At the beginning of the semester, I romanticized the idea of moving to a foreign country, getting a job, finding someone special, and beginning a whole new life (partially because my best friend just accomplished that very thing). However, London is (and never was meant to be) the place for me. It’s too cloudy, extremely expensive, and way too proper. Paradoxically, studying abroad in London has made me realize New York is the best place for me to be as a writer, student, and person.
I’m studying abroad relatively late in my academic career, during the first semester of my senior year. Most people go abroad their junior year, and at New York University, even their sophomore or freshman year. So my London thoughts have been centered around: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN I GRADUATE?!!!!!
Well, now I have one answer: not live in London.
This is how indecisive I am. In September, I was so convinced London was the place for me. I probed through my academic requirements to see if there was any way I could finesse staying the entire academic year. I came up with this delusional plan: flying back to New York for the winter term, paying out of pocket for a winter course, flying back to London for the spring semester, then flying back to New York at the end of May to complete my senior colloquium.
I was mad.
This decision was one hundred percent influenced by a certain person I had recently met. This is the part where I take the time to tell you: Be cautious about letting people in your life influence your academic and professional goals. Especially people you just met in a foreign country, or someone you think is “one of a kind” and just “gets you.” Trust me, almost every one of my friends here has their own version of this person. It can and will happen to you.
When I finally accepted there was no realistic way of staying in London the entire year, I set my eyes on graduate school. Since freshman year I’ve known I want to complete a Masters of Fine Arts in fiction writing. So I just readjusted that goal to completing a MFA in Britain. That was in September. Since then, people and situations have changed, time has passed, and my mom’s fried chicken has become greatly missed. A week ago, I went through my list of dream graduate schools and started my applications. Then, last night, it dawned on me: what happened to all of my British schools? None had even passed through my mind when I picked my final schools. Although my study abroad experience has been great, this was proof to me that I am not meant to stay here beyond this semester.
I have gained a lot from my fashion business courses. I have learned to look at pop culture, fashion, and advertising with a more critical eye, taking into account gendered advertising, cultural appropriation, and subcultures. My biggest lesson has been learning about the amount of attractive coercion that occurs in fashion advertising, promising huge things such as happiness, love, or attraction. The same thing occurs in other formats, like TV, pop videos, and movies. We all participate in the fashion system whether we like it or not. Rejecting fashion is as much of a statement as is participating in it. I’ve had to rethink my relationship with pop culture and how I want to work within it. I’ve come to acknowledge that some of my pop culture loves play upon the same concepts I criticize in my essays (such as performing for the male gaze and cultural appropriation) and I’ve had to ask if these moves are conscious or just my favorite artists unconsciously embodying what society has drilled into them?
This study abroad experience has affirmed my dream to pursue a career in fashion journalism. I still see a lot of power and positivity in it. It’s a great space for artistic expression, identity creation, and fantasy. If I am so lucky to land a job in the fashion world, I want to work in the creative department, more than the business/public relations side, though I am glad to have learned about that aspect through my classes here. Through a creative position, I can influence the design, visuals, and advertising to be more thoughtful about how they operate within our culture.
And no one can change my plans.