Written by Kseniya Lukiy, who is graduating from Michigan State University this month with a B.A. in English
Writing has always been something I was innately interested in. Throughout all the stages of my life, I would always find ways to engage in it when all other forms of communication fell short. This feeling has remained very much present since the early days of surpassing the single composition page required for writing prompts in elementary school, writing articles for my high school’s newspaper, and composing poems and short stories in my room on the weekends.
In September 2020, I confidently began to pursue an English degree at Michigan State University after receiving my associate degree earlier that year. Happy to have completed my prerequisites in community college, I was excited to finally fill my schedule with courses that allowed me to further cultivate my writing skills. Between online classes, such as Intro to Film with Kaveh Askari, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Director of the Film Studies Program, and Intro to Fiction Writing with Megan Giddings, a former Associate Professor in the Department of English, the only thing that would have made me happier was to experience them in-person.
When I received an email promoting VIM Magazine, MSU’s student-run fashion, beauty, and lifestyle publication that produces one beautiful print issue every semester, I submitted an application alongside a sample of my writing and was accepted as a new writer on the Fashion Team. Although I couldn’t attend the photoshoots that were carefully organized in and around campus for the first two semesters while writing for the magazine, I would soon become more involved than ever after my promotion to Fashion Director in May of 2021.
“My internship with the College of Arts & Letters introduced me to faculty and students who I had the opportunity to connect with in and outside of academia, all while being the most stable and enriching extracurricular experience during my time on campus.”
While preparing to transition from an online to an in-person university experience, I found a post advertising an opening for a College of Arts & Letters intern during the summer of last year. I was more than eager to begin devoting my time to extracurriculars upon my arrival on campus and applied without a second thought. The described tasks aligned with everything I loved to do: conducting interviews, writing feature stories, and engaging with the student population through social media. After interviewing with Ryan Kilcoyne, Marketing Director for the College of Arts & Letters, in September, I was soon invited to the Content Studio to start the internship. Annie Dubois, a former intern, met me with open arms and grew to be a good friend during my training process.
The internship was a joy from the start. Building on my past experience as the News Editor for my high school’s newspaper, I loved resuming a writing position that held more of an involved role within a community. Writing can be an isolating experience but reporting on MSU faculty and students allowed me to connect with an abundance of inspiring individuals that I may have never met otherwise. My work was single-handedly made possible by them, and as an English major, it reflected the incredible college that I had the privilege to be a part of.
Outside the College of Arts & Letters, I also accepted an internship at the Center for Poetry in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities in which I read and rated poetry contest entries sent by local high schoolers and produced an original risograph in honor of poet Jonah Mixon-Webster for a Center for Poetry event.
My career trajectory truly began to change upon taking Intro to Screenwriting with William Vincent, Professor in the Department of English, to continue fulfilling my Film Studies minor. The first full-length feature script I ever wrote that semester was about a girl not unlike myself: an aspiring writer who felt so lost she didn’t know which direction to take her next step. Within a month, I learned the basics of screenwriting format. I learned how to productively advise and critique the work of my fellow classmates while listening and utilizing their constructive criticism as well. And through writing a protagonist who found her way through being bold and unapologetic, I learned she and I had even more in common than I had initially thought.
“I’ll forever be grateful to MSU for the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the personal growth I’ve encountered along the way.”
Reveling in the momentum of the previous semester, I decided to take Advanced Screenwriting with Professor Vincent in the spring. While Intro to Screenwriting prioritized format and creativity, the subsequent class focused on the development of skillfully adapting an already existing narrative instead. After praying to be given a sign as to what to adapt, I casually picked up my copy of a J.D. Salinger short story collection and read the first one the night before class. Upon finishing it, I knew I had found what I was searching for. My adaptation of Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish only solidified what I thought to be true: my early aspirations to become a novelist had transitioned into a newfound passion for screenwriting.
When writing prose, I’ve never been the kind of writer to sit down and let the page take me where it may. Instead, I made it a bad habit to only sit down when I had an idea. My screenwriting classes, however, single-handedly forced me to embrace the uncertainty. It was a challenging but rewarding experience to come to class with 10 new pages every week, some days excited for them to be read and other days anxious because I knew I could do better. The routine class assignments built both my confidence and trust in producing quality work week-to-week, and by May 2022, I successfully completed two screenplays I’m immensely proud to call mine.
My last semester as an undergraduate felt like the culmination of my life thus far. Alongside continuing my internships with the College of Arts & Letters and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, I was one of 12 students who embarked on the inaugural study abroad trip to the Toronto International Film Festival in Ontario, Canada this September. In the span of a single whirlwind week, I attended 19 film screenings, five of which were world premieres. Sitting before filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, and Sarah Polley in elaborate theatre halls miles away from home, I have never felt like I was meant to be somewhere more.
Despite spending only three out of five semesters on campus before my graduation, Michigan State University presented me with a number of unimaginable opportunities that truly refined the trajectory of my life. My internship with the College of Arts & Letters introduced me to faculty and students who I had the opportunity to connect with in and outside of academia, all while being the most stable and enriching extracurricular experience during my time on campus. I’ll forever be grateful to MSU for the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the personal growth I’ve encountered along the way.