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Throughout his life, there have been times that Zach Schwartz has felt like an outsider. Like he didn’t fit in.
It was during these times of discomfort that Zach found comfort in self-expression as a writer. What began as an adventure with poetry, eventually turned into full on passion of hip-hop and writing that allows him to share his views and opinions with the world.
An earth science major at Columbia University with a crazy work ethic and desire to improve, Zach’s words can be read on Vice.com, and his passion for hip hop can be heard in his original songs on SoundCloud.
Originally from Cleveland, we talked with Zach about his journey to the Ivy League, his passion for rap music and the 5 people he’d invite to dinner.
What’s unique about your story?
Someone could read my writing or know my life story and think it was unique. But ultimately, the only thing I’m concerned about regarding being different is my work ethic and desire to improve. I want that to be one in a hundred million (One in a billion, you sacrifice too much).
What’s something that not many people know about you that has defined who you are today?
I was raised religious Jewish. In sixth grade, I won the National Bible Contest, which is like the Spelling Bee for Jewish people. I went to Israel to compete in the International Bible Contest, where I was discriminated against and told I “wasn’t a real Jew” because my mom was Asian.
I never felt comfortable in Judaism again, and it took me years to get over that hurt. I’m still not really over it, in terms of not feeling like I fit in anywhere, which is a common thing that mixed-race people feel. After that, it was a real “me against the world” mentality, which is probably why I like hip-hop.
What’s been your favorite experience as a college student thus far?
Any one of the many moments where I’m with someone—maybe a person I just met, or a friend I’m already close to, in a library, room, lounge, etc—and we talk for hours, having a real, meaningful conversation.
What lead you to choose to attend Columbia University?
My junior year of high school I decided I wanted to go to a really good school, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do career-wise but I thought that when I figured it out—which, I estimated, would be between the ages of 18-22—a “good” school would give me the resources to pursue my chosen career path. The best school I got into was Columbia, so I went.
Define how you live in 5 words.
It’s only four words, but it’s “Do Right Under God.”
You get to invite 5 influential people to a dinner party (currently living). Who are they and why?
- Gucci Mane because he was my favorite rapper growing up.
- Kanye West so I can pitch him on why he should mentor me.
- Ben Horowitz so I can pitch him on why he should mentor me.
- Jay Z so I can pitch him on why he should mentor me.
- My friend Ziggy so he could meet Gucci Mane, Kanye West and Jay Z.