Guest post by:
Schreyer Honors College Scholar ’17
West Chester, Pa.
When deciding among the available Penn State study abroad programs, I knew that I needed something with a lot of creative freedom. Currently, I am a marketing major and my interests lie at the intersection of luxury goods and consumer behavior. I wanted the opportunity to eat, sleep, live and breathe the chaotic and charismatic environment that is the fashion world, so ultimately I chose the city where fashion made its roots. I had, and still have, an insatiable sense of wanderlust that can only be tempered by immersion and integration.
Studying in Milan, Italy, to me, meant having the chance root myself in culture and develop in the creative realm of my choosing. It gave the same feeling of limitless opportunity from being in a city like San Francisco or New York, just with the additional challenge of not knowing the language. I decided to take an internship while I was there, because I would have no excuse to not be at the top of my game at all points. Which is when I learned the hard way about how to make your mark—from the bottom.
I was placed as a Booking Assistant in a small modeling agency within the men’s division. For the first two weeks, I was constantly surrounded by stunning models, caught in between arguments in Italian, and given absolutely no work to do. No one looked at me and no one acknowledged me. It was a bit of a rude awakening for me because at Penn State everyone is made to feel like that are capable of achieve anything they set their mind to and sought out for innovative ideas and perspective, but here they wouldn’t even give me the time of day.
I knew one thing even when shrouded in doubt—Penn State is everywhere, so I made it my mission to show them what I was capable of, what made a Penn State student. I started to research more competitive agencies and mapping out what gave them their edge. I realized it was their purposeful use of social media, a realm in which my firm was weak. I developed a comprehensive social media plan that streamlined the efficiency of portfolio management and recruitment. I sent a blast email of it to everyone in the office and no more than 10 minutes later the two lead bookers came over and told me they were seriously impressed. Not just from the work, but by my initiative. They told me they have had many interns that would just sit and occupy themselves with their phone and never ask for work. From there, they gave me the creative freedom to work on what I wanted and pitch them ideas. At the end of my internship, they offered me the opportunity to come back full time.
I didn’t go abroad to just experience a culture different from my own, I studied abroad because I wanted to craft my own vision for my future. I wanted to create things that I found meaningful and influential in an environment that challenged and motivated me to never settle for what I already achieved, and to use it as a launch pad for my next goal.
While I was in Milan, I kept a blog because I thought it would be able to give me direction as well as allow me to stay focused and organized. However, I thought it was counterproductive, and quite frankly boring, if I just recounted what I did that week complimented by pictures of what I saw and the things I ate. I wanted my readers to feel like they also had the chance to learn about themselves through reading my blog, so I focused on the lessons I was learning. Everything from what to do in the face of opportunity to cherishing the relationships you have made, both old and new.But most of all, I made my blog to remind people to that it is okay to take a break, to celebrate yourself, as well as to reflect and be proud of everything that you have accomplished this far and know its just the beginning. That’s where the name of my blog came from, Hiatus Granted.
Make sure that when you are making decisions for your future, you are doing those things for yourself—not anyone else. That goes for everyone at every age. I feel like when we are put under the strain of general expectations and stuck in the rut of getting things done just to have them done, we lose sight in what we truly want to achieve. Being able to focus on yourself means you have to embrace some uncertainty with what is happening around you. But it is hard asking ourselves, “What is it that I exactly want?” That’s why I chose to study abroad, to answer that question for myself, by myself.