Every freshman at New York University must take a class called Writing the Essay. For most, it proves a long, boring and frustrating semester consisting of three essays and biweekly 8 a.m. classes.
I was more excited than most for this class. When I first entered college, I chose English education as my major and took mainly college core classes to try and get them over with quickly. I was thrilled for the break to write among classes whose subject matters I was less than uninterested in.
The class involved a lot of reading short articles and talking about them in class.
It was the only homework I enjoyed doing.
The articles were fresh and enlightening, unlike anything I‘d read before. The three essays prompts were broad, giving students a chance to write about things that they actually cared about. I adored my professor, who was open to my ideas and interpretations and seemed to view my writing favorably.
At the time, I was considering moving into a strictly English major at NYU. I was not positive of my decision to become a teacher, instead toying with the idea of a job in journalism or writing in general. I learned that first semester of college provides a serious reality check for a lot of students.
Being smart in high school and being smart in college are two very different things. Instead of being compared to the other 300 students in my graduating class, I was one of 50,000 undergraduate students. I was not sure if my goal was to blend in or stand out.
I did know that I was considered a good writer in Wayne, New Jersey. But that did not determine my place in New York City.
The first two essays came and went. I did well enough on both, pretty pleased with my work. The last assignment was also the longest essay of the semester.
Now, with my first semester of college coming to an end, restless students awaited holiday break, eager to finish (and pass) their final exams and papers as quickly as possible. I was excited to just reach the milestone—to say that I completed a semester at New York University and survived.
My professor assigned the final essay, giving me an opportunity to write about any of my interests. I chose to write my final paper about female superheroes, combining two of my favorite subjects: feminism and comic books. After research and 10 pages of analysis, I turned in my paper, extremely proud with the finished product.
One aspect of this class included meeting with the professor during and after submitting each essay. During the editing process, my professor seemed pleased with my work. And it showed when I got an A on my paper.
As I got ready to text my mom the good news, I grabbed my backpack and walked towards the door, my professor told me to stay back for my minute.
She said that wanted to help me try to get my story published.
I couldn’t believe that my professor considered my essay on heroines worthy of being published. We met again and edited my essay. She walked me through the process of sending my work to various websites and publications. She gave me insight on the freelance industry. I learned how to look for what certain publications wanted in the work they accepted and how to adapt my writing to fit different standards. She also offered countless tips to improve the flow of my writing and structure an essay made up of multiple different parts.
Everything I learned from her, I took away with me and continue to use in every paper and essay I write, whether for class or for outside endeavors.
My paper never did end up being published, but that didn’t matter. This professor gave me the courage to pursue my passion. She made me believe for the first time that I might make it in the word as an English major, and later in life as a writer.
She offered the encouragement I needed in such a fragile and strange point in every college student’s life, a time when everything around me changed—my home, my friends, my state. She offered a sense of permanence in her support of my skills.
I then became an English major and plan to pursue journalism as well. I started writing for my school’s newspaper and became a staff writer. I started applying for internships and now I am here. I am writing for a magazine that has the potential to read by thousands of readers nationwide. I credit my professor largely in that happening. She reassured confidence in my skills that I may have doubted as I entered a strange new world, intimidated by the talent around me.
New York can be a scary place. Thousands of talented people inhabit it, many trying to become successful in the same industry. Sometimes all it takes is one person at the right moment to tell you that you are good at what you are doing—that you’re doing well.