Meet the NYU senior who will graduate almost debt-free

Eric Hu has already paid off $200,000 of his tuition

What’s the point? It’s a question that most people of our generation will ask themselves sometime during their studies at school. What’s the point of the mind-numbing work and losing hours of our lives on all-nighters when the possibility of finding a job after college seems as likely as finding a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow.

Eric Hu, a senior at NYU that is never without his Leica camera and a baseball cap on his head, knows that overwhelming feeling all too well. He applied for 28 different work-study positions his freshman year and was turned down by every single one. But wallowing in self-pity isn't Hu's style: he decided not to take no for an answer, to keep going, to keep applying, to keep pushing to get that dream job.

“The biggest problem of our generation, and I’m very much a victim of this as well, is not just sucking it up and doing it,” Eric said, “Literally the only reason why I am sitting where I am today is because I was just willing to suffer for five minutes so that I could get my fifteen minutes.”

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Photo credit: Daniel Young Sang Park

Those 5 minutes of rapid fire Linked-in emails, hundreds of applications on WayUp, and 40 hours work weeks since freshman year have given him his 15 minutes plus interest. Over the course of his studies at NYU, Hu has worked for SpeedX, Heat and Deloitte Digital, Samsun Global, and ESPN; he has pitched and won companies like Mercedes, REI, Fjallraven, La Colombe, Doughnut Plant, etc.; and he has upward of 19,000 followers on Instagram.

It's an astounding resume to say the least. But for Eric, now a senior at NYU, it’s not about the number of companies, the number of followers, or even the extensive number of dollars that this work has allowed him.

“For me it has always been how can I be creative about the way I make money,” Eric said. “For me become less you make and more the number you make divided by the time you spend making it and that you are proud of the work you produce. There is very much pride and joy in everything I do.”

His latest work, a road trip during the summer of 2017 across the United States to visit the National Parks, is perhaps the greatest pride and joy of his portfolio . He and his creative partner – Jimi Stine – drove across the country with the goal of using visual storytelling to rejuvenate millennial’s interest in the national parks. Working with a small team of marketing students from Baruch college, the two managed to get 35 brands to fund their trip across the country.

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Photograph from Eric Hu's Facebook.

The road trip took the two through nearly every canyon, gully, stream, and mountain the United States could offer, all of which they documented through their camera lens. And none of it would have been possible if the companies had not had faith in the ideas and potential in Eric and Jimi’s pitch.

“To be able to work with such large brands means a lot to us personally, but it also means that brands do care about young people, they care about our entrepreneurial spirit, and they care about causes.”

The success of the road trip gave Hu the confidence and means to start building his creative content studio, bringing on several of the students that helped build the initial road trip project. He is also guest lecturing at college campuses—like Syracuse, Baruch, and FIT—on creative marketing and personal branding.

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Photo credit: Davon D. Thompson

And what he always reminds the students he talks to is that despite what most people think, companies do care about young people they because they are the ones that are shaping the highly social and digital market of today.

“We understand how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram naturally…we use it creatively, we use it to communicate, we use it to do whatever. Whereas brands use it as a way to market us, they use it as a platform to sell. They don’t see it as necessary to them in the way that it is for us. That is the biggest strength we have.”

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Photograph credit: Jimi Stine (Banner also by Jimi Stine)

The point of it all may be difficult to see at times, but perhaps if we put in those five minutes, ignore our cynicism for a moment, we will all be able to recognize the strength and confidently step forward on our own unique road trip into the future.