Considering how much I have grown this year, it would be impossible to discuss my academic journey without considering my experiences this year in AP English III. Quite early in the first semester, I came to the realization that I could no longer “coast by” as I had in all my previous years of school. Facing an immense courseload and packed schedule, I made the mistake of skimming (instead of carefully reading) the books assigned for English class. But HOLY CRAP did this come back to bite me; after I received a couple… uh… low grades, I recognized that I needed to put in far more effort in order to succeed as I hoped to. Through the in-depth discussions following the completion of each novel I learned how to read critically, interpret symbolism (among numerous other rhetorical and figurative techniques), and become a more independent thinker — in that I could synthesize my own thoughts and opinions about literature instead of simply relying on Sparknotes summaries. The challenges I faced early in the year ultimately transformed my reading, and made me a stronger and more independent reader. With each novel we now discuss, I have creative, personal thoughts to contribute to the group, and I am incredibly grateful to have spent a year in a class that fosters such freedom of thought.