When Allyssa Lamb, ’04, earned her bachelor’s degrees in classics and Biblical and near east studies, she had her future pretty well mapped out: earn a master’s in Egyptology from Oxford University on her Rhodes Scholarship, then on to a Ph.D. for a career in academia furthering the fields of classics or Egyptology. Her love of the subjects began when she was a child and deepened at the University of Washington through campus-based classes and international opportunities in Rome and on an archeological dig in Israel.
“That interest in travel,” says Allyssa, “and seeing and experiencing new things is part of what made me excited to go to Oxford in the first place.”
At Oxford, Allyssa learned to navigate an educational system unfamiliar to her in which master’s students work one-on-one with their faculty adviser as well as traditions unlike any she’d encountered before—from wearing subfusc for taking exams to “trashing,” post-exam celebrations that include showering exam-takers with confetti, glitter, flour, yogurt and octopi. “And I’m not making that up,” says Allyssa. “It’s a world-class academic institution but at the same time it has all these quirks.”
Allyssa wrote her master’s thesis on images of magical practitioners in Egyptian, Greek and Latin literature, a topic of interest since her undergraduate work. While Allyssa’s work centered on the ancient world, her friends were scholars with a global, contemporary focus, which helped her maintain her interest in politics and current world affairs.
After Oxford, Allyssa began her doctorate program in classics at the University of Chicago. While she enjoyed the classes, professors and students, she began to question whether this was the path she wanted to travel after all. An unexpected interruption in her Ph.D. program required her to return to Redmond, Wash., to care for her mother and grandmother who were both ill.
At home, she began to reflect on her future. She took a departure from antiquity and decided to channel her growing frustration with U.S. politics into “something more proactive” and applied to law schools. A visit to Yale Law School solidified her interest in the field and in that school.
Now in her second year at Yale, Allyssa is keeping an open mind about the kind of law she may want to practice. A stint with the Innocence Project in New Orleans piqued an interest in wrongful convictions but she says she doesn’t “know if I want to be a proper lawyer.”
As for the radical switch in disciplines, her work as a classicist trained her well for the lawyerly need to research, analyze and pick apart arguments. That said, legal research and writing is quite different than academic writing and an area in which Allyssa continues to refine her skills. However, “one thing I have a leg up on everyone else is that I can read the Latin terms.”