Judy Yi Zhou
Hometown: Zhuhai, China
Year in school: Senior
Favorite Book: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Why did you decide to become an English major?
Growing up in China, I somehow always loved Western literature. I remember finishing "The Secret Garden" in one sitting, crying my eyes out at the end of "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame", and wishing I was Scarlette O'Hara in "Gond With the Wind." When I went to an English boarding school, however, I was advised against taking English Literature courses because I "would get a C", said the head of the English department. He continued, "why don't you take Economics and Maths like your Chinese friends." Of course, I took as many English courses as I could, proved him wrong, and even went on to study it in college. Perhaps I should even think him. In any case, I am so glad I became an English major, because it made me a more eloquent and precise writer.
Any minors? Other interests? Would you combine them with your English major in any way, or were they just personal interests you wanted to pursue?
French, and 3/4 of the Web Programming minor. French was just my personal interest, since I have been fascinated by all aspects of French culture from theater to literature, from philosophy to cuisine. Web Programming, on the other hand, was out of necessity, since I am going into journalism and computer skills are essential for the growing digital media industry.
What do you do outside of your academic studies?
A lot of random things. I interned at some media outlets such as WNYC (New York Public Radio), WABC Eyewitness News, Wired Magazine and Reader's Digest, and I also do some freelance work for consulting firms (mostly research and English-Chinese/Chinese-English translations) and tutor English, Chinese and Math on the side. I was a tour guide at a travel agency in Chinatown one summer--that was a once-in-a-life-time experience. I enjoy going to poetry-readings, off-broadway shows and jazz concerts, but my favorite activity is camping out at certain West Village café for hours and listen to the free Spanish guitar performance there on Sundays.
Tell me about your thesis! Also, what was the process like?
It's about why April is the cruellest month. Well, not exactly. It's about T. S. Eliot and Sigmund Freud's take on human discontents and their proposed remedies. I am obsessed with both authors, and through examining their works (both Eliot's poetry and prose are explored) I propose that even though their takes on religion seem so vastly different, their remedies for modernity and its discontents (religion for Eliot and psychoanalysis for Freud) have much similarities.
The process was painful but thrilling. I never thought I'd be able to pull everything together and produce a 52-page monster (regardless of its quality) that combines all my interests from literature to psychoanalysis and religion. It is impossible to describe how I felt when I held the printed copy in my hands...I was relieved, but also suddenly empty.
Now that you’ve finished your thesis, what about your post-graduation plans?
I will continue to have my post-thesis existential crisis for some time, and eventually get on with my life and either go to grad school for journalism or work for a year or two first before going back to school. It depends on many things, and life just seems to be filled with uncertainties right now. More often than not, I just want to run away and travel with my roommate.
What was the hardest part about being an English major? The easiest/best?
For me, it was to convey my ideas clearly and accurately. Since English is my second language, now and then awkward phrases and word choices pop up in my essays, and it is frustrating to overcome them because I simply wouldn't notice the awkwardness. The best part of being an English major is being able to study the works I love at length, and make claims about them. It is a great practice and confidence builder.
What were your favorite classes, English-related and not English-related?
My all-time favorite English class is Prof. Maureen N. McLane's Senior Seminar "Poetry and Poetics."
The best not English-related classes I took in NYU are Prof. James Gilligan's Advanced Honor Seminar "Variaties of Religious Experiences, Revisited," Prof. Evan Korth's "Computer and Society", and Ambassador François Barras' "Diplomacy in the 21st Century: Contemporary Chalenges to an Ancient Profession."
What sort of English classes or programs might you want to see in the future?
I would like to see more interdisciplinary courses such as literature and psychoanalysis, or literature and religion etc.
Any advice for the young, hopeful students that are interested in majoring in English?
Majoring in English helps you earn the most important skills in life: how to relate to other human beings; how to make intelligent and eloquent claims about anything, and how to impress people at a cocktail party.