Senior (Spring '20 Grad) | Palo Alto, California
What made you decide to become an English major?
I've harbored a love for literature and writing since I was young. English literature fascinated me when I made the transition from my native language (Chinese) years ago, and this fascination has only continued to grow throughout my academic journey. I was very STEM-focused in high school and always wished I had more time to pursue my passion, so naturally, I became an English major in college.
What was your favorite class in the English department, and why?
I truly enjoyed a lot of my English courses so it's hard to pick. My favorites are probably between Queer Austen (ENGL-UA 954), Reading as a Writer (ENGL-UA 201), and Literature & the Environment (ENGL-UA 675). The readings for those courses were some of the most interesting and intellectually stimulating I've ever encountered. They gave me a new perspective on what literature and literary analysis entailed, could entail. The writing assignments were very enjoyable as well (e.g. prompts, major themes, etc.).
What has been the most influential work of literature in your journey as a writer thus far, and why?
Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. It's one of my most-read novels since childhood, and to this day remains one of my favorites. As I've progressed through my journey as a writer, I sometimes find myself falling into the trap of language — focusing more on aesthetics than meaning. Totto-chan reminds me of my original love for literature, the emotions at the hearts of stories, unadorned by ornamental technicalities. The book consists entirely of simple vignettes told from a child's perspective, yet at the same time, it's so vivid, so universal, so delectable! I hope to never lose this bona fide spirit in my own writing.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of being an English major?
Being able to write essays I actually enjoy and take pride in! I never considered essay-writing to be a "freeing" experience due to the way courses were structured in middle/high school (and for other humanities courses that offer less room for creativity). It wasn't until college that I was introduced to some bizarre and brilliant examples of seemingly "unstructured" essays and other literary works that opened up a new world of analytical possibilities to me. There's a lot more freedom in choosing what you want to write about and how you want to go about it, and that stimulates the mind more than any five-paragraph strict structural requirement ever could.
You just graduated: congratulations! Do you have any future plans you would like to share with us?
Started a writing blog for fun (not much there yet but more to come): https://chxsea.wordpress.com/
This year has been intense to say the least. Have you been reading anything that has helped you through it?
I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis. It's always relaxing and nostalgic to read The Chronicles of Narnia, and I recently started Mere Christianity on account of a friend's suggestion. And of course — the beloved Jane Austen.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring in English at NYU?
Definitely go out of your comfort zone for elective courses and try the ones you're curious about, and alternatively, don't be discouraged if you don't get the "class of your dreams." The classes you never thought you'd take may very well become your favorites! Also, don't be shy to hit up your English professors; they're some of the most friendly, intelligent, and insightful people you'll meet on campus.