Why did you decide to intern abroad with Global Experiences in Milan?
Ruth: I spent the last couple years working towards a master's degree in fashion design and know just how competitive the industry is to enter. Doing an internship abroad would not only give me an extra boost on my resume, but would allow me to acquire skills not widely practiced or known in the US. So, I took to Google and did some research. The only company that matched my search criteria for a "summer 2013 fashion design internship" was Global Experiences.
I was impressed by all of the sample internships listed on Global Experience's website, and I couldn't wait to begin. It's funny, but my first choice was not Milan. I actually wanted to do an internship in Paris, France. But, because I have zero proficiency in the language, I was not able to apply. I was a bit let down because Paris is the epicenter of all things fashion, and I wanted to be enveloped in this. However, Chrissie, a Global Experiences representative, let me know that I should look into interning in Milan.
Not only is Italy the capital of style, but is world renown for tailoring and couture techniques. Also, not being proficient in Italian would not prevent me from being successful as many Italians speak English or have some basic knowledge should I get lost, need a taxi etc.
What made this internship experience unique and special? How has this experience impacted your future?
Ruth: So many things made my internship experience special. The first internship I had was not a good match. Even though this was true, I still learned so much about how to correctly draw clothing on the body. I worked closely with the head designer, and she showed me how to tweak my drawings so my designs would come to life. This has made all the difference in the way I design.
During my second internship I learned so much more about couture techniques than I did with my couture internship in the states and grad school combined. This was very special for me because I am in my last year of grad school where I have to develop my own collection. Everything I learned will help me create a fantastic final collection. Also, I was able to get several positive critiques from several successful fashion designers for the work I've done in school.
Besides interning, the weekend trips and language schools, both included in the program price, where invaluable. The weekend trips were a great pathway to get to know Italy. Each town is special in it's own way, and features different foods, gelato flavors, flowers, and ambiance. The language school was fun, and the teachers made it easy to learn Italian. This helped me get around Italy and work at my internship. Also, through the school, I met some great friends that made my stay in Italy memorable.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Italy?
Ruth: My advice to anyone considering an internship in Italy is to take Italian classes before traveling abroad. These classes should help with your verbal skills and body language, as Italians communicate with their body just as much as they do verbally. This will help when getting around the city, traveling, and interacting with the owners and employees at your internship. I am pretty good at learning foreign languages, so interning for a company that spoke only Italian was not as intimidating for me, and I welcomed the challenge.
At some internships, English is spoken, but it is not the main language nor is it spoken fluently. So, being able to be trusted with bigger projects and not only be given menial tasks, communication is key. When I say communication, I am not only talking about being able to communicate, but how you communicate. At work, the Italians are like a family. They talk about everything, the eat together, they are very personable and want to know about you. So, in order to make that connection, classes on verbal and non-verbal communication are key for a successful internship.