Juliana Raveli de Oliveira

Creative Writing - Nonfiction (MFA) '21

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia? 

The most surprising thing I learned at Columbia was how people were interested in reading my works. I write mostly personal essays about my family, Brazil (my home country), identity, (im)migration, and memory. Back home, I never thought I would be here, in a graduate program in the United States, writing in English. 

I’m a first-generation college student in my working-class family. I always wanted to be an artist, but I used to believe that some dreams weren’t possible. Having the encouragement and generosity of my professors and colleagues at Columbia made a huge impact on my self-esteem; this strengthened me not only as a professional who wants to pursue a career in the Creative Writing field, but also as a human being, an international student living in the U.S. 

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

Wow! I had so many wonderful experiences at Columbia. I really loved all my classes and professors at Columbia. I learned so much from them, and they were always so supportive and generous. I had, for instance, a Literary Translation class with professor Aviya Kushner right in my first semester that really empowered me, because I was able to share and discuss with my colleagues my native language, Portuguese. 

Another great experience was attending the Reading Series, one of the events organized by the English and Creative Writing department that brings wonderful authors to read their works. But one of the most valuable, incredible experiences I had at Columbia was working as an instructor for Writing and Rhetoric classes, as a teaching assistant for Creative Writing classes, and as an assistant coordinator of the Young Authors Writing Competition. I was always profoundly inspired and impressed by the talent of students at Columbia College. 

What are your plans for after graduation? 

After graduation, I hope to find a job -- my dream job would be teaching Creative Writing and working in the publishing industry. I’ll also work hard to try to publish my book and apply for fellowships and residencies. But one of my main goals is to develop projects to share what I have been learning here with people in Brazil. 

Do you have any advice for current students? 

I know that, as students, we are constantly tired and overwhelmed. But my main advice is to take advantage of as many opportunities available at school as possible. We hope that in-person events will come back this fall. If that happens, go to readings, exhibitions, concerts, screenings, and other events not only in your department (without forgetting health guidelines that, I believe, will still be necessary). But even with online events, try to always attend them. They are great opportunities to learn and be inspired by wonderful professionals in the art industry. Another advice is: don’t keep your work to yourself. Put your work out there and use your community at Columbia College to support you in this endeavor.

If you were going to sum up your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say? 

Dreams I didn’t know I have coming true.