By Cathi Douglas     5/5/2016

When she graduated from Rosary Academy in 2005, Meghanne Flynn already knew she wanted to attend a college far from her North Orange County home. Now 28 years old, Flynn is an expatriate who has spent 10 years living, working and studying overseas and is content to make brief, occasional visits home to Southern California.

Flynn is enrolled in one of the world’s finest institutions of higher education: She is studying for her doctorate at Cambridge University.

A high-achieving student, Flynn attended Trinity College in Dublin right out of Rosary. There she studied English literature and earned the British equivalent of bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “It was a terrific education,” she recalled in a spring break interview at an OC café. “It was exactly the place I needed to be.”

Flynn was in town after presenting papers at two international conferences, one in Seattle to the National Popular Culture Association and the other in Orlando to the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. One paper dealt with how fictional monsters prompt us to recognize inequalities in society; the other discussed the idea of ‘monstrous’ female sexuality in romance novels.

It’s no coincidence that the “Twilight” novels debuted during the time she was pursuing her master’s degree. “‘Twilight’ became a dumping ground for everyone’s opinions,” Flynn noted, “but I’ve always been an avid romance-genre reader.”

After completing a rigorous course of intensive studies that ranged from Anglo-Saxon poetry to children’s books, she took a couple of years off and held a series of odd jobs in Ireland. Working as a nanny and a proofreader, she started looking for doctoral programs but found that if she returned to the U.S. to earn her terminal degree she would essentially need to repeat much of her college studies.

“Each school is different,” she explained. “The best program I stumbled onto was at Cambridge.”

Flynn lives near the campus, which is about an hour north of London by train. “I was in Dublin for eight years, so it was odd moving away and making new friends,” she said. “But the program at Cambridge is really congenial. We’ve got people developing digital picture-book apps, others going into classrooms to see how children learn, and me and my monsters.”

Proposals submitted for admission into the Children’s Literature degree program must start with an original thought that must be proven to add to the body of knowledge, Flynn said. “After entering the program you go about proving your idea,” she said. “There’s a lot of reading, talking to colleagues and developing your own ideas and strategies. And a lot of staring at an empty screen.”

By the time she’s finished her dissertation will be an 80,000-word document submitted to a panel of three academicians who will ask probing questions about her research, requiring her to prove that she did the work, and forcing her to support her conclusion. She will pass, pass with corrections or be asked to revise and resubmit. Once the final document is approved by the university, she’ll be awarded her Ph.D.

After that, Flynn said, she would like to teach English literature at the university level and will consider positions in Europe or the U.S. She also wants to do broader pop culture commentary.

Rosary prepared her well academically, she said, and she was taught how to read critically and take essay exams, to think subversively and independently.

It also provided an uncensored environment. “Individuality was allowed and encouraged. We learned how to behave, learned the rules and learned how to break them. It helped me develop a voice and a sense of confidence.”

Even though she lives overseas, Flynn said she maintains close friendships with her fellow Rosary alumnae. “Going to Rosary was a bonding experience,” she said, “despite the fact that we live very different lives.”