Claire Sobczak

Class of 2008

While PLS often came up in discussions with my parents about my intended major, the program’s intensity seemed too intimidating to ever seriously consider. Intensity, however, was exactly what I wanted in a major. I also wanted to learn as many things in as many fields as possible. So I took the Intro to PLS Freshman Seminar, and after witnessing how interesting class discussions could be, how much my writing had improved, and how close-knit our class had become, I knew that PLS would be a great fit. My doubts were further eased after one of my good friends in that seminar told me she would be doing PLS. She seemed semi-normal to me, and I knew that if she could take on the challenge, then I could too.

I am not a poet by any means, but Professor Fallon’s Lyric Poetry class continues to have a considerable effect on me. In the beginning, I felt completely lost and incompetent in the class. But as the semester progressed, I could also see myself progressing, and not only in poetry. Because of the attention to detail Professor Fallon forced us to pay on every poem, I began to see the world differently. I started to see details in artwork, books, and even movies and television shows that I had never before noticed. The class made me much more observant of my surroundings, which is a skill that has allowed me to embrace life more fully.

While Lyric Poetry is the class that has affected me most, Professor Power was essentially the reason I decided to major in PLS. I loved everything about his approach to teaching; he was charismatic, accessible, and effortlessly inspired his students to think more deeply. Every time I talk to Professor Power, he motivates me to continue on my intellectual pursuit, and his encouraging nature is always a breath of fresh air for me.

For me, PLS started off as a major, but became a lifestyle. Unlike other majors where students are essentially checking in and checking out of class, I view my major as not only a curriculum of classes, but also as a social network and an extra-curricular activity. Many people criticize PLS for being too clannish or elitist, but when you are surrounded by a group of such passionate and interesting people every day, it is difficult to not want to hang out with them outside of class. You suffer with your peers through the difficult readings, discussions, and papers, and everyone comes together through this process. The unity of this major is what makes it so special, and PLS has become for me a built-in family within the Notre Dame community. 

PLS is not for the weak. You have to be willing to have your values challenged, your writing bashed, and be open to the criticism of your professors, despite what your own opinion may be. Learning is not meant to be easy, and indeed in PLS learning is often frustrating, disturbing, and draining. But regardless of how overwhelming the major may be at times, it is always worthwhile to keep in mind that everyone in the program, students and professors alike, is rooting for you to succeed.

Many people who are not familiar with PLS hold certain stereotypes about a PLS major. For example, PLS majors are believed to be an extremely eccentric, oddly-dressed, non-conformist bunch who stick out like sore thumbs at a place like Notre Dame. Though it does help to have a somewhat weird or quirky personality and value independent thought to do PLS, you do not have to buy into every aspect of the stereotype to enjoy the major. It is possible to be in the midst of an existential crisis and still hang out with non-PLS friends and cheer loudly at football games.