2016, Archives, August 2016, The MFA Years

Devin Koch Introduction (Virginia Tech ’19)

Image: Robert MacDonald

Let’s jump right out of the gate and do the all important, “Say your name and tell everyone at least one interesting fact about you.” It’s that time of year where syllabus week marks the silence of fresh students and when my mind is scattering with panic thoughts of Where is my next class at again? Does this cardigan make me look professional? and of course What is the wretched fact I’m going to tell?

Fun fact: during my last semester of undergrad at the University Nebraska Lincoln I told everyone I had lived in Canada for six years of my life, specifically the Manitoba region, and moved to the state of Nebraska with my family.

Let me tell you, it was a smashing hit. It also seemed fitting for me being an English major and fabricating this story of my childhood in front of my peers.

For now, I’ll stick to the facts. So here we go:

(Caution: some may be exaggerated for dramatic affect)

Hello. My name is Devin Koch and I grew up in the Sausage Capitol of Nebraska.

Now don’t get too jealous of my interesting fact. It’s nothing to hoot and holler about. I’m from a town of 400 people, well 398 to be exact but 400 doesn’t seem quite as pathetic. The graduating class below mine consisted of eight people and what’s even better is that my junior year prom theme was “Night Under the Duck Blind.” One day out of the school year we had Sod House Day, a day where we learned about life in the 1800s and visited a sod house that was built by an alumni class. If this doesn’t give you an image of what rural small town life in Nebraska is like, then I don’t know what does. I can sense the jealousy seeping through your screen. Needless to say, I developed a close friend group and a passion for reading and writing. I don’t want this to come across as me bashing Nebraska because I wouldn’t have wanted my childhood experience any other way.

I actually looked forward to Sod House Day and Wurst Tag which was our German celebration of our sausage making. Yay for sausage! But without Nebraska, I wouldn’t have been a part of a program called Summer Honors. It was a two week program and only a small number of students were selected to participate in a certain subject, such as science, film production, entrepreneurship, etc. For three years I was in creative writing and I got to work with the poet Gary Dop. He helped me realize my deep love for writing and how the act of it isn’t just for the self but for others as well. When I hit my undergrad I knew a degree in English was what I wanted.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the whole English isn’t a real major from countless people or even parents who tried shunning us away from a career that was non STEM field related. Nothing is sexier than saying, My child is a certified neurosurgeon, am I right? I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my decision in pursuing a career in English. Maybe it was because they were as clueless as I was about what my future entailed, but regardless they were all for it. The beauty of college is not only do you have others who are in the same boat, but you have GTA’s and faculty members who can guide you in the right direction.

My professors were a tremendous resource. One of my professors, Grace Bauer, specifically named schools off the top of her head where she felt their program and my writing style would compliment each other. One of the programs she recommended was Virginia Tech, which was the school I ended up accepting.

In total, I applied to nine schools. I was accepted to five of them and was waitlisted at Minneapolis. I’ll expand on my applying and deciding process in a future post. It can be a long and nerve racking experience but as they say in High School Musical, “We’re All in This Together”.

For how competitive writers can be, I’ve noticed they are also the ones who understand what you’re going through. They’ll help you through any situation whether it be sending you links to literary journals where you can submit your work or recommending a short story collection. Literary friends are the best kind of friends to have.

Of course you are wondering, “Why Virginia Tech?” Here are some wonderful things I’ve discovered:

  1. They encourage cross genre work. Despite being a poet, I can still take a playwriting class, creative nonfiction, fiction, or even a new media writing. I primarily wrote fiction until college came around and then I started writing more poetry. It’s a relief to know working on other genres of work isn’t frowned upon but rather encouraged by the faculty members.
  2. Speaking of faculty members, I was familiar with a majority of Virginia Tech’s staff. I read Bob Hicok for an undergraduate class.
  3. The campus is absolutely breathtaking. The buildings look like I’m in a monastery and the Pope or Whoopi Goldberg from the Sister Act are going to pop out at any second. The photo above does not even do the campus justice.
  4. Half their incoming students are diverse, which means you’ll have the chance to hear/work with writers from many different backgrounds.
  5. I’ve noticed Virginia Tech treats their students as family. I’ve already met all of the incoming class and a majority of the upperclassman. They’ve welcomed me with open arms. It made the transition of moving easier and also gave me the reassurance that I made the right decision when choosing schools.

Sometimes it baffles me to think I’m living in a different state or that I’m given the opportunity to continue my writing. I’m nervous I’ll fumble over my words when geeking out over meeting writers when they visit campus or when I teach my own English class to students who will assume I’m their age. Thank you mom and dad for the baby face… In yet, I’m excited that my parent’s will be able to say my son is a published poet because nothing is sexier than that in my eyes.

With that, I’ll end with one more proud and interesting fact about myself that I’ll gladly share with others. It is syllabus week and all.

Hello. My name is Devin Koch and I’m a Virginia Tech Poetry MFA candidate.

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