Ozi Emeziem is an undergraduate Comparative Literature major focusing on English and French literatures. A first generation Nigerian born and raised in the Bay Area, she grew up in Antioch, CA and was a part of the first graduating class of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School. English is her primary language, but she grew up around Igbo as well. Winner of the Gilman Fellowship, she tells Comparative Literature chair Miryam Sas about her plans.
CL: Ozi, we’re so proud of your win. What are you planning to do with the Gilman Fellowship?
I will be participating in the Multi-Site study abroad program in Paris and London where I engage in studies around space, identity, and citizenship. I will be documenting my experience on an online blog so people can also experience these places with me!
CL: How did you get interested in Comparative Literature?
I have always had a love for reading and writing. When I was younger, I spent a lot of summers buried in books and if I wasn’t reading, I was writing short stories in composition books then creating covers for each one. It only seemed natural for me that whatever I chose to study in college would be centered around my passions. So, as I sat in my room and explored majors at Berkeley four years ago, Comparative Literature with its broad approach to literary studies seemed too good to be true.
I arrived at Berkeley as a declared Comparative Literature major and if I had to do it all over again, there is nothing that I would change about that. It has kept me grounded and continues to develop my writing as well as analytical skills, but what I really love about the major is that it encourages me to study beyond my comfort zone and to delve into other worlds, experiences, and narratives. I have spent a large majority of my college career- specifically my first, second, and third years- studying French and French literature, which is not a native language for me so was indeed challenging yet extremely rewarding. When I reflect on my newfound abilities to read novels, write papers, and hold conversations in French, I realize that it it offers me entry into so many unfamiliar spaces and places. However, I have not been bound only to French, but rather have had the chance to incorporate disciplines such as English, African-American Studies, and Ethnic Studies, to shape my experience as a Comparative Literature major.
CL: Who are some of your favorite writers? What have been some of your favorite classes in Comp Lit?
I enjoy a wide variety of writers so I don’t think that I necessarily have a favorite, but if there is one that has reoriented my idea of what writing can look like and continues to make me thing critically, I would say James Baldwin! Truthfully, I think I have enjoyed each of my Comp Lit classes, but my intro class with Professor Francine Masiello, which focused on narratives in spaces considered to be of the “South” was foundational in my aim to utilize Comp Lit as a means to study literary pieces on marginality or peripheral experiences. This semester I took a class with Professor Judith Butler, which was exciting to hold space with a scholar who have been reading since my first year at Cal, but also because the class focused on the works of Franz Kafka with whom I am largely unfamiliar—it was intriguing to say the least!
CL: What has your experience in Comp Lit been like?
I would describe my experience to be like a river…like a steady flow that reaches a larger body of water, it has been a point in my life that only adds to my greater knowledge, being, and politics. It has been helpful to develop my writing. I am honored to be published by the Comp Lit Undergrad Journal this fall, which for me reflects the opportunities that the major makes available to its students. I would say that it has been accessible as I can always reach my advisor for help! However, I would love to come back in a few years and see more representation of different experiences and identities in the major classes. It is an exciting field that most students do not even realize exists or they may misunderstand how useful it can be in future endeavors because a liberal arts degree is wrongfully undervalued. Just an additional plug for folks to check out the Comp Lit Undergrad Journal to read my piece and also to stay tuned for the blog where people can keep up to date with my travel experiences!
CL: Thanks so much Ozi! We look forward to your article and your blog, and bon voyage!