At NYU, anyone can become a writer. Across the University’s Abu Dhabi, New York City, and Shanghai campuses, students find the rigor and inspiration necessary to hone their craft. And they’re not all aspiring journalists, poets, or novelists. Students studying a range of disciplines find that a creative writing minor can enrich any field of study.
“Creative writing can teach anyone to express themselves confidently, creatively, and effectively,” affirms NYU Abu Dhabi assistant professor of practice, literature, and creative writing Miguel Syjuco. “If you become a biologist, you can write op-eds to tell the world why your research is important. If you’re a politician, you can give the best speeches. That makes creative writing possibly the single most important, unexpected thing a student can take.”
Psychology and Poetry in Shanghai
When Yixuan Cui, a Social Science major, started at NYU Shanghai, creative writing was a foreign concept. “I just knew I loved reading and writing down random thoughts in my journal,” she says. “It was hard at the beginning. Since I was writing in my second language, I struggled to find the right words. But my professor encouraged me to keep going, and eventually, I realized my passion.” While Yixuan has completed all her minor requirements, she intends to continue writing through an independent study.
Because NYU Shanghai’s Creative Writing minor program is still growing, “Students have a real opportunity to lead and shape what kinds of programming we offer,” explains Professor Jennifer Tomscha, director of NYU Shanghai’s Writing Program. The program is “both of the city and of the world,” she adds. “Nearly all of our students are fluent in or learning Chinese and English. So, the writers we read reflect the diversity of our students.” Living and learning in such a vibrant city, students have access to a variety of programming, from readings by Pulitzer Prize–winning writers to student-run poetry slams.
Additionally, due to the program’s small size, writers of all stripes have ample opportunity to share their work. For example, the Reading Series brings together students and faculty to read their poetry, short stories, or drafts in an intimate setting. Students also take advantage of location-specific programming. In March 2019, students attended a writers’ retreat at Jiuhuashan, one of Chinaʼs four holy Buddhist mountains. There, they read, wrote poetry, hiked to temples, and reflected on their place in the world. Yixuan says, “Storytelling is a critical tool to communicate, connect, and influence people. My Creative Writing minor has made me a storyteller. And more than that, it’s given me space to recharge. It’s given me joy.”
Numbers and Words in New York City
At NYU’s campus in New York City, Creative Writing minors take advantage of everything the distinguished program and dynamic city have to offer. Faculty members include renowned authors and poets, allowing students to learn from an exceptional and diverse array of talent.
“NYU’s writing program is unique because the professors are so talented and successful,” says Aurora Huiza, a College of Arts and Science English major and Creative Writing minor. “Plus, many of the faculty members who teach graduate-level courses also teach undergraduates. You can learn so much from them.” The program also includes regular Reading Series events, which bring acclaimed writers and editors to campus for conversations and book signings. In addition, students have numerous opportunities for workshopping and publication, including the student-edited undergraduate literary journal West 10th, where Aurora is a prose editor. “At West 10th, we appreciate and encourage undergraduate written work. Getting your work seen is a really special opportunity,” she explains.
For Johanna Dong, a senior at the NYU Stern School of Business, creative writing provides both escape and structure. Her Creative Writing minor keeps her motivated, ensuring that she writes regularly. “As a Business major with co-concentrations in marketing and econometrics and quantitative economics, the content of my classes doesn’t overlap much,” she laughs. “But it’s really nice to have a mix of quantitative and creative classes. And surprisingly, people consider creative writing an interesting and differentiating aspect of my background. At first, I thought I should choose a minor more directly related to economics. But now, I really believe that you should go for whatever is interesting to you. If youʼre passionate about something, others will pick up on that—no matter what.”
Computers and Self-Expression in Abu Dhabi
The first time Máté Hekfusz held a pen, he knew he’d found a lifelong passion in creative writing. But over the years, it remained a hobby as he took classes in math and pursued a career in tech. When he came to NYU Abu Dhabi, he planned to major in Computer Science. Then he saw the range of multidisciplinary minors, including his beloved creative writing. After an introductory course, he was hooked. “We have amazing professors, fascinating courses, and great workshopping. I love getting feedback from both my professors and peers,” he says. And NYU Abu Dhabi’s Literature and Creative Writing program is unique in that it combines the two fields. Moreover, the program’s small size lends itself to a particularly involved student and professor population. Majors and nonmajors alike contribute to the Gazelle, the school newspaper, and Airport Road, its literary publication.
While most are surprised to learn that a Computer Science major is also studying creative writing, Máté has found that his minor has made him a better computer scientist. “Creative writing makes you better at expressing yourself. And that’s a crucial skill in tech,” he says. “From code commenting to presenting your work to writing business emails—all of these require self-expression. Creative writing teaches you how to weave words and craft stories. You can use those skills to write a fantasy epic, but you can also pitch your dream project in the office. You’re sure to win over any audience.”
At the same time, he advises would-be Creative Writing minors not to get hung up on what they’ll do with their minor. “Colleges like NYU Abu Dhabi (and NYU at large) offer the incredible opportunity to put together your own education. We are all complex people with many interests. Donʼt be afraid to dive into any of them.”