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Student Spotlight

Vicki Lee


Bachelor of Arts - English (Class of 2018)


Favourite book?
Like most literature students, it’s difficult for me to commit to one “favourite book” and when it comes to the treasured volumes on my bookshelf, I’m a doting mother who loves all her children equally. However, I’ll give you a rather unconventional answer by telling you about a book that means a lot to me. When I was younger, my uncle gave me his copy of the Oxford Pocket School Dictionary, a compact but mighty reference text that ignited my love for words. If you flip through my dictionary, you’ll find its pages decorated with sticky notes and tattooed with pencil marks, all flagging my favourite words. I strove to learn a new word every day and since I have a colander for a brain, I kept a companion notebook in which I copied out dictionary entries. I’m much indebted to this pocket dictionary (and of course, my uncle) for making English fun and ultimately, setting ablaze my passion for language. Even now, my favourite part of literary studies is enriching my vocabulary.

Favourite course?
I loved every single one of my English courses throughout my undergraduate experience (which is why I’m dreading graduation so much) but overall, I learned the most salient lessons in SSH 205: Academic Writing and Research. This course taught me not only how to compose university-level essays but also how to write insightfully and mindfully. I learned to parse texts with a detail-oriented eye and to always say what I mean as a writer. I still consult my copy of Writing Analytically on the regular!

What are some of your highlights of your time here?
Getting my research assistantship in my third year was definitely a monumental achievement. Working at the MLC as a RA has let me further develop my writing and has let me hone my skills in a professional context. The research centre exposed me to the practical applications of English studies and exciting avenues I can explore as I develop my academic career. More recently, I made my conference debut at the QUEUC hosted by Bishop’s University, where I presented a research paper on Hamlet. I’ve always been shy in front of crowds so I’m exceedingly proud that overcame my stage fright that day—even if it was for only fifteen minutes. However, my most glorious victory would be the independent research paper that I submitted last month. Titled “The Disquieted Domicile: Architectural Manifestations of Gender and Familial Discord in The House of Seven Gables,” this essay was a semester-long enterprise and the most ambitious paper I’ve ever written. It was an impressive grand finale to my university education.

Congratulations on being accepted to Oxford University! What will you be studying there?

Thank you! This October, I’m going to be in Oxford’s MSt in English program, focusing on literature from 1700 to 1830. Fortunately, I was sitting down at my desk at work, not on a ladder or up in a tree when I received the e-mail. My parents were just as overjoyed as I was and—to my chagrin— they didn’t wait to broadcast the happy news to all their WhatsApp contacts.

What made you decide to apply all the way across the pond?
To be honest, I was clowning around when applying to grad school: I knew that I want to continue studying English but I was unsure of which program or university to pursue. It was the most stressful time of the semester, so I was vacillating on the idea of even attending grad school as well. I consulted several professors for advice and Dr. Sapra suggested the University of Oxford. Of course I was skeptical—how can a ding-dong like me to go to Oxford? I had little confidence that I would even be accepted but then I realized I had nothing to lose—aside, of course, from the £75 fee and my self-confidence. When I finally I finished the application with the gracious guidance of several profs, I hit the “submit” button and kept my fingers and my toes crossed for the next two months. I also mentally prepared myself for rejection and devised back-up plans. When I got the acceptance e-mail in early March, I was doing backflips in my head. The initial elation has evaporated by now so I’m just going through the drudgery of applying for a line of credit, student VISA, and living accommodations.

What are you most looking forward to about the experience?
As I said in my application statement, Oxford is a suitable habitat for my interest in the intersection of literature and architecture, since it boasts some of the oldest monuments of Gothic design. I look forward to immersing myself in its old-world splendour where I can cultivate my research interests and marvel at architectural masterpieces. This would also be my first time living on my own so I will also be making a massive leap into adulthood.

How has Ryerson shaped you as a student and a writer?
My four years in Ryerson’s English program has made me into a conscientious and enthusiastic literature student. Although I have certainly matured as a writer, my undergraduate training has made me realize how much more room I have to improve. Ryerson has been an incubator for my intellectual and creative growth, and most notably, it has even expanded my appetite for learning. I’ve discovered that humility is the greatest virtue of any successful student: I try my best to start every course with the assumption that I know little about the subject and I am eager to absorb the content as best as I can. University pushes you to be self-reliant and autodidactic but it is equally important to ask questions and maintain curiosity. I’ve learned to relinquish my perfectionism and embrace the idea that mistakes are a productive form of intellectual engagement. Lastly, when you harbour a genuine passion for what you study, it shows. This is especially true when it comes to writing because your reader can detect the sincerity of your voice. When you’re diligent, persistent, and love your work, your work will love you back. I hope I can maintain this optimistic spirit during grad school!