Ben Fong '18
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
I am working towards a career in academia researching and teaching comparative literature, particularly how it pertains to the intersection of Chinese and American cultures and identities. My initial plan at Brandeis was to major in economics and English and pursue a career in consulting back home in China. But as I read, literature spoke to and resonated with me better than economics ever could. I remember in my second year, I had an exceptional sequence of classes close reading The Federalist Papers, The Innocents Abroad, Blood Meridian, and Absalom, Absalom! and I knew I wanted to pursue further study. I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted to study abroad at Oxford for my third year, and I was even more fortunate to return there for my master’s degree in English. I’ve since spent a year working in China developing my interest in Chinese film and literature and am now in my first year of a PhD in comparative literature at UC Davis. I take three seminars per quarter in topics ranging from German films and their English language film posters to early modern print culture and its construction of luxury goods.
What skills that you learned from your time at Brandeis have you found most valuable in your current work?
Brandeis English taught me how to close read, to think critically, to communicate, to research thoroughly, and to learn. Professor Burt and Professor Tharaud put a remarkable amount of time and patience into teaching me how to close read with different lenses, how to approach a text with a range of methodological approaches, and about material texts and special collections. Brandeis English has an environment of interdisciplinary thinking and a breadth of courses that is remarkable. A Brandeis English student can pursue and connect their own research interests to just about anything, and it has been a tremendous help to me given that my research spans multiple languages, periods, and mediums. During my three application years, the continued support and mentorship from my Brandeis Professors were invaluable in my career trajectory.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?
If you are considering academia, ask your mentor about the current job market. It is an important conversation to have. Do due diligence, plan your next six years, and envision a backup plan. If you’re unsure, take a year, or two, or ten, to grow your skills in the job market. Academia will always be there. For those not considering academia, there are a lot of different avenues that English majors can take to get into the workforce. Because of the breadth of possibility, it can be overwhelming to start looking for internships, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for. I think it’s best to think of internships as Brandeis’ course catalogue. An internship is the shopping period, a job is a class, a career is a major. It’s good to try a lot of new things, because you never know when you might find the right class or professor