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 your generation will ask themselves sometime during their studies at school. What’s the point of doing all this 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, now a Senior at NYU, felt the same way during his freshman year when he applied for 28 different work-study positions at NYU and was turned down by every single one. But instead of wallowing in this failure, he decided to do something different: to keep going, to keep applying, to keep pushing to make his dreams a reality.

“I think 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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Those 5 minutes of rapid fire Linked-in emails, hundreds of applications on WayUp, and 40 hours work weeks since freshman year have indeed lent him his 15 minutes. He 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 the kind of resume that most students—most people—would dream of having under their belt. But for Eric it’s not about the number of companies, the number of followers, or even the 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. “It’s the number you make divided by the time you spend making it. And also are you proud of the work that you produce.”

His latest work, a road trip during the summer of 2017 across the United States to visit the National Parks, was just that. He and his creative partner – Jimi Stine – drove across the country 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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“We realized there is a chance to give corporations in America an opportunity to speak with the local parks persona and to kind of get a more local story and kind of getting the opportunity to say no we care about causes.”

The road trip took the two through nearly every canyon, gully, stream, and mountain the United States could offer. 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 entrepreneurial spirit, and they care about causes.”

The road trip was Hu’s pushing off point 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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And what he always reminds the students he talks to is that companies care about young people, 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 that is necessary to them in the way that it is for us. That is the biggest strength we have.”

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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 power of our own unique generation. And maybe we can learn from