Carolyn Schar

Major: Apparel, Merchandising, and Design
Class: Junior
Timeframe: Summer 2017
Type of Experience: Study Abroad
Program: France
Destination: France

Overall Experience

Studying abroad in Paris was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was challenging, stressful, and overwhelming but it was also incredible, fantastic, and amazing. Studying abroad forced me to come out of my shell and learn how to really live on my own and take care of myself.

Learning experience

One of the hardest things about the Paris program was that our professors only taught in French. We had a translator but she wasn't always available. At the beginning it was very frustrating to not only be learning a new skill, couture sewing, but also to have to learn it through hand gestures and diagrams without the comfort of shared language. Thankfully as time went on I became more accustomed to reading my professors body language, hand gestures, and tone even if I couldn't understand exactly what she was saying and thanks to a great deal of patience on both sides we were able to work together to complete a beautiful garment, all without any English spoken. What this experience taught me is that you don't have to speak the same language to get to know and understand someone. We shared the common language of fashion instead and that was enough to bond us together. Now, Madame Martine is not only one of the best professors I've ever had the pleasure to learn from but also one of my favorite people.

Memorable experience

My most memorable experience would be working on all the different fashion shows during Haute Couture Fashion Week. The Paris American Academy has close ties to many different designers who allowed us as students to work behind the scenes dressing their models. It was the most incredible thing I have ever done. The days were long and tiring but just being around real, designer garments made me fall in love with my major all over again, and made me want to be the one in charge of a show someday.

What did you not expect?

Something that I knew but had never experienced in real life is how quickly fashion shows go. The amount of planning and preparation that goes into something where the actual event can last less than ten minutes was absolutely crazy to witness. It goes by so fast. Months and months of designing and sewing and planning for shoes and accessories and makeup is over in the blink of an eye. The short time span of the shows really makes me want to step up my game and make my pieces a lot more memorable. If it isn't memorable your audience won't want to buy it and then all that work is for nothing which is something I do not want to happen to me should I ever decide to start my own line.

What advice would you give?

If I could give one piece of advice to other students looking to study abroad it would be to see and do as much as you can! It's easy to go from a long day of class straight home, but you have to remember that you'll only be studying abroad for a short period of time and you might never go back to that city again! Definitely soak up as much as you can while you have the opportunity.

How has this experience impacted your life?

Studying abroad has really opened my eyes to how little I've seen of the world and how much more of it I want to see. Personally, it was the first time I've been so completely far away from home which was a big adjustment for me. Learning to deal with that has definitely made me a stronger and more confident person. As far as the educational portion of my trip, the Paris study abroad focusses on couture fashion design which I learned is extremely beautiful but also very time consuming and difficult, and this experience helped me to decide couture design is not one of the fashion avenues that I want to explore further as I look to the future.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first learned about the Paris study abroad through my academic advisor.

International Connections