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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Student content creators share their lives at Tufts through YouTube

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A mobile phone with the YouTube app open is pictured.

Editor’s note: Emma Boersma is a contributing writer at the Daily. Sabina Saktaganova is a videojournalist at the Daily. Boersma and Saktaganova were not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

We’ve all been there, aimlessly scrolling on YouTube until an intriguing thumbnail leads us down a rabbit hole of videos ranging from BuzzFeed Unsolved conspiracy theories and piano tutorials to WatchMojo.com movie recaps and random 2006 Cristiano Ronaldo highlights. Or at least that’s what the algorithm gives me. Every so often, however, we’re drawn to a video that sparks a sense of familiarity: an interview with an old high school teacher, a friend’s band recording or perhaps a face you’ve seen on campus. 

Creativity is a core attribute of the Tufts student body. Among the endless avenues in which Tufts undergraduates foster such creativity, YouTube is one platform where students can create and inspire.

Junior Emma Boersma started her YouTube channel in high school and has since uploaded 49 videos chronicling her life. One of her popular videos, “How to get into Tufts University from an RD, ED1, ED2 student (essays, stats, activities, advice!)” has generated over 10,000 views to date. When asked why she enjoys creating content, Emma pointed out the importance of keeping a log of her experiences as she moves through different chapters of her life.

“I like the final product. After having done this for a few years — I usually do vlogs — [it’s] a good memento for myself about what my daily life is,” Boersma said. “I did it when I was in high school. I did it when I went to these cool places like Japan. I’ve done it in college as well, and I just look back on it and be like, ‘Oh, this was me freshman year of college. That’s so crazy.’”

Boersma explained how her video quality has improved over time, even though the vast majority of the filming has been on the same iPhone. She only recently invested in a camera because her phone is running out of storage. For editing, Emma began with iMovie but transitioned to DaVinci Resolve, a software similar to Adobe, and now uses Final Cut Pro.

In terms of the type of content she produces, Boersma enjoys vlogging action-packed days and creating informative videos for prospective Tufts students.

“There’s a genre of YouTubers who just do peaceful, calm aesthetic videos. … They don’t get much traction, and they’re just not really my thing, so I do lots of high-energy days. … I’ve done a bunch of Tufts [related content] because when I was researching colleges, I realized that there was no ‘day in the life’ [videos] of Tufts students, versus Harvard students, Yale students,” Boersma said. “So when I came to Tufts, I was like, ‘I could easily fill this hole. This is right up my niche,’ … and it’s my daily life so it’s not something I have to work that hard to do.”

With a goal to eventually be monetized, which requires 1000 subscribers and a certain number of watch hours, Boersma hopes to keep uploading videos. She offered some advice to anyone looking to start a channel.

“Put effort into it. People will notice that even if you have zero subscribers like I did. If you put time and energy into it, it’ll turn out well, or at least you’ll have it for yourself,” Boersma said.

Given the multitude of social media platforms available, Boersma mentioned why she prefers YouTube over shorter formats like TikTok and Instagram.

 “I’ve tried to make TikTok vlogs in the same way as my YouTube videos … but they’re just too short for me … and the pacing is horrible,” Boersma said. “YouTube is great because it’s like a movie, basically, and it really takes you through the entire plot of someone’s day.”

Another Tufts student whose videos might pop up on your YouTube feed is sophomore Andy Wu. Wu began making videos recreationally for his English class in middle school and for a Black Lives Matter project in high school. Like Boersma, Wu felt Tufts was underrepresented in the YouTube community and wanted to change that.

“[Making YouTube videos is] a good way for me to get out of my comfort zone and explore my creative liberties and show what life is like in the lens of someone who is in the health sciences,” Wu said.

Wu further explained how he uses his videos to shed light on clubs and other activities, emphasizing how they are an important part of the Tufts experience. In some of his videos, Wu mentions his hair-cutting business, which he runs through his Instagram account @tuftsofhair, to encourage viewers who are Tufts students to use his services.

In terms of experimenting with content, Wu wants to give his audience a glimpse into Boston life while continuing to document his life on campus. Each video usually takes him three to four hours to put together, but he finds it worthwhile in the end, not to mention extremely uplifting to see the reactions of his friends and family.

“My family is super supportive of it. My grandparents … are probably the reason my view count is so high because they watch it over and over again. So it’s super nice to see their support,” Wu said.

Wu is also encouraged by viewers he has never met before, such as prospective Tufts students.

“There was one time when I was running a booth at the club fair for Big Brothers Big Sisters … and a freshman came up to the booth and I [asked], ‘how’d you hear about this club?’ and he [said], ‘I saw a guy; he did a day in the life video.’ … So that was like my first celebrity moment,” Wu said.

Tufts’ YouTube presence does not stop there. First-year Sabina Saktaganova runs a multilingual channel with 63 videos in Russian and English. She also runs a projects channel with 96 videos and over 5,000 subscribers dedicated to interviewing individuals from around the world, ranging from business professionals to fellow students from the world’s top universities.

Saktaganova’s audience is mainly students from her home country of Kazakhstan looking for opportunities abroad, and she feels she can help them visualize their dreams as she begins this chapter of her life abroad.

Having lived in Dubai and Georgia, Saktaganova believes that her videos offer a glimpse into life abroad for her Kazakh audience, especially those who have never left the country. She explained how it can be special to see someone from the same home city experiencing a whole new life abroad, and that’s what keeps her connected to her viewers.

Saktaganova started making videos as a child and is now a film and media studies major at Tufts.

“[Videomaking] is a form of self-expression,” Saktaganova said. “I was interested in the whole media sphere, like video, writing, social media. … That’s why I’m studying film and media and that’s what I want to do with my life later.”