classes at varying writing levels, each student left with significant improvements made in their writing capabilities. The First Step Forward: Selected Essays from English 100 is proof of how Mason Korea helps their students become advanced writers, a quality that will definitely be an important asset in the years to come.
The publication was led and edited by Mason Korea English professor Dr. Hyunyoung Cho, and co-edited by Mason Korea English faculty Alice Wrigglesworth, Jason Kifer, Melissa Bruce, Teresa Michals, and Associate Director of Composition at Mason's US and Korea campuses, Anna Habib.
February 08, 2023